Our CALIGULA Moment

By Josh Eliot

 

In 1979, Bob Guccione and Penthouse Films cast mainstream actors Malcolm McDowell, Helen Mirren and Peter O’Toole in the hardcore movie Caligula. In 2003, mainstream actress Chloe Sevigny gave a blowjob to Vincent Gallo, complete with a cum shot in the mouth, in the film The Brown Bunny. In 2022, where is gay cinema’s Caligula or Brown Bunny moment?

 

Caligula and Brown Bunny posters

 

The story behind the making of Centurians of Rome, a 1981 film starring George Payne, Eric Ryan and Scorpio has all the “Red Meat” moments that, if ever pitched to Hollywood, has the potential to draw in first rate mainstream actors, writers and directors. My obsession with this true story led me to seek out and find an extensive report in The Daily Beast.

 

Centurians of Rome DVD cover and vintage ad
Article with headline reading Brinks Guard Vanishes with 1.85 Million

 

On August 15, 1980, 25 year old George Bosque sat in his Brinks security truck, depressed because his lover Carl ended their relationship. After picking up 7 million dollars from the San Francisco Airport, and taking advantage of the fact that the driver was talking with an airport official, George drove off in the truck, abandoning it at the Airport Hilton. At gunpoint he accosted a hotel chambermaid, loading two bags of money into her car and speeding off. Bosque, who in 1979 ran for sheriff of San Francisco, was now a fugitive.

 

Younger George Bosque and during his San Franisco sheriff run

Younger George Bosque and during his San Franisco sheriff run

 

First stop for George was New York City, where he took on the assumed identity of J.R. Lewis, Philanthropist. Keeping his money in several suitcases that he never let out of his site, he couch surfed on Fire Island for the summer. He bounced around to Chicago, Denver, Dallas, Florida and Peru, always staying at 5 star hotels. He was embraced into society and was invited to fundraisers, balls, and extravagant soirees for the wealthy, attending a $500 per plate fundraiser for Jimmy Carter. He made Greenwich Village his permanent residence, and while out on the town one night met and befriended Chris Covino, aka John Christopher a straight adult film director. The two became close friends and when George suggested they make a lavish all male film together, a partnership was formed. The budget: $100,000, a massive amount for the day, which ended up ballooning to around $170,000. The making of Centurians of Rome could be a central part of this movie idea as the three stars, Scorpio, George Payne and Eric Ryan all have “life stories” just as compelling as the behind the scenes stories of the making and release of the film.

 

George Payne, Scorpio and Eric Ryan in promotional images for Centurians of Rome

George Payne, Scorpio and Eric Ryan in promotional images for Centurians of Rome

 

With a $150,000 reward for his arrest, George Bosque returned to San Francisco. He called his friends regularly, trying to get information regarding ex-lover Carl’s whereabouts. One of George’s friends tipped off the police and he was arrested at a Safeway parking lot phone booth on November 22, 1981. He’d been at large for 464 days. The young federal prosecutor assigned to his case was Robert Mueller – yes, him! You can’t make this shit up! Mueller pushed for a strong sentence due to George’s lack of remorse and he got 15 years.

Lloyd's of London, who insured the 1.8 million dollars, tried to sue Bosque but he was basically penniless so they tried to get ownership of Centurians of Rome. The defense attorneys for Hand in Hand Films, the studio that had taken over the completion and distribution of the film, had an idea up their sleeve to try and stop them in their tracks. They displayed photographs from the movie around the courtroom with shots showing anal sex, George Payne fisting Caligula and the gladiators in an oral daisy chain. A red faced Lloyd's of London did not want this publicity and made a hasty retreat.

 

George Bosque wanted poster and article about Lloyd's of London

 

Bosque received early parole in 1986 but sadly passed away from an overdose at the age of 36.

Article with headline reading Guard Who Stole 1.8 Million Dies

 

Could this true story become gay cinema’s Caligula and go all the way with mainstream actors and hardcore scenes? Or should it take the streaming service limited series approach? However you package it, all the elements are there to become a huge international sensation. But first it needs to be pitched, which takes a layer of flesh in itself. Somebody please pitch this movie! The one with the “balls” to make it, in my opinion, is a certain GLEEful, HOLLYWOOD, AMERCAN STORYteller. (You know who I mean).

