In 1968, the year before Stonewall, playwright Mart Crowley’s gay tragicomedy “The Boys In The Band” premiered Off-Broadway and caused a sensation. Two years later the play was adapted into a landmark motion picture by director William Friedkin. Now, a new generation has the opportunity to discover this cult classic with the premiere of the film on DVD. The release marks the 40th anniversary of the play’s creation.

“The Boys In The Band” was among the first mainstream American films to address gay life in an open and unapologetic way. The movie follows a group of gay male friends as they come together in a New York City apartment for a birthday party. When an unexpected guest arrives and the truth begins to flow as freely as the cocktails, it leads to a biting dissection of their lives and relationships.

In a rare move, the original cast from the Off-Broadway production was hired to recreate their roles in the big screen adaptation. Actor Kenneth Nelson received a Golden Globe nomination for Most Promising Newcomer-Male for his work in the film. Additional cast members included Peter White, Laurence Luckinbill, Leonard Frey and Cliff Gorman.

The movie has been painstakingly restored for this DVD release under the guidance of Oscar-winner Friedkin (“The French Connection,” “The Exorcist”) using a unique color correction process that he created. It is presented in widescreen format with audio remixed in Stereo sound. “This is the best this picture has ever looked or sounded,” says Friedkin, who signed off on every aspect of the restoration.

The single-disc DVD contains three brand new featurettes — “Act One: The Play,” “Act Two: The Film” and “Act Three: 40 Years of ‘Boys In The Band.’” — that offer insightful interviews with director Friedkin, playwright/screenwriter Crowley, cast members White and Luckinbill, executive producer Dominick Dunne (today a best-selling author and Vanity Fair contributor) and Tony Kushner (the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright of “Angels In America”).

— “The Boys In The Band” is out now.

David Stout

David Stout is the associate editor of QNotes. He can be reached at editor2@goqnotes.com.