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Saturday, February 19th

Upstairs at 8:30 PM

LA Plays Itself
LA Plays Itself - Trailer
LA Plays Itself: The Fred Halsted Collection
(1972, 151 min)

Country: U.S.

Director: Fred Halsted

Studio: Altered Innocence

Language: English


Fred Halsted was a legend in his own time. His self-created public persona-that of the leather-clad sadist-instantly made him both feared and revered as one of the first openly gay sex symbols. And his taboo-shattering films broke new ground in the gay erotic cinema for their portrayal of sadomasochism and other forms of polymorphous perversity. These works sent a shockwave throughout the fledgling gay liberation movement and the art establishment alike, leading to their eventual acquisition by the Museum of Modern Art. But despite their significant cultural importance, these films have long been available only in neutered form, if at all.

Altered Innocence and Anus Films are proud to present the first-ever uncut disc release of the groundbreaking and fiercely controversial films "L.A. Plays Itself", "Sextool" and "The Sex Garage", beautifully restored by MoMA and with a host of new bonus features, including Halsted's formerly-lost second feature, "Truck It".


With "The Fred Halsted Collection," Altered Innocence strives to bring the deep cult appeal of the filmmaker to a wider audience. It's a noble endeavor, distributing three shorts from the helmer, including "L.A. Plays Itself" (55:17), "Sextool" (61:06), and "The Sex Garage" (35:09), with each of the offerings highlighting Halstead's interest in experimental imagery and hardcore scenarios, working to bring a level of artfulness to underground cinema while preserving his fascination with titillation.

"L.A. Plays Itself" is perhaps the most known of the shorts, exploring city streets and the open world with men involved in numerous sexual adventures. It's like a hardcore clip from "Fantasia," with Halsted playing around with orchestral music and obscured imagery, trying to generate a loose sense of nature and lust. What's especially compelling about this short is a switch to L.A. streets, capturing the bustle of life in 1972 while the filmmaker works on conversational exchanges between off-screen participants. It doesn't add up to anything even remotely profound, but there's an easygoing rhythm to the endeavor that's occasionally interrupted by increasingly intense sexual situation, including a climatic fisting scene, which, to be honest, is really how more movies should end.

1972's "The Sex Garage" is more elusive with its ideas, working with black and white to detail sexual encounters (not always between human participants) and vague characters. "Sextool" is perhaps too blunt at times, getting into darker areas of S&M fantasies, including one that involves Crisco, which could be the greatest act of product placement in film history. Halsted definitely had his kinks (he's positively in love with semen), laboring to bring them to life in these three efforts, which take viewers on an elusive ride of personalities and obsessions, with "Sextool" especially interested in detailing acts of submission.

Video Quality. The AVC encoded image for all three short films are listed as "beautifully restored" by The Museum of Modern Art, though they remain in pretty rough shape. There's pronounced damage, with jumpy frames and heavy scratches common, along with some inherent camera issues at times. Age is inescapable, but overall detail reaches as far as the original cinematography goes, offering a softer but present look at skin surfaces and graphic encounters. "L.A. Plays Itself" also has the benefit of being something of a travelogue, showcasing city sights and signage. Color is appealing, with strong primaries on clothing and decoration. Skintones are natural. Greenery is also acceptable.

Audio Quality. The 1.0 DTS-HD MA sound mix isn't offering sharpness, with age present during the listening experiences. Intelligibility isn't threatened, but recording limitations are encountered. Musical offerings are acceptably defined for this type of endeavor.

"The Fred Halsted Collection" is best reserved for those who at least semi-understand what's included in this set, as the offerings are not suited for a cold viewing. The shorts have their artistic ways and the stamp of approval from The Museum of Modern Art, but entertainment value is up for intense debate, making this set more of an experience for established Halsted fans.

-- Review by Brian Orndorf, Blu-Ray Review (http://wwww.blu-ray.com)