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The Fall of '55

3.4 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

In the fall of 1955, a gay sex scandal erupted in the unassuming, wholesome and "vice-less" town of Boise, Idaho, as teenage boys who had prostituted themselves to older men began to disclose their dalliances to authorities. Overnight, Boise's homosexual underworld - comprised mostly of married family men - was splashed onto headlines and thrust into the spotlight. Reputations were shattered and lives ruined as the rumors and accusations flew. What followed was a classic witch-hunt, marked by intense homophobic hysteria, in which the whole town became embroiled. Seth Randal's gripping documentary provides unique insights into the pre-Stonewall gay experience as well as 1950s' America's struggle with the issue of homosexuality and the prevailing myth that it was a cancer that could be spread to the youth. Interesting parallels are also drawn with the era of McCarthyism, during which fear and paranoia supplanted rational thought, and the federal government began its own purge of gays (one that continues to this day in our military).

The film raises many questions that prove difficult even in 2007: With the accusers ranging in age from 15 to 22, at what age did their accusations of sexual corruption become simple hypocrisy? What kinds of behavior were immoral? How far should the community have gone to protect the youth? Who were the victims, and who were the exploited? In Boise, more than fifty years later, opinions are still deeply divided.

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Special Features

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Product Details

  • Actors: Narrated by Claudia Weathermon
  • Directors: Seth Randal
  • Writers: Seth Randal
  • Producers: Louise Luster Seth Randal
  • Format: NTSC
  • Region: All Regions
  • Studio: Frameline
  • DVD Release Date: April 13, 2010
  • Run Time: 82 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B003H05VV8
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #189,808 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By D. Todd Miller on May 18, 2015
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I knew nothing of this incident in American history, thus I found the documentary quite informative; in fact, I am now reading the "classic" book written in the 1960s about the event, "The Boys of Boise" by John Gerassi. While informative, the film lacks panache and the "polish" of a documentary produced for cable television and/or PBS. Some of the video clips included in the film were unclear/pixilated, and the volume level was inconsistent. I also thought the film could have been 20 minutes shorter, since several of the points were repeated. Overall, this is a very good, albeit low budget, documentary.
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I really enjoyed this documentary about a topic I knew very little about in the past. I think it was clearly a difficult time for both the prosecutors and the offenders involved in these cases, and the producers do a good job trying to show both sides of the stories and how it affected a small town where these kinds of scandals are not supposed to happen. Parts of it were heartbreaking when you think about the lives who were damaged by this witch hunt, including the officers who felt they were entirely in the right about what they were doing. Some families are clearly still dealing with fallout from this, nearly 60 years later. I do wish there could have been more talking heads in the video, but many have died, moved away to places unknown, or simply felt too uncomfortable to speak on camera. It would have been more rounded if more stories could have been told.
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This film does a great job of showing the paranoia and "witch-hunt" mentality that took place in Boise, to eradicate any evidence that such "perversion" might exist in their squeaky clean home town.

What is missing is any direct input from the "boys" who apparently willingly sold themselves to older men to make some quick cash.
I would have liked to hear their side of the story - who started it; how it spread; were all the young men gay or not; did anyone feel coerced into doing this? And what became of them.
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I had the privilege of meeting two of the people involved in the scandal back in 1980 . The documentary captured the Boise of the 1950's and the social climate of the times. I highly recommend watching this documentary.
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It was a clear depiction of a time, where "gay people didn't exist". In the majority of people's minds, or when it did to them it was disgusting and immoral. Driving people underground and secretive in their activities, disguising their lives to fit the norm.
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We had heard rumors about the Boys of Boise for decades, but we never knew all the details. This documentary provides lots of insight on this "homosexual hysteria" in Idaho's capitol city. In 1955, the city prided itself on its wholesome, straight lifestyle with a Mom and Dad with two kids living in a home with white picket fences. Most residents felt the city of Boise reflected the best of America. But to the shock of many, there were actually homosexuals secretly living among them. And in the height of the McCarthy era hearings during the Eisenhower Administration, some of those homosexual residents appeared "normal." About 14 men were arrested for crimes against nature, and the men reflected many walks of life, including a banker, lawyer, a high school janitor and an actor. The film points out how America slowly came to terms with people's diverse sexuality. By the time the police investigations ended, most regretted getting involved in people's personal lives. But a few felt the city had been tarnished by a "virus" they never really wanted. They were more like San Francisco and New York than they ever would admit. This is an interesting film, and is still relevant today in light of the campaigns by fundamentalist Christians to persecute gays. The film points out the dangers of ignorance and hysteria.
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It's hard to say that I like this film, since the subject is so depressing: anti-gay mass hysteria in Boise, Idaho, in 1955, and how it ruined people's lives. But it does a decent job of telling its story. It made me think of The Crucible, Arthur Miller's play about the Salem witch trials. The film is also makes reference to Joe McCarthy and the anti-communist witch hunts of the same period. The film is a good reminder of how much things have changed in the past 50 years and in some ways of how much things haven't. I suspect Boise is a more civilized place these days. I'm not so sure about other parts of the country.
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This film is an important piece of history in that it shows how twisted America was in the 1950's concerning attitudes about sex. If we want to grow in our understanding of other people, we need to see other films like this to help us understand the harm we cause just because we are afraid to know more about the things we fear. Ignorance is not a virtue.
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