Color, 1978, 108 mins. 30 ses.
Directed by Paul Aaron
Starring Perry King, Meg Foster, Valerie Curtin, Peter Donat, Richard Bull, Barbara Collentine
Scorpion Releasing (Blu-Ray) (US RA HD) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9), Trinity (DVD) (US R1 NTSC)
that caused a lot of annoyance when it opened, A Different Story held the crown as the most heavily criticized depiction of LGBT characters in American cinema until it was easily surpassed by William Friedkin's Cruising (and, to a lesser degree, the bizarre comedy Partners) at the turn of the 1980s. The gay liberation movement that really took hold throughout the '70s had coincided with some fascinating and often divisive films on the subject like The Boys in the Band, Myra Breckinridge, The Ritz, The Gay Deceivers, and Dinah East, but this one stood out from the pack by offering a romantic dramedy about male and female queer characters who end up falling in love. The idea was dismissed as absurd and offensive at the time, not far removed from the vile concept of conversion therapy that would become more widespread in later years. However, as the growing awareness of nuances on the sexual spectrum has grown over the years and real-life cases ranging from Jack Wrangler to Gregg Araki have proven, identifying as gay doesn't necessarily fit into the most clear-cut of boxes. As such, it's possible to maybe cut this one a bit of slack and enjoy it as a vivid time capsule of late '70s Los Angeles and a flawed but sincere attempt to grapple with issues that most films wouldn't dare to touch.
Working as a driver for his much older sugar daddy (Donat), Albert (King), who's from Belgium but in L.A. on an expired work visa, ends up getting tossed out for a newer, younger replacement. Homeless, he crashes out in a house being shown by realtor Stella (Foster), who offers to let him stay on her couch until he gets back on his feet. Stella's also dealing with a very turbulent love life of her own thanks to an emotionally unstable girlfriend (Curtin), and soon the two roomies strike up a friendly rapport that includes his culinary skill coming in handy for a visit by Stella's parents. Trouble arises when Albert's disgruntled ex blows the whistle on his ex's residency status and starts the process of having him deported. Albert and Stella decide to get married to keep him in the U.S., but after having too much to drink one night, they end up consummating their relationship and embark on an emotional journey they didn't expect.
How much you get out of this one will depend on how much slack you're willing to cut the premise and especially your interest in seeing a showcase for the two leads, who both do fine work with Foster in particular getting some juicy material (including an emotional climax that really lets her cut loose). A likable actor, King seemed to have a thing for choosing dicey subject matter at the time with this film closing out an insane streak including The Possession of Joel Delaney, Mandingo, Andy Warhol's Bad, The Choirboys, and Lipstick. Though he plays up some unconvincing mannerisms here at times, he's still a welcome presence and makes for a solid foil for Foster, who had already racked up a large number of TV credits interspersed with some unsettling films like Welcome to Arrow Beach and The Todd Killings. Apart from the acting though, it's most memorable for its priceless shots of areas around Melrose and Sunset Avenues featuring loads of great vintage fashions and one of those ultra-poppy soundtracks seemingly aspiring for radio play.
Released theatrically by Avco Embassy in 1978, the film was initially given an R rating due to two scenes featuring rather innocuous moments of nudity from the two leads. (Even the tamer Making Love was slapped with an R a few years later for similarly questionable reasons.) That version later turned up on cable TV in the early '80s, but for some inexplicable reason, it was edited down (perhaps for an intended network TV airing) for one of its VHS releases in a PG-rated version. That same edit later turned up on DVD from Trinity in 2006, making it pretty useless apart from the welcome addition of a little making-of featurette. The full R-rated version finally came back into circulation on Blu-ray in 2020 from Scorpion Releasing, featuring a fresh widescreen master that marks its best presentation to date. The film isn't a visual dazzler by any means with its directing style and cinematography comparable to a made-for-TV production of the time; it's also frequently shot with a dark lighting style that can look pretty flat and chunky at times (which also looked like pure mud on past video transfers in some scenes). The DTS-HD MA English mono track is also fine given the very basic nature of the source, and optional English SDH subtitles are provided. Bonus trailers are also included for The Greek Tycoon, King of the Mountain, Love Letters, The Tamarind Seed, Who'll Stop the Rain, and Grace of My Heart.
Reviewed on August 9, 2020.