"The time is now. The place is Sodom flats, Texas. After years of allowing gays and lesbians to infiltrate the United States Armed forces, Project Manhole gets underway. Under the direction of Dr. Doug Fartin, the pentagon’s most homophobic master scientist, 30,000 homosexuals are lured to Sodom Flats by the promise of a free Barbara Streisand concert. Little do they now that Dr. Fartin has arranged for the Enola Gay Basher to drop an atomic bomb on Sodom Flats. But suddenly, something goes terribly wrong. Suddenly, the bomb misses its target and lands on the north side of Inbred, Texas. Suddenly, Dr. Fartin’s plane goes into a nosedive and crashes into the desert. Suddenly, it’s time to stop using the word 'Suddenly'.
As Colonel Butz, the commander of the Fellatio Alger Air Force Base, delivers the devastating news to Dr. Fartin’s wife, Doug miraculously appears back at the base. There is not a scratch on him, he can’t remember anything that happened and he’s gayer than a Greenwich Village bathhouse."
As you can tell from the press release, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is far from your average movie. Say, for argument sake, you work in the movie business and find an old stinker of a movie from 1954 called Killers from Space, starring none other than a young Peter “this tape will self-destruct in 5 seconds” Graves. Say you notice that said film’s copyright has expired, ownership is in the public domain and you happen to have an old print from a previous cable show you ran with a colleague, the same colleague who helped you rock the world with the timeless masterpiece Beastmaster 2, all those years ago. What would you do? Save society by chucking the offending reels away? You’d think so, wouldn’t you?
Well, not if you’re Doug Miles or Tex Hauser you wouldn’t.
"Confused and confounded, the Air Force calls in 'Big Priggs' – the brilliant FBI agent who ignited the methane tanks at Waco – to get to the bottom of this bizarre mystery. 'How could the man who has slept with more women than the 1988 LA Lakers suddenly lose interest in the opposite sex – and why is he humming show tunes?'"
So, take a movie that’s almost 50 years old and sucks badly and add new dialogue and the odd new scene to spice things up. Rework the plot with subject matter which is a little controversial in this politically correct world of ours, but dangerously funny, and you might just have all the ingredients for a mini classic. Amazingly, when this movie was screened at the Sci-Fi-London 2003 convention, the cinema was half full even though this was by far the stand out picture of the whole weekend. I guess it’s just a matter of taste; Science Fiction enthusiasts are a strange bunch by definition and whereas the high brow geek arty movies were a sell-out, this baby wasn’t. Sad really, because they had no idea what they were missing; the jokes come so thick and fast you constantly find yourself desperately trying to control your laughter levels so you don’t miss the next gag.
"The answer is even more insidious than the plot of The Manchurian Candidate. Below Sodom Flats is a UFO. Inside the UFO are aliens. But not just any aliens, Gay Aliens! 'We are the men who make people gay!' They travel the universe fighting prejudice and homophobia wherever it raises its ugly head and they have come to earth to put an end to bigotry and hatred forever. Their plan is terrifying. 'Now we must make everyone gay,' their fearless leader tells Dr. Fartin. 'Soon the Gay Beam will be sent out around the world. It will reverse the sexual polarity of all animals on the planet.' But to ignite the Gay Beam, they must first collect enough gay rays. They program Dr. Fartin to steal a secret formula from the government that will let them speed up the collection process. Will he resist or will he succeed? The answer awaits you in Don’t Ask Don’t Tell…"
…And that’s just the introduction. This movie pulls no punches, none at all. Keen to find out whether the production team had had any protests about the amount of gay jokes throughout this feature, I got in touch with Doug Miles, director of this oddity. He had this to say…
"...At first we were concerned that it was going to be offensive to the Gay & Lesbian world, but in fact the film has become a big hit on the Gay & Lesbian film festival circuit. This month alone it's playing the Sydney Queer Fest and the Out of Bounds Film Festival in Whistler, BC. And in the past it's been invited to play at about 10 other gay film fests. Let's face it, in addition to being fabulous, the gays are generally a pretty hip group, and I think most of the gays who've seen the film have figured out that it is in fact, in its own twisted way, actually politically correct. Really if we had to state some kind of theme or moral for the film, it would have to be about overcoming prejudice of all kinds.
Frankly this film has offended a whole lot more straight people than gay people…"
And whose idea was it…? And what about Peter Graves; do you think he’ll sue? Doug seemed to totally blame Tex…
"He was the one who came up with this demented idea. Actually about ten years ago I was directing a syndicated TV series here in the U.S. called 'Horrible Night at the Movies.' It was sketch comedy wrap-arounds for a bunch of really atrocious old public domain movies. Tex was one of the writers.... and Killers from Space was one of the movies.
About three years ago he said to me 'do you still have those old movies laying around?' Unfortunately they were all still in my basement. He said 'let's take it one step further and really shamelessly adulterate some of them with all new dialog, new stories, inserted absurdities, etc.' At the time it sounded like a terrific idea… And so began our long decline into the depths of refried flicks depravity.
About the gay alien idea... he's always said it was pretty obvious when you watch the original movie... umm... obvious perhaps to him. Just like Michaelangelo and the sculpture waiting to be released from the stone, I guess.
On the public domain/Peter Graves/etc. issue. Our lawyer and our insurance company both said we could do this -- they weren't sure WHY we'd want to do this, but they cleared us. So far no law suits. Actually the lawyer said lawsuits would be a good thing. That would mean we're making money. So pray for litigation. (Actually I hear that in Peter Graves' filmography in imdb.com right now that DADT is listed at the top! eeek! I'd love to know what he thinks about that. Maybe for a journalist angle you should contact him and see if he'd comment.)"
After extensive effort, Peter Graves was unavailable for comment. Somehow though, I can’t see him promoting the movie in one of those ‘They came from space to probe Uranus’ promotional baseball caps, anyhow…
On a final note, this film isn’t really as savage as many of the others featured on this site, but it does deserve as much press as possible considering its freshness. Keen to get this in as many cinemas as possible, I put Doug and Tex onto the organizers of the annual UK Dead by Dawn festival. To protect the innocent, I shalln’t give up their names, but being the coy individuals they are, they mailed Doug with the simple question, ‘Is this film a horror?’
Doug’s answer was "Well, some people think it’s pretty horrific…"
Don't Ask Don't Tell is now in its second print run, and can be purchased from Amazon by clicking here.
1st Nov 04 Above all though, it is the relationship between John and Laura Baxter which is the film’s central focus throughout, and the gradual disintegration of their relationship amidst a haze of grief.
Top Ten Dogs in Horror Films 22nd Aug 06 Top place though, just has to go to the slobbery-jawed killer Cujo, the big Rabies-infected St. Bernard