Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Heatstroke (1982)

Directed by Joe Gage
Starring Richard Locke
86 Minutes/Color
*Some sources state this film was released in 1980, hence the URL of this article. I found more sources later on that state it was released in 1982. Anyone know?

Plot summary: On a ranch in rural Montana, Rory and his fellow ranch hands are constantly bullied and humiliated by their cruel foreman, Shep. After a night on the town opens Rory's eyes to both the agony and ecstacy of mansex, he hatches a plan to turn the tables on Shep and gain the upper hand.

Review: Joe Gage is something of an anomaly in the world of both gay and straight cinema (he directed straight porn as well, and a few softcore features.) Other directors (of any persuasion) often tried to dress up the raunch, creating complicated soap opera-style storylines, convoluted scripting, expensive costumes and location shooting, while the films of Joe Gage are about sex as a tool, as a weapon, as a means of communication between men.

"Heatstroke" hit adult theatres with the tagline "Male Bonding...With a Vengeance" which pretty much sums up Gage's entire canon. In the films of Joe Gage, unlike so many of his contemporaries, sex was about bonding, camaraderie and power. There were no hints of romance, no one pining for something more. Sex was merely a form of communication. He drove this point home in several of his films by including heterosexual sex scenes that nearly always brought up conflict, confusion and complication in the lives of the male participants. The male on male sex scenes were always much more straightforward...and oddly refreshing in a way.

Richard Locke pretends to be
straight. Riiight.
The films of Joe Gage do have an air of freedom to them. It's a bit like watching TV when you know you should be doing something more constructive - but all you want to do is unwind and be entertained, not be made to think.

"Heatstroke" is a lesser-known entry into the Gage filmography, overlooked in the shadow of his legendary "Working Man" trilogy of films. This is a shame as the film is really quite enjoyable. The simple story of getting one's own back against a cruel boss by turning the tables of sexual humiliation on him could well resonate with anyone who has ever felt under the thumb of a superior and wiled away the hours plotting their downfall.

A gay movie with boobs!
The sex scenes in the film are numerous but they seem to be there, not just to titillate, but to drive home Gage's philosophy of sex being about communicating roles and deciding dominance among the cast of characters. This point is driven home by the sexual changes in our protagonist, Rory. Early in the film he visits a peep show, engaging in oral sex with a female stripper. When he sees two men masturbating together at the same venue, we see a change in him...a heretofore suppressed curiosity. When he finally has his first homosexual experience he is somewhat frightened and submissive, while the man he is with is seen as more powerful and superior. By the end of the film, as his resentment for Shep has built to a climax Rory is seen physically overpowering him, becoming the alpha male, and Shep is seen as humbled and of inferior masculinity as he - somewhat unwillingly - submits to Rory sexually.

"I'm not gay...
but my mustache is!"
Gage also manages to weave in a thread of male sexual politics into the film, when one character is turned away from a sex club for not being a hard-bodied stud. Gay male body obsession is still alive and well, and this viewer, being from a later generation, was surprised to see this going on in the supposedly "anything goes" gay sex culture of 1982 when this film was shot.

While every print of this film I've come across has been battered and faded, there are still traces of Gage's inventive eye and interesting use of cross-cutting. There are lingering glimpses of Russell Ballard's competent camera work.

Revenge tastes sweetest without
An interesting film, and sometimes uncomfortable and confronting viewing...but I think that was the point. In Gage's films, gay sex is about bonding in the same way sport is to straight men. It's about roles, the winner and the loser, the pecking order. Not much has changed, really. The "anything goes" sex culture may have fallen away somewhat, but the "body" politic is still alive and well.

-Johnny Stanwyck


  1. How does one get a copy of this movie? Thank you.

    1. It is available from TLA video last time I checked. It's been a while though.

  2. No, TLA now lists it as OOP.
    The rights are a mess, which is a shame as I acquired the camera negatives around a year ago and would like to do a restoration of it.

    Also, it was likely shot in 1980. I'll have to check the lab papers though. 1982 is when it hit theatres.

    1. Thank you for the information, and sorry it took me so long to respond! Hopefully the rights can be detangled. If you are able to undertake a restoration, please let me know and I'll give your efforts as much press as possible here on the blog.

  3. This movie needs to be restored! Start a Kickstarter campaign!! I would love to get a copy!! Much like Wakefield Poole's "Bijou". Keep me posted!


  4. What I'd really like to see is a transcript of Gage's monologue in the movie "The best gay sex is anonymous..."

  5. Wondering if there's any more info about the status of Heatstroke. Especially curious about to hear from the previous "Anonymous" here who said he has the camera negatives and wanted to restore it. In his blog Joe Gage gives cryptic responses when asked what's happening with the rights to his film. Even though it's been many (many) years I still have such vivid memory of Heatstroke and would love to see it again...

  6. Definitely one HOT film! I had a VHS copy of it years ago. Loaned it out to someone (bad idea) and never got it back. I'd definitely buy it again!

  7. My ex kept my copy. Loved the drive-in scene and how it's interwoven. Think it is the hottest scene I've ever seen. Hope you can restore it. Been looking for a copy.