Front Row at the Movies
Pass the Test?
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
When my gay friends say “test,” they’re usually talking about one in particular. A blood test for HIV.
This test became available in 1985. That’s the year fear started rippling through San Francisco. Rock Hudson was proclaimed on the cover of Newsweek as an AIDS victim. And “The AIDS Show” was running at San Francisco’s Theater Rhinoceros.
“Test” -- that’s the name of this film written and directed by Chris Mason Johnson -- can be seen at Tropic Cinema.
You can tell it’s meant to be a serious film, because it’s from Serious Productions.
It focuses on Frankie (Scott Marlowe), a lanky, stork-like understudy with a modern dance company.
A fellow dancer named Molly asks him, “Are you really not straight?”
When he confirms his orientation, she blurts, “Aren’t you scared?”
After all, street graffiti warns about AIDS. Charts illustrate the warning signs of the new disease. A ballerina hesitates to touch her sweaty male counterpart for fear of transmission. Friends are surreptitiously checking their bodies for sarcoma. Anonymous gay sex is becoming risky.
Frankie learns this first-hand after having a fling with Walt (Kristoffer Cusick), a handsome guy he meets in a club while out partying with fellow dancer Todd (Matthew Risch). After several sexual encounters, “Walt Whitman” phones “Frankie Avalon” to confess he tested positive.
So off Frankie goes to Dr. Corbett (Damon K. Sperber) for a test of his own.
Of course, test has a double meaning in this film that one moviegoer described as “a safe-sex public service announcement done with edgy flair.”
As Frankie tells his swarthy, sexy, bearded buddy Todd, the prospect of becoming monogamous is like “some sort of massive unnatural challenge … it’s like a test.”
Many “not straight” moviegoers may choose to ignore the downer theme. There’s more to attract interest here. You can count on plenty of shirtless dance sequences, with muscular guys writhing, posing, twisting, and flexing in a terpsichorean frenzy. Plus soft-core sex and lots of bare buttocks.
You can thank Sidra Bell for the original choreography. And director Chris Mason Johnson (“The New Twenty”) can take credit for the sex scenes.
But even so, we get the message. Frankie spends a lot of time listening to a tape on his Walkman while hanging head-to-the-floor from a dancer’s barre. Life’s upside down, it seems to be saying.