The Choirboys (1977):

Even more than Twilight's Last Gleaming, Robert Aldrich's late-career film-maudit detonates the moral dislocation of Vietnam-era America. The war itself makes only a pre-credits appearance, one minute of flame-throwing and claustrophobia laying the traumatic baggage for Don Stroud and James Woods; then mock-sacramental organ and a fist smashing through stained glass, "I've Been Working on the Railroad" reworked by De Vol as the ritualistic chant of boorish masculinity. A "chorus practice," during which the LA police force (of which Stroud and Woods are now members, along with Charles Durning, Louis Gossett, Jr., Perry King, Clyde Kusatsu, Stephen Macht, Randy Quaid, and Tim McIntire) lets it rip in sloppy, raucous all-out bacchanalias. Pantyless Barbara Rhoades sits on a glass coffee table, and Chuck Sacci crawls beneath to slurp the vag area; Durning and King hire a hooker so they can bust in on superior George DiCenzo, shotguns in hand; a piss-drunk McIntire has a duck stuck in his fly before being handcuffed to a tree and left, ass out, right in time for a "park faggot," pink poodle and all, to mince by. Aldrich's trademark all-male group turns purposely degraded to match a nation's moral fuzziness and institutionalized abuse, hush-hush after McIntire taunts a suicidal "ding-a-ling" off a ledge, and warring blacks and Latinos uniting to the kick some racist-sexist-homophobic ass ("exemplary service" citations follow, naturally). Joseph Wambaugh, who wrote the original book, disowned and sued the adaptation, but his us-boys hagiography of LAPD could only clash with the director's witheringly scummy demolition of authority -- Aldrich's confrontational indictment locates the anxieties behind the uniform all but airbrushed by Wambaugh. The all-pervasive crudeness, baldly flaunted instead of M*A*S*H*-ed into crowd-pleasing, points not so much forward to Police Academy yuks as back to SalÚ purging, delusional "beating the System" while in reality being the System, and a roll-call montage of guffawing mugs sliding from uproarious to desolating. With Burt Young, Robert Webber, Charles Haid, Vic Tayback, and Blair Brown.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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