Pink Justice (USA, 1977)

October 19, 2009

There can be few cinema sub-genres as small as the one-director, four-film series collectively known as ‘gaysploitation.’ Inspired by the upsurge in California’s gay movement in the mid-1970s, formerly closeted film student-turned-flamboyant activist Vijay Kostenloser saw an opportunity to show his community on film. He was able to convince American International Pictures boss Samuel Z. Arkoff to fund a slate of four action pictures to be shot in San Francisco. In spite of Arkoff’s rabid and much publicized homophobia, Kostenloser persuaded him that there were enough pink dollars floating around to guarantee great box office returns. Production began immediately on Pink Justice and Pink Justice 2: Flaming Vengeance, which were shot back to back, with the lesbian spy caper D.Y.K.E. following shortly after. Sadly the dismal failure of the Pink Justice films meant that the fourth production, the sci-fi actioner Queer 2099, was abandoned at the script stage. Arkoff furiously ordered all copies of the three existing films destroyed, so we were surprised and delighted to find a battered but watchable work print of Pink Justice in crate 7.

A cursory viewing of the film shows that Kostenloser and his screenwriter Gary Gaylord (genuinely his real name, and he was in fact straight) stuck closely to the blaxploitation model of a few years earlier. Rainbow Jones (Alan J. Jay, b. José Iglesias Martínez-Suárez Pérez Olivera Pérez Puente Soriano) is a gay ex-marine living happily in San Francisco’s Castro district with his lover, prominent city council member Harry Silk (Liberace). Rainbow’s pleasant existence is shattered when his best friend Pinky (Fard Fielding, Martian Biker Punks) is beaten to death by a gang of homophobic hoodlums known as Straights For Hate. Using his military training and survival skills honed in the jungles of Southeast Asia, Rainbow engages in a bloody street war with the Straights. As the film progresses, Rainbow unveils a connection between the Straights and bigoted Catholic minister Father O’Maloney (Dick Tramm, Cry Rabies!), a truly creepy character with an unhealthy predilection for underage girls. In the gripping final reel, Rainbow discovers the ugly truth: that O’Maloney is in league with Harry Silk, who has secretly agreed to allow the building of a ‘forced re-education center’ in the heart of the Castro district.

After many disappointments, it was a true pleasure to find such an enjoyable lost work in crate 7. Pink Justice crackles with energy and excitement, fine performances, and sharply quotable dialogue. It’s easy to imagine that had the film been more successful, many of the lines would have found their way into our shared cultural lexicon. In particular, Rainbow Jones referring to his gold plated .475 Wildey Magnum ‘Big Steve’ with kittens painted on the handgrips; “this is the closest these fingers get to pussy, honey!” before blowing away a bad guy. From the moment Rainbow beds a straight guy simply by kissing him, to his distinctive limp-wristed hand to hand combat style, he seems to be a ready-made hero for the gay community, a pink Shaft if you will. He even has his own theme ‘Rainbow Jones Is Here’ by gay soul collective Fag Street Junction, with the catchy refrain “Rainbow Jones: the Queer you Fear.” Our print also included the film’s theatrical trailer, a two-minute explosion of action and colour with the superb voice-over “He’s the fag who’ll put you in body bag… Call him a homo and he’ll put you in a coma! This summer, God Save You from The Queen!”

Kostenloser’s agenda is clear from the outset. All of the heterosexual characters are loathsome, particularly the paedophile priest (who, one notes, only interferes with girls). The gay characters on the other hand are almost all sympathetic, with the exception of ‘Harry Silk.’ It’s odd that a role so clearly based on celebrated gay politician Harvey Milk is shown in such a negative light. Apparently this was due to an acrimonious one night stand between Milk and Kostenloser a few years earlier. The director even subverts Milk’s famous catchphrase by having Silk say in the final scene, “My name is Harry Silk and I’m here to shoot you!” However, this is a small black mark against an otherwise terrific film.

Sadly the failure of Pink Justice meant that many of the cast and crew drifted into obscurity. Not so Alan J. Jay, who infamously underwent treatment at a religious compound and became a Pentecostal minister, getting married and funding several viciously anti-gay films including The Swishy Scourge and the notorious Death Camp 3. His autobiography ‘Alan J. Jay – the J stands for Jesus’ was a bestseller in Alabama and Louisiana. Later still he renounced his conversion, and following his wife’s mysterious and unsolved death he fled back to Mexico, undergoing gender reassignment surgery. He still works today on television under the name Rosa Iglesias Martínez-Suárez Pérez Olivera Pérez Puente Soriano, and won a 1997 TV Novela Award as the dying matriarch in popular telenovela ¡Sexo prohibido!

It is our hope that with some extensive restoration of the print we may be able to secure a DVD release for Pink Justice. As both a cultural artefact and a gripping action-adventure film, it deserves to be seen at last.