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The Celluloid Closet (Special Edition) (1996)

Lily Tomlin , Tony Curtis , Jeffrey Friedman , Rob Epstein  |  R |  DVD
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Lily Tomlin, Tony Curtis, Susie Bright, Arthur Laurents, Armistead Maupin
  • Directors: Jeffrey Friedman, Rob Epstein
  • Writers: Armistead Maupin, Jeffrey Friedman, Rob Epstein, Sharon Wood, Vito Russo
  • Producers: Bernie Brillstein
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, NTSC, Special Edition, Subtitled
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired: English
  • Region: Region 1 encoding (US and Canada only)
    Some Region 1 DVDs may contain Regional Coding Enhancement (RCE). Some, but not all, of our international customers have had problems playing these enhanced discs on what are called "region-free" DVD players. For more information on RCE, click .
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: May 29, 2001
  • Run Time: 102 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005AWR9
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #91,937 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Celluloid Closet (Special Edition)" on IMDb

Special Features

  • Commentary with Filmmakers Robert Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, Lily Tomlin, Producer Howard Rosenmann, and Editor Arnold Glassman
  • Additional Commentary with Author Vito Russo
  • Interview with Author Vito Russo
  • Collection of Outtakes
  • Sundance Film Festival, Freedom of Expression Award, Winner, 1996

Editorial Reviews

This entertaining and often hilarious look at homosexuality in the cinema features film clips, interviews and fascinating revelations. Among the films featured are "Spartacus," "The Boys in the Band," "The Children's Hour," "Philadelphia," "Tea and Sympathy" and many others. Lily Tomlin narrates, while Harvey Fierstein, Tom Hanks, Susan Sarandon, Gore Vidal and others comment on the films. 101 min. Standard; Soundtrack: English Dolby Digital Surround; Subtitles: English; scene access; audio commentary; theatrical trailers; outtakes.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
53 of 53 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Power of Cinematic Image August 16, 2002
Based on the book by Vito Russo, written by Armistead Maupin, and narrated by Lily Tomlin, THE CELLULOID CLOSET uses interviews and hundreds of film clips to examine the way in which Hollywood has presented gay and lesbian characters on film from the age of silent cinema to such recent films as PHILADELPHIA and DESERT HEARTS. Throughout the documentary, the focus is on both stereotypes and the various ways that more creative directors and writers worked around the censorship of various decades to create implicitly homosexual characters, with considerable attention given to the way in which stereotypes shaped public concepts of the gay community in general.
Overtly homosexual characters were not particularly unusual in silent and pre-code Hollywood films, and CLOSET offers an interesting sampling of both swishy stereotypes and unexpectedly sophistocated characters--both of which were doomed by the Hayes Code, a series of censorship rules adopted by Hollywood in the early 1930s. The effect of the Code was to soften some of the more grotesque stereotypes--but more interesting was the impetus the Code gave to film makers to create homosexual characters and plot lines that would go over the heads of industry censors but which could still be interpreted by astute audiences, with films such as THE MALTESE FALCON, REBECCA, BEN-HUR, and REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE cases in point. Once the Code collapsed, however, Hollywood again returned to stereotypes in an effort to cash in on controversy--with the result that throughout most of the sixties and seventies homosexual characters were usually presented as unhappy, maladjusted creatures at best, suicidal and psychopatic entities at worst.
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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 100 minutes of entertainment and education January 7, 2003
By S. Lee
I'd once been to a film seminar where the participants watched HItchcock's ROPE together and discussed the queer sub-text of it. I didn't know, until then, that ROPE can be a 'queer' movie, although I had seen it at least 3 times because I'm a big Hitchcock fan and had it among my movie collection. A professor at the seminar had a big hearty laugh when the two characters and James Stewart were discussing how they 'choked the chicken' back when they were younger. I didn't know what 'to choke a chicken' meant, so I didn't see how the scene could cause such a raucous laugh among some participants at the seminar. Now I know, and I could deepen my understanding of 'homosexuality in American cinema' by seeing this well-made documentary dealing with that subject.
I'm straight, and and although I don't think I'm homophobic, I must admit that I used to be prejudiced against homosexuality and homosexuals. A movie helped me to change my view on homosexuality and gay people forever, and it was Ang Lee's The Wedding Banquet. In The Celluloid Closet, you can see tens of movie clips including the one from it. Just looking at those clips--some are from rather obscure titles, some are from my personal favorites--is a delight. I'd strongly recommend this wonderful film to anyone who wants to have an hour and a half of 'educational' entertainment.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
I remember how powerful this movie was upon first viewing. This film is both a celebration and a condemnation of the way Hollywood has portrayed gays in film. It's fascinating to see the early film clips, a Thomas Edison film with two men dancing, a silent western with a preening gay cowboy, Marlene Dietrich in tophat and coattails kissing a woman, and a Charlie Chaplin sequence where a man swishes around the set after Chaplin kisses a woman in drag. I felt so cheated upon learning that 'The Lost Weekend' was supposed to be about a guy confused with his sexuality who goes on a weekend binge, not a writer with writers block. Nevertheless, it won 4 Oscars in 1946 including Best Picture. The montage of scenes from various movies where character after character uses a particular disparaging word for a gay male, stunned me and left me feeling appalled by an industry that has institutionalized homophobia. The film 'Making Love' debuted on HBO and I remembered that day, watching with my parents, listening to their remarks, and hoping they wouldn't realize why I was so captivated. The list of films portrayed in this movie is long and spans each decade. This is definitely one of my favorite documentaries.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Can we just not hate ourselves as much?" September 23, 2005
Format:VHS Tape
This remarkable 1966 documentary addresses the portrayal of homosexuals in film, from the silent movies to the 1990"s, narrated by Lily Tomlin, with commentary by Whoopi Goldberg, Armistead Maupin (Tales of the City),Antonio Fargas, Barry Sandler and others. Many of the early black and white films, silent or talkie, featured comic scenes, two men or women spinning out onto the dance floor, a cowboy kissing his best friend, or partner, goodbye before he expires, the little woman looking on with approbation. There is a somewhat tacit agreement that all is not what it may appear on film.

