It’s Pride Month, and that means it’s time to talk about the camp. Not the summer kind. The film genre.
One of the delicious things about the word “camp” is its syntactic resilience. It can be used as an adjective, noun, verb, or the most fabulous interjection (“Camp!”).
Camp films are just as versatile. There is camp horror, camp documentaries, and camp sci-fi. Of course, there’s “Mommie Dearest,” the camp’s cinematic climax, which turns 40 this year and the starting point for any Camp 101 night before. (It’s on Amazon Prime.)
Here are five films to stream that show the extent of the camp’s sensational, depraved, glam, and very gay exuberance.
“The naked kiss” (1964)
This movie starts with a bald prostitute in a bra pounding her pimp with her wallet – and gets crazier from there.
Written and directed by genre mastermind Samuel Fuller (“Shock Corridor”), this black-and-white quirk stars Constance Towers as Kelly, a prostitute who gives up sex work to become a nurse for a child. city that works with disabled children. Kelly believes her relationship with a wealthy local, Grant (Michael Dante), will be her ticket to respectability.
But in one of the film’s scariest twists and turns, Grant’s sexual interests turn out not only to be perverted, but malefic: a “Lolita complex of outrageous proportions,” as the New York Times puts it.
Prostitution, murder, discourse on abortion: “The Naked Kiss” is not afraid to break the cinematographic taboos of its time, which still comes as a shock. When Kelly beats Candy, a local brothel, it’s a fight that dreams of camp are made of.
Stream it on HBO Max.
Faye Dunaway’s portrayal of Joan Crawford in “Mommie Dearest” is a camp-after-camp tour de force. But Crawford herself offers camp gold in this bizarre mysterious murder, directed by Jim O’Connolly.
Crawford plays Monica, the “cougar” owner of a traveling circus who develops a crush on the fast-paced young and handsome (Ty Hardin) she hired after her predecessor’s death in a freak accident at a show.
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After a mysterious black-gloved killer horribly kills Monica’s business partner – more bodies begin to pile up as well – Scotland Yard begins to sniff, putting the circus on edge.
The Crawford camp at the end of his career is not lacking, and although “Berserk!” doesn’t have the creature appeal of “Trog” or the operating madness of “Strait-Jacket”, it has Crawford playing a ring mistress who wears her hair in a challah-looking bun and runs a circus plagued by violent deaths. The film ends with a touch of horror camp.
Rent it or buy it from Amazon Prime, Google Play, Vudu.
‘Valley of the Dolls’ (1967)
Camp, according to RuPaul, is when you “see the facade of life, the absurdity of life, from outside yourself.” It sounds like a drug, and when it comes to drugs – sorry, the dolls – there is nothing more camp than this soapy and outrageous film, considered one of the crowning glory of camp, by Mark Robson. It’s hard to argue with Lee Grant, who stars in the film, when she called it “the best, funniest, and worst movie ever made.”
Based on Jacqueline Susann’s bestselling 1966 novel, the film tells the story of a group of friends facing fame, misfortune and addiction. There’s the ingenuous Anne (Barbara Parkins), whose ambition takes her from secretary to supermodel. Singer Neely (Patty Duke), after being ousted from a Broadway show by her jealous co-star Helen (Susan Hayward), moves to Hollywood and becomes addicted to drugs and alcohol. Jennifer (Sharon Tate, victim of the Manson family murders) is a superb actress whose fate is most tragic.
Bosley Crowther filmed the film in The New York Times, calling it “an incredibly well-worn and cutesy mishmash of behind-the-scenes intrigue and drafts of ‘Peyton Place’ in which five women are involved in their selfish aspirations, their stories. love and their Seconal pills. In other words: Camp!
Rent it or buy it from Amazon, Google Play, Vudu.
“What happened to Baby Jane?” “(1991)
Next to “Mommie Dearest” in the queer cinema pantheon is “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” Robert Aldrich’s 1962 horror show starring Bette Davis as Jane, a movie star aging who holds her paraplegic sister Blanche, played by Joan Crawford, captive in their decaying Hollywood mansion.
This ABC movie remake stars two acting heavyweights, sisters Lynn and Vanessa Redgrave, as Jane and Blanche. Directed by David Greene, it’s a deep dive under the radar worth taking because the Redgraves offer something that Davis and Crawford, who couldn’t stand each other, don’t have: true brotherhood. . The scenes of the sisters together have a “totally disinterested interaction” with “real emotional verisimilitude,” as Michael Wilmington put it in the Los Angeles Times.
The camp needs commitment and urgency, which Davis and Crawford had to spare. The Redgraves seem embarrassed by the original and don’t quite give it up. But that shouldn’t keep die-hard fans out of the camp. There’s still a lot to do to make this film satisfying, including the make-up and disheveled costumes that make Lynn’s Jane look like a variation of Raggedy Ann, a club version of Davis’ monstrously make-up original.
Stream it on Tubi, Pluto TV.
In her 1964 full-length essay, “Notes on Camp”, Susan Sontag says that in addition to “Swan Lake” and Tiffany lamps, the camp is “deer movies seen without lust.” That sums up the camp eroticism at play in this film from director Paul Verhoeven and writer Joe Eszterhas about Nomi Malone (Elizabeth Berkley), an ambitious golden-hearted exotic dancer navigating violent Las Vegas and stabbing in the back.
From cheeseball dance numbers to insignificant dialogue (“I’m not a whore”), “Showgirls” is like “A Star Is Born” gone horribly wrong and therefore dramatically pitched. Over the years, he’s gone from a critical whipped boy to a reconsideration into a shockingly decadent and ridiculously trash camp half-masterpiece, with French director Jacques Rivette among his fans.
He’s also a favorite of the queer camp, thanks to the steamy synergy between Nomi and his mentor-rival Cristal (Gina Gershon, a flirt artist). Jeffrey McHale, director of a documentary “Showgirls,” said Nomi’s decision to follow her dreams, find a chosen family and use her sexuality to fend for herself is “a story that many gay people understand. “.
Stream it on MaxGo.