'Drifter' — Pat Rocco's 1974 bisexual hustler film rereleased

  • by Gregg Shapiro
  • Tuesday February 27, 2024
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Joed Adair in 'Drifter'<br>(photo: Kino Now)
Joed Adair in 'Drifter'
(photo: Kino Now)

There is little doubt that 2023 was one of the queerest years on record when it comes to LGBTQ films, with Andrew Haigh's dazzling "All of Us Strangers" receiving most of the praise and attention. With that in mind, 2024 has already gotten off to a good start beginning with the recent release of the lesbian comedy "Drive-Away Dolls," currently in theaters.

In terms of home viewing, the late, gay filmmaker Pat Rocco's 1974 feature-length drama "Drifter" (Kino Cult), which never received commercial distribution at the time of its release, remaining virtually unnoticed for 50 years, is now being given a new chance at life.

Newly available on Blu-ray and including special features such as four of Rocco's short films, as well as audio commentary by Finley Freibert, a film historian, "Drifter" may finally find an audience. Classically low-budget and independent through and through, "Drifter," features a screenplay by Edward Middleton, who also wrote the novel on which it's based.

After grabbing a quick bite to eat at a bar and grill in the desert, bisexual hitchhiking hustler Drift (Joed Adair) hitches a ride to Hollywood with gay art dealer Geno (Joe Caruso). They spend the night together and Geno, who "knows a few people," offers to help Drift out by making some introductions.

After popping into an adult bookstore, where he peruses the straight and gay porn (he's bi, remember?), Drift meets Wagner (Dean Shah-Kee). The guys go to the movies and then back to Wagner's apartment where they have sex (although Drift doesn't kiss).

The next morning, after Wagner has left for San Francisco, his female roommate Klamath (Bambi Allen) gets home from her cocktail waitress gig and finds Drift in the bed. They rap, as the kids used to say.

Joed Adair and David Russell in 'Drifter'
(photo: Kino Now)  

Drift meets with Maxine (Ann Collins), at her job placement office. His work experience is limited (ranch hand, gas station attendant, pipeline layer), and she's rude to him until she discovers that it was Geno who sent Drift her way.

It turns out, Maxine is a madam, and arranges a paying gig for Drift the next day. In need of money to buy better threads, Drift pays a visit to Geno, who gives him the bread, but with strings attached. Drift must agree to do a job for Geno involving a private party with some businessmen (which isn't as gay as it sounds).

Drift also encounters Karen (Inga-Maria Pinson), a young Swedish woman to whom he's attracted. They spend the day together, which includes a kooky amusement park montage. But it's unclear if they'll ever meet again (semi-spoiler alert: they do!).

Meanwhile, Drift's assignation with his 50-year-old interior-designer client Dana (Gerald Strickland) goes in an unexpected direction, one that involves a reference to transitioning that could resonate with contemporary viewers.

Interwoven throughout are a series of flashbacks to a previous relationship Drift had with Steve (David Russell), a man closer to his own age, that he met while hitchhiking in Arizona. These scenes are some of the better ones in the movie.

Overall, "Drifter" is admirable for going where few films in the mid-1970s would dare to venture. The acting is dismal but serves as a reminder of how far independent queer cinema has come in 50 years. Adair is in great physical shape for the period and spends much of the movie with his shirt more than half unbuttoned, completely shirtless, or nude. Groovy, if more than a little amateur, "Drifter" is worth seeing for its place in queer cinema. Rating: C+


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