 

You can watch Centurians of Rome's trailer and find the movie on DVD and Streaming through Bijou!

 

 

Bio of Josh Eliot:

At the age of 25 in 1987, Josh Eliot was hired by Catalina Video by John Travis (Brentwood Video) and Scott Masters (Nova Video). Travis trained Eliot on his style of videography and mentored him on the art of directing. Josh directed his first movie, Runaways, in 1987. By 2009 when Josh parted ways with Catalina Video, he'd produced and directed hundreds of features and won numerous awards for Best Screenplay, Videography, Editing, and Directing. He was entered into the GayVN Hall of fame in 2002.  

 

You can read Josh Eliot's previous blogs for Bijou here:

Coming out of my WET SHORTS
FRANK ROSS, The Boss

 
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Porn Remastering Pt. 1: Simple Restorations

Posted by Guest Blogger Miriam Webster

 

I’ve been working on remastering many of the Bijou Video titles for the past 11 (nearly 12) years and I’ve yet to write a blog about the process! I’m currently working from home and therefore not on additional restorations during this bizarre point in time in which we’re living. (Hoping many of you are also able to stay at home as much as possible or are as safe as you can be if you’re someone who has to be out there caring for others). Taking this opportunity now to fill you all in on how we approach remastering these classic porn titles.

Often the movies that wind up looking the best in the end, when the customer watches them on DVD or on our streaming site
are much simpler to work on than the movies that wind up still rough around the edges. We try to find the best possible sources to use, but finding great copies of some movies can be tricky and there are many variables at play. Some of the movies were originally shot beautifully and we have well-preserved film prints or negatives available - or, if they were originally shot on video, well-preserved copies on VHS, Beta, or ¾” or 1” tape. This is the best-case scenario. Sometimes, however, there are not many options available as a source for a particular movie and the available ones have not held up well over time. Maybe we have a heavily projected film print that’s scratched and dusty. Maybe it’s a VHS tape with some tracking issues. Maybe it’s a video copy that’s missing chunks of the movie because it was released on video at a time when certain acts were heavily censored (like fisting) - and optimally, in that case we have another source from which to pull those missing sections.

Our goal is always to put out the best possible version of a movie, given the sources and resources available. We're often redoing restorations of the movies in our catalog when better sources turn up and will continue to do so.

One collection from which we have excellent copies of many movies is Hand in Hand Films (all of which you can find at both BijouWorld and BijouGayPorn), an important early gay porn studio and distributor. Bijou Video bought their collection in 1988 and many of our Hand in Hand releases (including The Idol, Drive, A Night at the Adonis, and Centurians of Rome) come from digitizations of well-preserved original film prints or negatives. We were recently able to remaster a beautiful, high quality scan of a well-preserved film print of one of their movies: Tom DeSimone’s Hot Truckin’ (1978), starring Gordon Grant and Nick Rodgers. (Available on DVD and
streaming.)

 

Hot Truckin' before/after images 1
Hot Truckin' Before/After color correction images

 

This film fit all of the ideal scenario categories: it was originally well-shot by DeSimone, whose movies were extremely professionally made; the print, while initially looking very red (which often happens to aging film prints), wound up still containing a lot of color information when I brought it into our editing software and began tinkering with it; and the digitization was a recent, well-done one and extremely high resolution.

 

Hot Truckin' before/after images 2
Hot Truckin' Before/After color correction images

 

Working with a film transfer usually yields better color results than a video transfer, as there is often more color information present (unless the print truly has deteriorated to a dramatic degree). Though this project was satisfying and relatively simple in that the source held up well and responded well to color adjustments, there were still a number of stages to go through in working with it.

 

Hot Truckin' before/after images 3
Hot Truckin' Before/After color correction images

 

I had to first sync the image to audio from our previously-released video source of the movie, because this print was image only. The transfer included a little bit of room beyond the frame, so I adjusted the scale to remove the excess edges, then cut every shot apart to prepare for color correction (and occasionally made cuts and transitions within shots where shots contained a shift in color or lighting with different adjustment needs). I went through every shot and adjusted the color to make it look as natural as possible. I removed splice lines (thick lines across the frame from where shots were edited together on film). The splices, in this copy, made the film jump in the gate momentarily, but since the transfer contained a little extra room beyond the frame, I was able to adjust the position of the image during these moments to reduce or eliminate the jumps. This print had minimal dust and scratches, but I removed the handful of large scratches that were present. This print did not yet have the opening credits laid onto the footage, but had them separately over black before the start of the film for someone to later superimpose. I was able to reference the previous video release for the correct placement and fades into/out of these credits and replicate these digitally.

