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 Post subject: THE FLAMING URGE (1953)
PostPosted: Thu Jul 22, 2010 8:15 pm 
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Joined: Tue Apr 24, 2007 10:57 pm
Posts: 90
FLAMING URGE is, in its way, a remarkable film by one time director-writer Harold Ericson which ought to be better known. It concerns the arrival in a small town of Tom Smith (Harold Lloyd, Jnr). Tom has a problem - he is irrestibly attracted to fires and compulsively chases every passing fire engine en route to a blaze. He has chosen this town to settle in as the level of fire incidents is the smallest on record that he can discover, to help himself overcome his pyrophilia. Tom finds himself a job in a local store with an understanding boss, but soon discovers that the number of fires locally is suddenly increasing and, despite his protests, he becomes chief suspect as the local arsonist...

A pleasant and curious enough film about an unusual compulsion on first viewing, it is only when one realises that 'flaming' is homosexual slang for quick arousal and/or 'flaunting effeminate traits' that the real sociological interest emerges. In real life Harold LLoyd Jnr was the great comedian's gay, alcoholic son who died early at age 40, victim of his lifestyle. In manner and speech in this, one of his few strarring vehicles, he reminds one of his famous father, albeit without the signature glasses. Thus FLAMING URGE's early comic scenes in the drapery store, where the young man works, recall the elder LLoyd's work in the first half of SAFETY LAST, even to the point of a couple of sly, specific visual references to the older comedy. Lloyd snr. of course was straight; some of the impact of FLAMING URGE is an implied gay deconstruction of a famous screen persona - one wonders what dad said when he saw it.

In short this is a fun film with substantive gay coding throughout - right down to the good deal of banter situated around the tie counter (at one point the star creates a gigantic bow tie, by way of marketing) and play on pencils. Tom's 'problem' is treated with a calmness and respect for difference throughout - miles away from the sniggering, condemnation or caricature with which a secret vice might have been received elsewhere. And while the film has token romance and necessarily ends with a heterosexual wedding, it proves unconvincing. FLAMING URGE can be recommended, especially to those who like lesser known gay/camp classics such as TURNABOUT.

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