Largely known for documenting the LGBTQ movement in Los Angeles and Hawaii, the conventional success of films like Midnight Cowboy saw Pat Rocco aim for his own mainstream acceptance with 1974’s Drifter (also known as “Two Way Drift”). While not entirely effective, it’s a noble attempt at telling a touching story about a bisexual hustler.

In an opening shot in noirish silhouette, the titular drifter (Joed Adair) is experiencing a moment of tenderness with former flame Steve (David Russell) which suddenly turns into a physical altercation. Intertwining past and present, there are two running plotlines, that perhaps purposely, never quite come together.

Striving to present a picture of a man who hustles out of compulsion, more than financial need, Drifter allocates too much time to typical situations and too little insight. Given Drifter’s past, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to him when while hitchhiking, an old man gives him the address of a prostitution ring. After all, anyone familiar with exploitation films has a sense of where the story is going. Why not just cut to the chase and spend more time exploring Drifter’s life experiences?

Similarly, flashbacks to Drifter’s time with Steve are too short and underdeveloped. Quiet moments together are interspersed with shouting matches—”where were you last night?” is a common refrain. None of this offers anything new. For a film that purports to pull the curtain back on the life of a bisexual hustler, fear of commitment is hardly a revelation.

Despite these deficiencies, Drifter is not without its merits. Surprisingly progressive for the time, Drifter shows then protagonists sexual predilections without need for explanation—Drifter sleeps with men and women, occasionally even falling in love, because he wants to. The obligatory childhood trauma or mental illness are never suggested.

While the disappointing box office for Drifter stalled Pat Rocco’s attempts at mainstream success, Drifter stands as an early exploration of gay life in cinema.

Spine #6 in Kino’s Cult line, this release showcases a new 2K restoration of the film from the original 16mm A/B negatives, which are preserved by the UCLA Film and Television Archive. Looking better than I ever imagined this film would, colors are strong and well balanced. While there are some noticeable image imperfections, none of them interrupt the overall viewing experience. I’m thankful to boutique labels like Kino for bringing obscure titles like this to Blu-ray,

The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 provides clean and clear dialogue throughout. As you might imagine, clarity fluctuates occasionally but never interferes with the audio experience,

English SDH subtitles are included.

The following extras are available:

  • Audio Commentary by Film Historian Finley Freibert
  • Four Short Films by Pat Rocco
    • Autumn Nocturne (1968, 24 Min.)
    • A Matter of Life (1968, 14 Min. Featuring Joed Adair)
    • Strip Strip (1968, 5 Min.)
    • Sunny Boys (1968, 3 Min.)

    Drifter (1974)
    3.3 Reviewer

    Get your copy of Drifter here!