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Border Patrol

The general critical reception accorded to Border Patrol would appear staggeringly obtuse if one had not been well prepared for it by many precedents. While the bulk of Newbrook Releasing’s output fell far beneath the apprehension of general critical awareness throughout the seventies, probably owing to its consisting almost entirely of “pornography” (albeit “pornography” clearly infused with radical critiques of conventional sexual morality and filmed with a revolutionary aesthetic sense seldom seen outside Godard’s work of the early seventies), Border Patrol represented a stark change of direction for a company associated in the public mind solely with sub-Deep Throat invocations to onanism…

Producer Larry Gellar used a revolving crew of journeyman nonentities as directors (and, occasionally, lovers) to project his intensely intimate visions on screen. Where Heavy Barry And The World Of Women and Easy, Cheap, Or Free utilized human bodies as symbolic representations of political bodies “penetrating” each other in all manner and variety, Border Patrol, executes the interpenetration of political bodies with extreme literalness – a bluntness perhaps too extreme for most commentators to recognize, particularly given the discomfiting thoughts on racial and gender relationships that such frankness inevitably calls forth. When, for instance, one considers Gellar’s sexual politics while regarding the renegade Americans “butting-up” against the ruthless border patrols of The Zone, perhaps the notions suggested are rather too prickly for the repressed.

…Even now, nearly a decade after the fact, the success of Border Patrol, as both a product and a work of art (a seeming paradox that Gellar would have surely, if druggily, appreciated), is nothing short of startling. Filmed — amazingly — at the same time as The Road Warrior — which it surpasses at all levels of artistry — Border Patrol was treated as a second-hand clone of a film which bore no influence on it whatsoever. The profusion of cheap merchandising released in its wake did little to encourage the attention of serious critics, though it did add a perfect twist of irony to the clear Leninist/Guevaraist undertones of Border Patrol: Gellar’s most perfectly realized expression had been reduced to a simple product-breeding commodity, the profits of which likely ended up in the pockets of the the same criminals who not only had him killed, but preemptively tarnished the film’s reputation by almost immediately releasing a witless porn parody painfully devoid of Gellar’s radical subtexts, the execrably heterosexist Beaver Patrol.

Robin Wood. Newbrook’s Films Revisited (Revised Edition). 1989.

Border Patrol poster copyright 2011 by Jake Kelly, review copyright 2011 by Todd Whitten

Clipping from The Plain Dealer, Friday, June 5th, 1981.

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