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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Steambath (1973)

A disparate group of strangers including a writer (Bill Bixby), a party girl (Valerie Perrine), a seaman (Stephen Elliott), a gambler (Kenneth Mars), a Jew (Herb Edelman) and two homosexuals (Neil J. Schwartz, Patrick Spohn) find themselves in a steam bath. It isn't long before they realize they're all dead and that the Puerto Rican attendant (Jose Perez) is God. Based on the 1970 play by Bruce Jay Friedman and directed by Burt Brinckerhoff. When this debuted on public television, it was quite controversial, not only due to its subject matter but its nudity which was groundbreaking at the time. Indeed, many PBS outlets refused to carry the show. Friedman's play hasn't aged well. Its stereotypical depiction of gay men was done in a time when someone just playing a flaming homosexual was good for a cheap laugh. Jose Perez's one note performance as God is just plain awful. Friedman's idea of God as a magician doing tricks is rather mundane but perhaps that was his point, that God is mundane. What was provocative in 1970 now comes across as trite. The sexy Perrine's performance consists of grinning a lot but outside of Bixby playing against type, none of the performances are memorable. With Peter Kastner (YOU'RE A BIG BOY NOW) and Biff Elliot.   

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