 

Hot Truckin' still with credit Directed By Lancer Brooks
Credit for director Tom DeSimone's pseudonym, Lancer Brooks, in Hot Truckin'

 

A recent release from a video source, Joe Tiffenbach’s Tall Tales (1986), was also a relatively straight-forward restoration process, if a less glossy final product than Hot Truckin'. Tall Tales was made during the video era and shot on a cheaper format and all in a room full of yellow and green decor. Often, older video sources make skin tones overly yellow, so this initially appeared to be pretty far in that range, between the decor and image quality. However, the VHS copy we used had held up well, with well-preserved sound and image and not much video noise or tracking to worry about, and it was luckily pretty responsive to color adjustments. We digitize video sources in-house, so I transferred this tape. I ran it through a plug-in to reduce video noise, then cut apart every shot and adjusted the color to make skin tones look natural and to find more of a color range beyond the yellow/green scenario. I made sound adjustments to reduce audio noise and enhance clarity. Next, I watched through the full movie to fine-tune it, cutting out the handful of significant tracking glitches and further tweaking the audio (this movie had recorded the dialogue at very different levels, so I had to manually balance these). This was all a fairly quick process, as far as restorations go, without a lot of major troubleshooting. I was able to make improvements to it and wind up with a decent product, so it also fell into the camp of being satisfying to work on.

 

Tall Tales post-restoration images
Post-restoration images from Tall Tales, available on DVD and streaming

 

Read the second installment in this restoration series, discussing more challenging restoration processes, whether this is from source deterioration, needing to cobble together multiple sources, or other issues. And now the new Part 3!

 
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Christopher
I'm so happy to know that someone is doing remasters of vintage gay porn! It is my favorite kind of gay porn. I would rather watch... Read More
Sunday, 26 April 2020 15:09
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The Wonderful Land of Twitter

posted by Madame Bubby

Twitter logo

The Tweeter in Chief make may make some think the social media platform of Twitter is a hellscape. I suppose that depends on who you are and your previous level of social and intellectual engagement.

In my case, and perhaps my perception will change (not that I would enter #MAGA land; I currently find the #Resist echo chamber comforting, and who wants to hang out in Mordor), but I feel I have entered an enchanted forest.

I decided to activate my personal twitter account which I had opened a few years ago partly out of boredom and partly out of a what I felt to be a pressing social need to spread pro-labor union information.

Three weeks later, a world famous opera singer and I are following each other. Her name is Karita Mattila. She is a world famous soprano. Every gay man needs a diva to worship, and it took only one day for me to join her circle of Twitter buddies. And of course, most of us are gay.
 

Karita Mattila
Karita Mattila

A Reform Jewish rabbi, Danya Ruttenberg, has engaged me and like my tweets which have ranged from a discussion of a Hebrew term in Leviticus and the psychosocial pereceptions of clergy.

Wayne Kostenbaum, a nationally acclaimed gay author and I have gotten to the point where we have exchanged direct messages. He thinks I am cute.

I am now tweeting on a close to equal level with other academics in the fields of English and religion. I don't feel excluded like I did on some of the more traditional listservs or in real life.

And, let's just say, already I have moved from tweeting to direct message to texting with a hot young number in grad school in English literature. In one day.

On the lighter side, I am now part of the Old Hollywood club on twitter. I spent last afternoon tweeting around with a wonderful person, joking about the dowager/old lady roles in 1930s Hollywood. Perhaps not the same dynamic as actually being with the person physically, but how long would it take one to physically find someone who would know who Dame May Whitty was?

You are what you make. I wouldn't have been able to do all this if I hadn't already been an exciting, diverse, intellectually curious person. But the fast-paced medium of Twitter has enabled me to somehow share my interests in a more integral way which actually seems to contradict the nanosecond pace and spatially diffuse nature of the platform.

And Bijouworld's Twitter is currently mushrooming, especially since The Rialto Report tweeted:

“We’re proud to announce that Valparaiso Pictures/Permut Presentations have snapped up the screen rights to our article “Centurians Of Rome: How a Bank Robber Made The Most Expensive Gay Porno Of All Time.” We look forward to bringing it to the big screen!"

