Synopsis by Brian J. Dillard
This portrait of the man who brought nude male flesh into the American mainstream combines present-day interviews, archival footage, and semi-fictionalized dramatization into a cinematic hybrid. Photographer and filmmaker Bob Mizer (Daniel MacIvor) founded the Athletic Model Guild, or AMG, in Los Angeles in 1945, hoping to turn his fascination with the male physique into a successful business that used nude and semi-nude photographs to sell the services of models to painters and the like. When the photos themselves proved more lucrative than the non-existent modeling contracts, Mizer launched Physique Pictorial. The magazine ostensibly offered bodybuilding tips and moral guidance to young men the world over, but in reality its clientèle included legions of gay men eager for eye candy. With the help of his mother and business partner, Delilah (Carroll Godsman), Mizer parlayed his magazine, short films, and other work into a palatial residence/studio where young men fresh off the bus from Nowheresville could frolic, crash, and earn a little cash in front of the camera (or on the casting couch). Occasional run-ins with the law and stints in prison couldn't deter Mizer from continuing his photography until his death in the early '90s. His models, contemporaries, and associates included bodybuilding proponent Jack LaLane and future Warhol superstar Joe Dallesandro, who are among the many men interviewed by filmmaker Thom Fitzgerald. The writer/director/producer intersperses his dramatic and documentary sequences with plenty of actual AMG and Physique Pictorial images. The film's narrative arc, however, focuses on the fictionalized character of novice model Neil E. O'Hara (Joshua Peace), who serves as a stand-in for the audience as he acclimates himself to Mizer's campy, flesh-filled compound and witnesses the photographer's betrayal by another model, Red (Jack Griffin Mazeika). Beefcake was inspired by F. Valentine Hooven III's book Beefcake: The Muscle Magazines of America, 1950-1970. The scenes of Mizer's trial for pandering were based on transcripts of the real-life Red's courtroom testimony. The character name Neil E. O'Hara, of course, is a joking reference to Neely O'Hara, the ingénue character from Valley of the Dolls.
homoeroticism, homosexual, magazine, modeling, photography