The gay Jesus movie — hoax, or fact?

Those of who you find the title of this post inherently distasteful may want to skip this one; and those of you who have seen me write about this subject elsewhere will find little new here, save for one point that comes up near the end.

I won’t be writing anything particularly graphic of my own here, but I will be quoting some comments that Michael Medved and his younger brother Harry made a quarter-century ago in a book called The Golden Turkey Awards, back when the elder Medved was known mostly as a bad-movie buff and had not yet become a religious culture warrior. The very first page declares …

A Challenge To The Reader:
Over 425 actual films are described in this book, but one is a complete hoax. Can you find it?

… and I have long wondered if the “complete hoax” in question might be Him, the alleged 1974 gay-porn film about Jesus and/or a present-day man who obsesses over him sexually. This is how the film is described on page 165, where it is listed as one of the nominees for “The Most Unerotic Concept in Pornography”:

This innovative film, designed exclusively for gay audiences, goes into excruciating detail concerning the erotic career of Jesus Christ. The ads for the film show the face of The Savior (with a cross glistening in one eye) while the headline inquires “Are You Curious About HIS Sexual Life?” Filmmaker Ed D. Louie satisfies that curiosity by showing us that the Son of Man was a voracious homosexual. (After all, why did he spend all that time hanging around with the Apostles?) The central character of the film is actually a young gay male in contemporary America whose sexual obsession with Jesus helps him to understand the “hidden meaning” of the Gospels.

And then, on page 168, when it is declared the winner in its category, the Medveds write:

For sheer tastelessness, this film has no equals. In one scene, our homosexual hero goes to his local priest to confess his erotic fixation on Jesus Christ. The priest sits in the confessional, listening to the young man breathlessly elaborating his perverted fantasies, while taking advantage of the situation to reach under his cassock and masturbate grotesquely on camera. This charming episode surely marks one of the absolute low points in the history of American cinema. Those pathetic few who might want to see Him ought to come to the theater dressed in plain, brown paper wrappers, that hopefully cover their eyes along with the rest of their faces.

Now, like I say, I have often wondered whether Him might be the hoax in question, but since it won the ‘Golden Turkey Award’ in its category, I kind of assumed it wasn’t; that is, I assumed only one of the also-rans would be the hoax. The possibility that this film actually existed was given a boost when I came across a reference to it in Roy Kinnard & Tim Davis’s Divine Images: A History of Jesus on the Screen, which lists all the Jesus films made up to 1992 and has this to say at the end of the intro on page 18:

Dramatic films that contain only fleeting glimpses of Jesus, but do not otherwise concern themselves with the subject, are also excluded; among them, The Birth of a Nation (1915) and Sparrows (1926). Otherwise unrelated films that use brief appearances by Christ or Christ-like figures merely for shock or satirical effect are not examined; this category includes such diverse titles as L’Age D’Or (1930), Gas-s-s-s (1970), A Clockwork Orange (1971), The Devils (1971), Savage Messiah (1972), The Trial of Billy Jack (1974), and The Visitor (1980). Sub-professional, amateur productions like The Sin of Jesus (1961) and Multiple Maniacs (1970) also are excluded. So are animated films such as The Star of Bethlehem (both 1921 and 1969 versions) and pornography like Him (1974) and I Saw Jesus Die (1976).

However, in October 2003, I chanced upon this comment at the Snopes urban legend site:

We’ve been unable to turn up anything to confirm this purported film’s existence, however — we’ve never found a copy of it, anyone who has seen it, or a review of it, nor have we located any other reference to the film or “filmmaker Ed D. Louie” anywhere other than this one entry in the Golden Turkey Awards book.

As of today, the relevant paragraph has been revised to this …

However, this minor, low-budget film is so impossibly obscure (we’ve never found a copy of it, anyone who has seen it, or a review of it, nor have we located any reference to the film or “filmmaker Ed D. Louie” outside of Medved’s Golden Turkey Awards book) that it’s hard to imagine it could have triggered a massive outpouring of petitions to stop its production.

