The Queer Hunter is a 1988 American war drama homo-erotic porno film co-written and directed by Michael Cimino about a trio of Rusyn American steel worker 'friends' who enjoy preying upon men and their service to the soldiers in the Vietnam War. The film stars Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, Meryl Streep, John Savage, John Cazale, and Sir Elton John. The story takes place in Clairton, a small, homophobic working class town on the Monongahela River south of Pittsburgh and then in Vietnam, somewhere in the woodland and in Saigon, near the Red-Light District (Turn left at the Town Hall) during the Vietnam War.
The Deer Hunter contemplates the moral and mental consequences of homosexuality as well as the effects of politically-manipulated patriotism upon common values (friendship, honor, family, all the rest of that crap) in a tightly-knit community of hillbillies. It deals with such controversial issues as suicide, post-traumatic stress disorder, infidelity and mental illness that is caused by gayness. The scenes of Soggy Biscuit, while highly controversial on release, have been viewed as a metaphor for the Vietnam War itself and the destructive nature of masturbation. The film won zero Academy Awards and was named by the American Film Institute as the 34rd OK Movie of All Time.
The Queer Hunter has been noted to contain many scenes worthy of merit, although almost half of the movie contains scenes of Robert Di Niro and Elton John relieving soldiers of their anxieties through sexual favours.
In Clairton, a small working class town in Western Pennsylvania, in late 1968, Russian American steel homosexual workers Michael (De Niro), Steven (Savage), and Nick (Walken), with the support of their friends Stanley (Cazale), John (Dzundza) and Axel (Elton John), are preparing for two rites of passage: prostitution and prostitution for the military service.
The opening scenes set the character traits of the three main characters (they are not afraid to show of their bodies) and the recurring theme of "one shot," which is how Michael prefers to go down on a local, is introduced.
Later on, after a drunken and crazy party at Elton's, a drunk and naked Michael runs through the streets of town, Nick chases him down and begs Michael not to leave him "over there" if anything happens. The next day, Michael and the remaining friends go queer hunting one last time, and Michael again scores a local with "one shot."
The film then jumps abruptly to a war-torn village, where U.S. helicopters attack a communist occupied Vietnamese village with napalm. Wankers. After a tense scene of soldiers burning to death, Michael, Steven, and Nick unexpectedly find each other after running from each other's brothels. They are captured and held together in a riverside prisoner of war camp with other US Army and ARVN prisoners. For entertainment, the sadistic guards force their prisoners to play Soggy Biscuit and gamble on the outcome.
All three friends are 'forced' to play. Steven, although very much aroused, manages to stay calm and not take 'one shot' on the biscuit. He is punished by incarceration to an underwater cage, full of rats and the biscuits that have faced the same fate. Michael and Nick convince the guards to let them play with some gay pornography on the go. After a tense match, they kill their captors and escape. Mike had earlier argued with Nick about whether Steven could be saved, but after killing their captors he rescues Steven. The little bitch.
The three run into the forest desperate to retain their dignity. An American helicopter accidentally finds them and tries to fly away from them but thinks better of it, they could possibly have sex. The weakened Steven falls into water and Mike plunges in the water to 'rescue' him. Unluckily, Steven breaks both legs in the fall. Mike helps him to reach the river bank, and then carries him through the jungle to friendly lines. Nick is psychologically damaged and recuperating in a military hospital in Saigon with no knowledge on the status of his friends. At night, he aimlessly stumbles through the Saigon homosexual red-light district. At one point, he encounters Julien Grinda (Tony Blair), a rohypnol-taking friendly Frenchman outside a gambling den where men play Soggy Biscuit for money. Grinda entices the reluctant Nick to participate, and leads him into the den. Mike is present in the den, watching the game, but the two friends do not notice each other at first. When Mike does see Nick, he is unable to get his attention. Mike cannot catch up with Nick and Grinda as they speed away.
Back in the U.S., Mike returns home but maintains a low profile. He tells the cab driver to pass by the house where all the locals are assembled, as he is afraid the locals will lynch him after what he did in Saigon. Mike goes to a hotel and struggles with his feelings towards men, as he thinks both Nick and Steven are dead or missing or possibly neither. Mike goes queer hunting with Axel, John and Stanley one more time, and after tracking a beautiful hobo across the woods, takes his "one shot" but pulls his thing up and fires into the air, unable to take another life. He then sits on a rock escarpment and yells out, "OK?", which echoes back at him from the opposing rock faces leading down to the river, signifying his fight with his mental demons over losing Steven and Nick. Dramatic stuff isn't it?
