Screen Savor: Peter Pan syndrome

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Gay men didn’t invent the Peter Pan syndrome. However, many of them have gone a long way to perfect it, refusing to grow up or age.

That said, the 65th anniversary edition reissue of the animated classic Peter Pan (Disney) on Blu-ray + DVD with digital code, with a multitude of bonus extras, is a prime example of Walt Disney Studios’ popular cartoons features of the period, including “Lady and the Tramp” and “Alice In Wonderland”. It also, unfortunately, echoes some of the more offensive racist and sexist sentiments of the time.

Based on the play by J.M. Barrie (and preceding the Broadway musical starring Mary Martin by a year), “Peter Pan” is essentially a story about leaving childhood behind. Wendy (Kathryn Beaumont), the eldest of the Darling children, still sleeps in the nursery with her younger brothers John (Paul Collins) and Michael (Tommy Luske). When father Mr. Darling (Hans Conried) becomes fed up by the Peter Pan stories the imaginative Wendy tells her brothers, he announces that beginning the next night, she will be sleeping in her own room.

A visit on this final nursery night by the mythical Peter Pan (Bobby Driscoll), who has returned in search of his shadow, has a life-changing effect. The siblings are transported, with the aid of magical dust provided by jealous pixie Tinker Bell, to Never Never Land. While there, they meet up with Pan’s Lost Boys, as well as a bunch of evil and violent pirates led by Captain Hook (Conried, again). They also learn life lessons, including that some women are competitive enough to want to drown (the mermaids) or murder (Tinker Bell) any other female (Wendy) they see as competition for male attention. A scene involving the Indians who occupy a section of Never Never Land will no doubt be disturbing to viewers watching with 21st-century eyes.

The late gay filmmaker Derek Jarman’s provocative 1991 film adaptation of Christopher Marlowe’s “Edward II” (Film Movement Classics) was one of his best-received movies. Starring his muse Tilda Swinton, “Edward II” is making its Blu-ray debut and includes bonus features such as a documentary featurette.

In Jarman’s version, following the death of his father, 14th-century English king Edward II (Steven Waddington) calls for the return of his exiled lover Gaveston (Andrew Tiernan). Not surprisingly, this doesn’t sit well with his wife Isabella (Jarman’s muse Tilda Swinton). What follows is a familiar story of powerful queer people being forced to keep their sexuality a secret and the price they pay for standing up to those who would rather see them dead than alive and living their true lives.

Originally released at a time when there seemed to be little hope for anyone living with the virus, and homophobia was on the rise, “Edward II” allowed Jarman an opportunity to make an unforgettable statement. Incorporating explicit sex, unapologetic queerness, and even the legendary LGBT activist group Outrage!, Jarman took an unexpected subject and made it relevant again.

Additionally, while “Edward II” mostly honors Marlowe’s words, there are times when the language is thoroughly modern, as are the fashions and hairstyles. Tying everything together is the version of Cole Porter’s “Every Time We Say Goodbye” (sung during one of Gaveston’s banishments) performed in the movie by singer and AIDS activist Annie Lennox which originally appeared on the 1990 “Red Hot + Blue” AIDS benefit album.

Ratings: “Peter Pan” – C+, “Edward II – A-


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