… which suggests the site may be more open to the possibility of this film’s existence now than they were before.

Anyway, this reminded me of how it had always seemed a little suspicious to me that Him did have one of the shorter write-ups in the Medveds’ book, and that it was one of only three award “winners” that did not even have a photo (the others being Rat Fink a Boo Boo and Attack of the Mushroom People — both of which have IMDB entries, BTW, which Him does not). And I suppose it’s possible that Kinnard & Davis’s only source of info for Him, which they evidently felt no desire to track down, may have been the Medveds’ book. Running a Google search for more info, I came across a site that stated even more definitively:

Michael Medved, a well-known film reviewer, wrote a book with his brother that was published in 1980 called the “Golden Turkey Awards.” It reviewed bad films. Medved claimed that it was a review of over 425 actual films, but that he had included one hoax and asked readers to spot it. The hoax was a review of a non-existent 1974 film called “Him” which supposedly portrayed Jesus as a homosexual. The film never existed.

But then, the plot thickened. In March 2004, someone on one of the listservs I frequent rattled off a list of unorthodox Jesus movies, and he included Him, to which he added this parenthetical remark: “I know many on the Internet say this movie is an Urban Legend, but I remember actually seeing the newspaper ad.” He later said he may have seen it in the Ottawa Citizen.

Well, I haven’t checked any of the microfilms from that era, but I did e-mail Medved through his website to see if he could confirm or deny whether this film was the “hoax” that he and his brother had planted in their book. I never heard back from him.

But today, someone pointed me to this website on obscure 1970s films, which includes the newspaper ad re-posted here, as well as a blurb that simply states, “Yes, this gay porn take on the life of Christ does (or at least did) actually exist!” So I have e-mailed that site’s webmaster as well, to find out where they got this ad, but so far I have not heard back from them, either.

At any rate, I would be curious to know what Medved has to say about all this now. Someone in my Sunday School class gave me this book as a birthday present when I was 11 or 12 years old, and the comments on this film in particular bothered me a fair bit at that time; it planted images in my mind that I could have done without. If Medved was perpetrating a hoax, then I think he has some ‘splaining to do. And if he wasn’t … well, then, for starters, I would like to know just which film in his book was the hoax!

MAY 22 UPDATE: Thanks to Mark Goodacre for linking to this post, and for noting the interesting fact that this film, if it really was made in 1974, would have been made just one year after Morton Smith published his books on the alleged Secret Gospel of Mark, a version of which the Carpocratians may have used for a more homoerotic form of Christianity in the 2nd or 3rd century. (Smith’s claims are so controversial, they continue to make the news, as they did just the other day in Maclean’s magazine.)

About Peter T. Chattaway

Peter T. Chattaway was the regular film critic for BC Christian News from 1992 to 2011. In addition to his film column, which won multiple awards from the Evangelical Press Association, the Canadian Church Press and the Fellowship of Christian Newspapers, his news and opinion pieces have appeared in such publications as Books & Culture, Christianity Today, Bible Review and the Vancouver Sun. He also contributed essays to the books Re-Viewing The Passion: Mel Gibson’s Film and Its Critics (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004) and Scandalizing Jesus?: Kazantzakis’s The Last Temptation of Christ Fifty Years on (Continuum, 2005).

  • http://printcommunications.ca g chin

    If the historical Jesus may have been a sexy guy who attracted the grateful sympathy of the heterosexual poor, the diseased, and the sex trade workers of the day, I don’t see why the marginalized of more contemporary times – gay folks included – wouldn’t cast an appreciative eye his way. Plus, historically, if Mary Magdalene was a faithful hanger-on who might have propositioned him at some point, it’s quite possible some of his faithful male followers (though I’m not implying any of the Twelve are included here) might have done the same, or might have wanted to. There’s lots about Jesus the person, as described in the various Gospels, to find sexy – so if people did and do find him sexy, it totally makes sense.