In one day, we gained 55 followers!
 

Centurians of Rome images and bank robber/film financer George Bosque
Centurians of Rome images and bank robber/film financer George Bosque

Now, I don't want to live on Twitter (perhaps the initial beginner's excitement will die down), but I feel the same way I felt when I discovered the internet back in 1998 and made some interesting connections on listservs (many of which have fizzled out slowly, given the more socially restrictive nature of the medium and just the fact that people do change).
 

Twitter logo bird holding sign that says: Yup, I tweet too much! Get over it!

Whatever happens, I will enjoy and perhaps be in a better position to learn if the cyberexperiences don't always develop in a socially and psychologically healthy way.

And follow Bijouworld on Twitter. Our always “kick-ass” account is really hopping now, revealing we are truly leading now in the fields of gay sexuality, LGBTQ history, and film studies.

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Who Could Be the Emperor in Centurians of Rome: His Name Is Elagabalus

Michael Flent as the Emperor in Centurians
Michael Flent as the Emperor in Centurians of Rome

When the gay porn epic Centurians of Rome came out in 1981, the publicity proclaimed that the kinky, fisting-loving emperor played to the hilt by Michael Flent was Caligula. At one level, it makes sense, given the overall reputation of Caligula as the ultimate monstre sacree, but after a close viewing, I came up with another theory. Admittedly, the work is fiction, and I highly doubt the creators were specifically trying to place the action and characters in specific historical circumstances, but there are third century A.C.E. parallels.
 

Original poster for Centurians of Rome
Original Original Centurians poster

The emperor Elagabulus, born in 203 A.C.E, was the scion of a dynasty dominated by Syrian women. It's a bit complicated, but let's just say by that time diverse persons in the Empire were able to rise, primarily through the army, to powerful political positions. His father was Sextus Varius Marcellus and his mother was Julia Soemias. His grandmother, the formidable Julia Maesa, was the sister of Julia Domna, and thus the sister-in-law of Septimius Severus, the Roman founder of the dynasty.
 

Bust of Julia Maesa
Julia Maesa

I mention all these women specifically, because, at one point in Centurians of Rome, the Emperor mentions his mother sends him women he is not interested in. This dynasty was run by powerful women on so many levels, and I find this detail telling, and there's more in what we know about Elagabalus that makes this detail, and many others in the movie, even more telling.

Now, Julia Soemias was a cousin of the emperor Caracalla. When Caracalla was assassinated in 217 A.C.E, Macrinus ascended the throne, and he exiled the whole Syrian tribe. But Maesa plotted to regain power, and Soemias made a claim that Elagabalus was the son of Caracalla. After some battles and further plotting, he was proclaimed emperor, as the Senate accepted the claim of parentage.
 

Alma, Tadema, and Heliogabalus

Elagabalus' religious beliefs presented a problem, as he was the hereditary priest (through his mother) of the ancient Syrian mountain god Ilāh hag-Gaba, who was later assimilated into the worship of the sun God Helios and Sol Invictus (the victorious Sun; thus Elagabalus is sometimes referred to as Heliogabalus). The worship of this god apparently required him to circumcise himself (not a Roman custom), but even more significantly, he installed Elagabal as the chief deity.

But, more relevant to this discussion of Centurians of Rome, and I must admit that some of the ancient sources are not exactly reliable (Augustan History contains some Hollywood Babylon-like elements!), Elagabalus' sexual orientation was confusing. He married five women (and divorced them all), including a Vestal Virgin (a huge taboo). But marriage was more of a fluid financial transaction at that time in Rome, and of course one could assume Grandma and Mama were hoping he could produce an heir. He didn't.
 

Elagabalus' entry into Rome

But he supposedly married an athlete called Zoticus (though his prime male companion was a blond chariot driver and bond slave named Hierocles) in a public ceremony in Syria. The historian Cassius Dio claimed he made himself up and whored around in public and in the imperial palace. Some historians have claimed that Elagabalus may have been transgender, as, according to one source, he wanted to somehow equip himself female genitalia and called himself the queen or wife of his main male lover, Hierocles. Note that at the end of Centurians, guess who the Emperor ends up with sexually as he makes him his slave: the blond stud Eric Ryan.
 