Some of the first films to deal directly with the issue of sexual preference, did so with fear and loathing, a shame that is palpable in Lillian Hellman's "The Children's Hour" (1961) and "Advise and Consent" (1962). "The Boys in the Band" (1971) was one of the first films to openly discuss the lifestyle, an all male cast uttering scathing remarks about the realities of their world and the sources of their discontent. In contrast, "Cabaret" (1972) allowed acceptance and a degree of comfort with different preferences, Liza Minelli perfectly content in her role as foil. Screenwriter Barry Sandler, speaks about the acceptable negative language used in film when dealing with homosexuality, the phrases spoken with a sardonic twist, as well as the acceptable slang. There is one hitchhiking scene in "The Vanishing Point" (1971), where two men wait for a ride from a passing driver. The men exhibit all the stereotypes, language, dress and affectations and are quickly dispensed with by a macho hero.

1981 brought Pacino's "Cruising", turning the homosexual from victim to victimizer.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Vito rocks!
Anyone familiar with the book .. or this movie.. already knows.. Russo's work is awesome.. and really a launch to LGBT studies in film.. Read more
Published 15 hours ago by Trezrun Lawrence
3.0 out of 5 stars Some IDs would have helped - still worth seeing
A fine retrospective - but persons interviewed are not identified with subtitles, so unless one recognizes the person, he/she remains anonymous although in plain view.
Published 22 days ago by Ardeleana
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved this movie
Brought back lots of memories. would see it again and again......have recommended it to my friends! Looking for other movies like this one.....
Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
3.0 out of 5 stars The movie itself gets 5 stars
One of the best documentaries ever made. My rating is for the streaming version here on Amazon, which somehow comes from a print without any on-screen graphics at all, including... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Jeffrey
5.0 out of 5 stars Important movie
Important movie and very well done. Anyone who enjoys movies will enjoy this interesting history of film. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Lynn H. Weir
4.0 out of 5 stars Amazing how things have evolved in the past 15 years
This is a "classic" historical documentation of how gays and lesbians were portrayed onscreen in the first 80 years of moviemaking. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Gilbert P Mansergh
4.0 out of 5 stars Great documentary!
This is one of those movies that I didn't want to end and must watch again. Mt only criticism is that I really needed to have a quick lower third identification of the speakers. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Harry Marks
5.0 out of 5 stars Informative, insightful, and entertaining.
Informative, insightful, and entertaining. A great documentary of gays and lesbians have been portrayed in film. From the first days of film to today.
Published 4 months ago by David Caron
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulously Sad
So good, but so depressing. I wish everyone would watch this just for perspective. I'd be really interested in an updated version (a sequel, kind of) that picks up in the decade... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Dakota Flournoy
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential Queer History
This movie provides a significant overview of the depiction of men and women in film from the early 20th century to the mid-1990s. Read more
Published 7 months ago by R. Quesada
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