    Jesus came (though not apparently in a sexual sense) for all people, and works in mysterious ways. All things work unto good for those who love God (though not, I think, in a self-pleasuring sense). The possibly fictitious Him movie perverts these notions – but like other x-rated spoofs of more famous stories, e.g. Flesh Gordon -it is just taking something relatively benign (and the original Flash Gordon was pretty benign, in spite of some skimpy outfits and campy violence) to an erotic extreme.

    I have seen some fairly ecstatic behaviour in the company of Christian worshippers, both female and male, and it’s not a stretch for me to consider that these forms of expression may at times derive from less-than-agape sentiments.

    A practising Charismatic Roman Catholic at one point, I would sometimes even then view my mother’s deep, abiding ardour for Jesus (as opposed to her at-the-time estranged relationship from my father) with some suspicion. There are many ways people can get off, and in Christian contexts where the range of these ways may be more limited than some, it’s quite possible more people get off (yes, even in a deep-seated sexual sense – from a female hypothetical point of view, a G-spot orgasm as opposed to a mere clitoral organsm) on God than anybody might care to openly admit, in or out of the closet.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07395937367596387523 Peter T Chattaway

    Plus, historically, if Mary Magdalene was a faithful hanger-on who might have propositioned him at some point . . .

    FWIW, there is no historical evidence anywhere that Mary Magdalene was particularly inclined towards sexual behaviour. The western churches have long tended to confuse her with the anonymous “sinful woman” of Luke 7 — or, worse, with the anonymous “adulterous woman” of John 8 — but the eastern churches have kept these three characters very distinct, as I understand it.

    All we are told about Mary Magdalene herself, as per Luke 8, is that Jesus cast seven demons out of her and that she was one of several apparently well-to-do women who supported Jesus’ ministry. As E.P. Sanders once put it, “For all we know, on the basis of our sources, she was eighty-six, childless, and keen to mother unkempt young men.”

    That said, I’m sure at least some women were attracted to Jesus in a more “romantic” sort of way. Have you ever seen how the women at any given Protestant church will flock to a single pastor? It seems spiritual leadership does have a certain alpha-male quality! :)

    Jesus came (though not apparently in a sexual sense) . . .

    Actually, I’m pretty sure he did “come” in a sexual sense, at some point in his life — it’s pretty darn impossible for even a celibate male not to have wet dreams, for example. This is just a fact of human biology, and if Jesus could get hungry or thirsty or tired, as the gospels insist that he did, then there is no reason his body couldn’t or wouldn’t have inconvenienced him in these other ways, too.

    FWIW, my chapter in Scandalizing Jesus?, one of the books currently linked at the top of my blog, is all about the treatment of sexuality in Christian art and Jesus films in general and in The Last Temptation of Christ, both book and film, in particular. So this is a topic I have done some thinking about!

  • http://printcommunications.ca g chin

    Ah, well if you’ve done some thinking and even research on the subject (as seems somewhat evident) I’m not sure how it follows that a porno about the sexual edification of a man and his priest, who both seem to get off on erotic fantasies to do with Jesus, would arouse such disturbing images in the mind. :)

    Whether Magdalene herself was sexually active or viewed Jesus in a sexual way was not the thrust (okay pun here not intended) of my statement – I only used her as a relatively high profile, convenient example of Jesus’ probably huge female fan following, some of whom probably harboured thoughts just that side of carnal about The Man.

    As for whether Jesus ever “came,” sure, he probably did in the wet dream or even masturbatory sense (I’ll give him the benefit of that doubt) – I should perhaps have clarified, that I meant he probably didn’t come in a woman. That is, Jesus probably did not “know” women in the sexual sense. Hmm. Wonder if he came *with* any women though. I’m not sure if any writing exists to support or refute that. He seemed to like being around people a lot, that seems clear, but since the Gospels (yes yes yes I know the only ones I’m familiar with are from the RC-approved versions of the Bible) aren’t exactly a 24/7 play-by-play, I suppose we won’t really know. Just something else to accept, I guess.