Eric Ryan and Michael Flent
Eric Ryan and Michael Flent in Centurians

I see much more parallels, or really resemblances, with the character played by Michael Flent, whose sexual kinks were certainly not “vanilla,” and his almost feminine submission to the hot top George Payne in the fisting scene evokes some of the details mentioned in this admittedly biased account of life in the palace by Cassius Dio:

“Finally, he set aside a room in the palace and there committed his indecencies, always standing nude at the door of the room, as the harlots do, and shaking the curtain which hung from gold rings, while in a soft and melting voice he solicited the passers-by. There were, of course, men who had been specially instructed to play their part. For, as in other matters, so in this business, too, he had numerous agents who sought out those who could best please him by their foulness. He would collect money from his patrons and give himself airs over his gains; he would also dispute with his associates in this shameful occupation, claiming that he had more lovers than they and took in more money.”
 

Michael Flent and George Payne
Michael Flent and George Payne in Centurians

Yes, life in the palace became one decadent orgy which turned a profit. Maybe that's why the government needed that tax money from Octavius and Demetrius (Scorpio and George Payne), and the character of Argus (Eric Ryan) certainly fits in with being one of those agents looking for sex slaves.
 

George Payne and Scorpo
George Payne and Scorpio in Centurians of Rome

Grandma Maesa finally had enough, and she, after some machinations, managed to get Elagabalus and his mother replaced, and the two were eventually assassinated in 222 A.C.E.. His replacement: the indisputably heterosexual Alexander Severus, Elagabalus' cousin, the son of her other daughter, Maemea. Think: backlash, but in this case, the women were still in charge, and Alexander, though he got rid of the Elagabal cult, was religiously tolerant.

I must admit I am an ancient history geek (in the department I teach at, I hold that unofficial title), and hence my attraction to this movie, and I also admit when I was watching it, I thought of the unfortunate and much-maligned Elagabalus. Overall, Elagablaus resembles the Emperor in Centurians more than the wildly cruel and bizarre but ultimately heterosexual Caligula.

Sources: some Wikipedia, and also Will Durant's series The Story of Civilization (Durant was a homophobe, but the series contains everything you need to know about everything, as far as I am concerned, and that's how I first found out about Elagabalus).

We just remastered Centurians of Rome, and the newly restored version is available on DVD and streaming on our Video on Demand site. For more information on the strange backstory of this classic gay porn blockbuster (it was funded by a bank robbery!), read this fascinating blog at The Rialto Report.
 

Centurians cover image
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Retrostuds of the Past: The Inimitable, Luminous George Payne

While going through the Bijou Video file cabinets in search of inspiration, George Payne of Centurians of Rome fame (and one of my initial gay porn crushes, ah, those “mesmerizing dark eyes”) reveals all in an absolutely fabulous 1979 interview with Mandate magazine, called “The Pleasure Payne Principle.” 
 

George Payne


Digging deeper into his inimitable sex appeal, which a previous interview inMandate defined as luminosity, George is definitely clear about his physicality: I'm not a muscle man … I'm only five feet, seven inches tall, and weight one-hundred-fifty-five pounds.” Big things come in small packages. He always seems tall to me; perhaps it is his carriage, reminding me of another small person who filled the screen, my gay icon, Joan Crawford. 

And his diet, which has obviously worked, consists of one meal a day, a lot of coffee, and too many cigarettes. Again, he seems to be channeling Joan; that was her diet, especially in the early days of MGM. 

And there's another parallel to Joan (not the porn! Joan did not make any porn loops). George was on his own since he was fifteen. Yes, he's totally self-made. He had to drop out of college to care for a sick relative, but he was always self-supporting. Early gigs before his porn career included singing at the Big Top, a porno theater in a take-off of the soap opera spoof, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. He even did imitations of Bela Lugosi! 

Another interesting tidbit about George. He never stripped live on stage, and he also never played a heavy leather guy (my heart faints when I imagine him in full leather), because, he says, “I always leave alone in films – meaning I live alone – which is something I do in my private life.” 
 

George Payne - The Pleasure Payne Principle interview continued

It's like he understood, like Joan, the whole royal “daylight and magic” dichotomy; he entices the most by always leaving the viewer (and his captors in Centurians of Rome) hungering for more, beginning with that stargaze that says silently: “I dare you to want me. And if I do take you, or let you take me, it will be more than you ever dared.” 
 

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