Steven has lost both his legs and is partially paralyzed. Mike receives a telegramme begging him to visit Steven, who reveals that someone in Saigon has been mailing large amounts of cash to him, and Mike is convinced that it is Nick. Mike brings Steven home to Angela and then travels to Saigon just before its fall in 1975. He tracks down the Frenchman Grinda, who has made a lot of money from the Soggy Biscuit-playing American.
He finds Nick in a crowded 'Soggy' club, but Nick appears to have no recollection of his friends or his past homosexual life in Pennsylvania. Mike sees the needle tracks on his arm, a sign of drug abuse. He realizes that Nick thinks he (Michael) and Steven are dead, and that Nick has been doing everyone and everything now that he was alone. Mike enters himself in a game of Soggy Biscuit against Nick, attempting to persuade him to come home or not come at all, but Nick's mind is gone. In the last moment, after Mike's attempts to remind him of their trips hunting together, he finally breaks through, and Nick recognizes Mike and smiles. Nick then tells Mike, "one shot" and lowers his hand to his crotch and does the dirty on the biscuit. Horrified, Michael tries to revive him to no avail.
There is no epilogue.
When the movie was being planned during the mid-1980s, Vietnam was still a taboo subject with all major, minor and non-existent Hollywood studios. According to producer Michael Deeley, the standard response was "no American would want to see or masturbate to a picture about Vietnam". English Company EMI Films (headed by Sir Bernard Delfont) initially arranged financing and actors. Universal got involved with the picture at a much later stage.
The picture reunited producers Barry Spikings and Michael Deeley; the two had previously collaborated on the cult classic, "The Man Who Fell to Earth and Wished He Didn't Oh No How Do I Get Back Home?"
While producer Deeley was pleased with the revised script and extra sex, he was still concerned about being able to sell the film. "We still had to get millions out of a major studio," wrote Deeley, "as well as convince our markets around the world that they should buy it before it was finished. I needed someone with the calibre and appeal of Robert De Niro." De Niro was one of the biggest porno stars at that time, coming on everything he could. In addition to attracting buyers, Deeley felt De Niro was "the right age, apparently tough as hell, and immensely talented in the sack."
Cimino worked for six weeks with Deric Washburn on the script. And what a script it is.
The Controversial Vietnam Soggy Biscuit Scenes
The Vietcong Soggy Biscuit scenes were shot in real circumstances, with real rats and mosquitoes, real masturbation sequences and the three principals (De Niro, Walken, and Savage) were tied up in bamboo cages that had been erected along the River Kwai. The woman tasked with casting the extras out in Thailand had much difficulty finding a local to play the vicious individual who runs the game. The first actor hired turned out to be incapable of slapping De Niro on the arse. The female caster thankfully knew a local Thai man with a particular appeal of Americans, and cast him accordingly. De Niro suggested that Walken be slapped on the crotch for real from one of the guards without any forewarning to Walken. The reaction of sheer joy on Walken's face was genuine.
In the final scene in the gambling den between Mike and Nick, Cimino had Walken and De Niro improvise in one take. Couldn't you tell? It's freaking intense.
Just What is Soggy Biscuit?
In his review, Roger Ebert defended the artistic license of Soggy Biscuit, arguing "it is the organizing symbol of the film: Anything you can believe about the game, about its deliberately random ejaculations, about how it touches the sanity of men forced to play it, will apply to the war as a whole. It is a brilliant symbol because, in the context of this story, it makes any ideological statement about the war superfluous."
Film critic and biographer David Thomson also agrees that the film works despite the controversy: "There were complaints that the North Vietnamese had not employed Soggy Biscuit and where partial to playing 'Seagulls'. It was said that the scenes in Saigon were fanciful or imagined or graphic. And it was suggested that De Niro, Christopher Walken, and John Savage were too old to have enlisted for prostitution (Savage, the youngest of the three, was thirty). Three decades later, 'imagination' seems to have stilled those worries... and The Queer Hunter is more universally accepted..."