    Besides, my feelings on this are similar to my feeling about the Clinton/Lewinsky thing: did he fool around with Monica? Sure looks like he did. Was the hanky-panky in general, in any way detrimental to his decision-making process as president or to the way he ran his presidency (in his official capacity as president)? Not so much. Regardless of whether Jesus came or not, in a woman or a man or not, or with women/men present or not, what matters more to me is the other stuff the guy is supposed to have stood for and what he’s attributed as saying.

    And really, it would make me feel better if Jesus had rolled in the hay a couple of times, though we’ll never know until our physical selves expire and our essence floats off into the ether and it encounters – whatever it encounters!

    I’ve objected for years to the whole RC priest enforced celibacy thing (if it’s your choice, then fine) – and the late John Paul II always argued for celibacy, and against female ordination, on the grounds (among others) that to accurately don the mantle of Christ, these aspects were necessary for clergy. If only it were accepted fact that Jesus had “known” women!

    My still-practicing RC mom recently pointed out to me that clergy from other churches who defect to the RC church and are married, who then decide to become RC clergy, are allowed to keep their spouses and children. Very magnanimous of them! Hah, I say.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07395937367596387523 Peter T Chattaway

    That is, Jesus probably did not “know” women in the sexual sense.

    That would be my guess. Certainly I agree with John P. Meier‘s argument that, given how the gospels often allude to Jesus’ family and to Jesus’ female followers, it is quite probable, based on the absence of any reference to female family members of the wifely type, that Jesus never had a wife. Or at least, that he never had a wife during his ministry — which, admittedly, did not begin until he was “about thirty years old“.

    Whether he was married (and perhaps widowed?) prior to that point, no text ever says, and any position on that point would be an argument from silence — though I would argue that he probably was not.

    Intriguingly, though, when Paul deals with the question of marriage and celibacy in his epistles, he makes a point of saying that he is celibate, but he also notes that other apostles, including Peter and the “brothers” of Jesus, have wives — yet he never indicates whether Jesus himself was ever married. Perhaps he didn’t want to risk giving the impression that Jesus’ lifestyle choice autmoatically made one more worthy than the other!

    I’ve objected for years to the whole RC priest enforced celibacy thing . . . My still-practicing RC mom recently pointed out to me that clergy from other churches who defect to the RC church and are married, who then decide to become RC clergy, are allowed to keep their spouses and children.

    Well, yeah, the policy going back centuries has always been that priests cannot marry, but married men can become priests. The reasoning, I believe, went that priests were spiritual fathers to their parishes, and courting one of your own parishioners could be perceived as a sort of spiritual incest. However, if you were already married before your ordination, you could obviously remain married afterwards.

    I don’t think it was until after the Great Schism between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches circa the 11th century that the Roman Catholic church decreed that all priests must be celibate. Thanks, perhaps, to the theological insulation provided by the Schism, this idea never caught on in the east, and thus, many Orthodox priests, such as the one who officiated at my own wedding three months ago, have wives and children. (In fact, my priest will be officiating at his own daughter’s wedding a week from tomorrow.)

    What has happened, I believe, is that some eastern churches over the years have been persuaded to jump ship from Orthodoxy to Catholicism, at least to the point of submitting to the authority of the Pope, and the Popes, in return, have made it easier for them to do this by allowing them to retain their tradition of married priests. Hence, you will find married priests in Ukrainian Catholic churches and the like, and I believe there is even a seminary in Canada especially for Ukrainain Catholic priests and perhaps others who are married.

    In addition, I believe some married Anglican clergy have converted to Catholicism and have gone on to become married Catholic clergy, under a similar dispensation.

    So being a married member of the clergy is certainly possible within Catholicism, but only if you are, so to speak, part of a movement or a tradition that has been lured into Catholicism and has thus been granted this special favour, so to speak.

