Sordid Lives

by Ed Tapper

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Monday October 6, 2014

Beware of films that tout themselves as "instant cult classics." Contrived campiness seldom convinces. Most deserving of that title are unselfconscious movies that have maintained their offbeat appeal over time, inspiring audiences to return for multiple viewings. Occasionally a film does surface which achieves this instantaneously. Del Shores' "Sordid Lives" is a perfect case in point.

The fourth of Shores' stage plays, "Sordid Lives" premiered in LA in 1996, and was highly successful. Three years later, he wrote and directed the film version, using some of the actors from the original theatrical run. He peppered the cast with some celebrity names, including Beau Bridges, Bonnie Bedelia, Olivia Newton-John and Delta Burke. The hilarious script, radically pro-gay sentiments, and wonderfully over-the-top performances won the film immediate acclaim.

"Sordid Lives" was especially popular in the gay Mecca of Palm Springs, where it was screened in one theater for nearly two years. Audience members often went in drag as characters from the film, shouting out several key lines.

Something of a Texan "The Women," the plot concerns the burial of a Southern matriarch, who has died accidentally and under embarrassing circumstances. The female family members go at each other, as they attempt to come to terms with the loss, as well as the homosexuality of a son and grandson. Though all the performances are virtuoso, Leslie Jordan steals the film in the plum role of Brother Boy, the family skeleton who refuses to stay in the closet. His Tammy Wynette drag, and therapy appointments with his bitchy, homophobic therapist are hysterical.

"...the "Sordid Lives" Blu-ray is an absolute must for any gay film collection."

Less interesting are the ponderous psychiatric sessions of his hunky nephew, in which he attempts to come out of his own closet. Yet when the action returns the women -- especially the scene where they force at gunpoint a bunch of male homophobes to cross-dress -- it is pure magic.

At long last, "Sordid Lives" has made it to Blu-ray. Wolfe Video has just released it in a combo pack, which includes an excellent DVD transfer as well. The Blu-ray is an all-around winner. The high-def picture quality is superb, in some stretches remarkably lifelike. The luxurious 5.1 surround sound provides clarity for every word of the outrageous dialogue, as well as the surprisingly effective country vocals by Newton-John.

In addition to a recent theatrical trailer, the special features include an interview with the colorful cast members. In another, Shores explains the origins of many of the characters from his own childhood, and how his expert cast was assembled.

Along with the early films of John Waters, the "Sordid Lives" Blu-ray is an absolute must for any gay film collection.

Sordid Lives


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