  • Matt Page
  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05393723412702505384 Kim Scarborough

    Interesting discussion. I’ve long been suspicious of Him, especially since there’s no IMDB entry… but it has been confirmed that the hoax was Dog of Norway (the “film”‘s photo was of one of the Medveds’ dog–a clue was that the same dog appeared with the Medveds in the blurb photo). That ad looks pretty accurate. Some Googling for the 55th Street Playhouse shows that it was an art house, owned at one time by the folks that ran Janus Films, but turned into a gay porno theater in the early 1970s.

  • Anonymous

    Eager to find the hoax entry in Medved’s book I studied the entries and concluded it must be Him (1974) as it just seemed too outrageous to be real. This notion was bolstered by the fact that it isn’t in http://www.imdb.com (and neither is Ed D Louie), and the lack of references to the film outside of Medved’s information. I’ve since heard about Dog of Norway being the fake film which seemed to prove my theory wrong, as did finding that Him poster on the web. I have several theories about Him to explain the complete lack of reviews of, or references to the film outside of Medved’s description and the existence of that poster. Perhaps the Him poster was a parody artwork or a hoax poster in itself – it is something certainly not difficult to create by any halfway decent illustrator. Maybe Medved saw the poster, and believed it to be from a real film. Maybe the poster was created to drum up funding for a proposed film, one that never got made. Maybe the poster was to advertise some cobbled together, retitled sex film that in fact does not match Medved’s description. Indeed Medved might have read advertising hyperbole about a film and believed it, reprinting the information in his book, having never seen whatever film the poster was advertising.

    The other possibility is that there are two hoax entries, that Medved made Him up. The existence of two hoaxes is the true hoax. The poster might have been created by another hoaxer subsequent to the publishing of Medved’s book to match the description given of it in the book.

    1974 was not that long ago and you’d think someone would be able to come up with other references, reviews, accounts from cast and crew members from the film, projectionsists who showed it, theatre owners who booked it, patrons who saw it. As it stands Medved’s description, and a scanned pic of the poster are all we have.

  • http://www.filmthreat.com Phil Hall

    The hoax film in the Medved book is not “Him” — Medved himself told me it was “Dog of Norway,” a non-existent adventure film.

  • Anonymous

    Here’s a link to a man who actually saw the movie.
    http://cinematreasures.org/theater/6376/

  • Anonymous

    The gay porn film HIM showed at the 55th St Playhouse in New York from March 29, 1974 through June and was reviewed in Variety, Screw, Gay Scene, Where It’s At, and Micheal’s Thing, all “real” publications at the time. You will find the ads in that otherwise obscure publication, The New York Times.

  • Anonymous

    The following is a transcription of the review from “Screw” magazine, made by a friend of mine (apologies for the language, I didn’t write it, Al Goldstein did.):

    From SCREW, April 29, 1974, Page 21:

    DIRTY DIVERSIONS
    By Al Goldstein

    Queen of the Jews

    CHRIST’S SECOND COMING

    A bizarrely engrossing new film called HIM, playing at the 55th St. Playhouse, between 6th and 7th Avenues, has more to recommend it than some of its mismatched shots, mishmash editing and cheap budget would have allowed. I sat in the theatre next to the delicious Marcia Bronstein, editor of BITCH, so much of my enthusiasm for this film may simply have been the proximity of my thighs to hers. Then again it may have been the vividly poetic photography that loudly proclaimed in favor of cocksucking, ass fucking and other lofty pursuits of this downtrodden group of perverts.

    The plot of HIM theoretically is about a foggot who is preoccupied with Christ and constantly has sexual reveries about balling that great Son of God. The plot might have worked, had it been explained to the viewer, but the movie begins inexorably slowly and, for its first 40 minutes, it consists of some solid hard-core in the gay vein and the meaning of the title HIM eludes the spectator. Only deeply into the film does one get the necessary material to permit the audience to comprehend the meaning of the plot. By then it’s too late and you really don’t give a shit, which is a shame, since so much of this film transcends most of the porno pap that permeates our perimiters.

    I thought I had seen everything, but this movie brings in a whole new battery of barnyard banterings, from the opening credits, which are played against a stiff cock being licked by a very pretty white pussycat, to a delicious decadent sequel where a guy fucks a vacuum cleaner with such love that I started to hum, “I want a vacuum cleaner just like the vacuum cleaner that married dear old dad.” As they say on Fire Island, it was one of the more legendarily meaningful relationships of last summer, and a blowjob par excellence. Another torrid little scene had a priest jerking off in his confession box as he listened to the tawdry and tear-stained confession of the wandering faggot. The sex on the cross, in particular the graphic anal probings, which is not unlike a World War II boat launching depth charges, was exciting, and, of course, the hot searching lips of Marccia waxing poetic over my body kept me truly excited. At least I thought it was Marcia. Then when I looked down I saw it was the manager of the theatre.

    HIM is a hymn to sodomy and the other brazen activities that mark the twilight world of perversity with so much pain and prurience, yet to those who are not so frightened by any blemish on their masculinity and can respond to the heated sensuality of another human being, it’s a film that will be innervating and titillating.

    Mr. Goldstein’s “Peter Meter” Rating of the film, from 0-100 %

    I PETER-METER HIM AS FOLLOWS:

    INTEREST–POSSIBLE- 60%, ACTUAL-45%

    SEXUALITY-
    EROTIC POSSIBLE-20%, ACTUAL-20 %

    SEXUALITY-
    EXPLICIT POSSIBLE-10%, ACTUAL-10%

    TECHNICAL-POSSIBLE-10 %, ACTUAL- 10 %

    TOTAL-85 %

  • zyx

    “Him” now has its own page at the Internet Movie Database:
    http://imdb.com/title/tt1187026/

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12504742688607874131 antaresrichard

    I don’t know how exhaustive newspaper archives are as a rule, but “Him” was advertised in the adult movie section of the San Francisco Chronicle back in 1974 (the San Francisco Examiner didn’t carry such a section). I clearly remember the advert. It isn’t a hoax.

  • Anonymous

    The gay wasnt only gay but even in the bible it tells a well known story about jesus taking a boy home with him over night,hes a cild molestor too,and theres all kinds of old paintings around
    showing him kissing and fondleing many guys,this guy is not the
    king of all kings discribed in the old testement he was the leader of 12 queer guys

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07395937367596387523 Peter T Chattaway

    For what it’s worth, I believe the story you’re referring to, about Jesus staying up all night with a young man clad only in a linen cloth, is found only in the so-called Secret Gospel of Mark — the authenticity of which is very much a matter of debate — and is not found in any of the canonical gospels.

  • Anonymous

    I remember hearing about this film in the mid 70's…I lived in Manchester, UK at the time.

  • Anonymous

    it has suddenly occurred to me one possible place where a copy may reside.
    if this film was made for the sort of cinema we're talking about there may be very few copies ever produced, and fewer still surviving.
    but, if it was officially proscribed by one of the major churches, its just possible they may retain a copy for their own reference. (this is not meant as a joke- sometimes they do that.)
    whether they would let anyone view it is another matter!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15126027036169180235 Bryin Abraham

    Actually, I did write to the Medveds, many a year ago. The Repub never responded, but the younger one did on "Di 05.10.2004 19:29" ("Di" is German for Tuesday; I live in Berlin). His full response was:
    "hey there — from all reports i could uncover, HIM was a real movie (although i never had the misfortune of seeing it)…the real hoax movie was DOG OF NORWAY…a selection written by brother Michael when his Norwegian Elkhound "Muki" was bugging him while he was trying to write (hence the bogus Worst Performance by an Animal nominee, "Muki the Wonder Hound") — best wishes for worst viewing, harry"
    Greetings from Berlin,
    bryin "a wasted life" abraham
    http://bryininberlin.blogspot.com/

  • anonymous

    It might interest you to know that Martin Scorsese, while in pre-production for “The Last Temptation of Christ” in 1988, was aware of the nature of this film through extensive research on virtually any cinematic treatment of Christ known to exist up to that point in time.

  • Steve Rincon

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