An Affinity for Wagner, Michelangelo, and Sadistic Torture: The Implicit Homosexuality of Captain Munsey in Jules Dassin's Brute Force


  • Logan West University of Alberta



film noir, American cinema, homosexuality, LGBTQ, queercoding, Production Code, representation


Known for its transgressive narratives and anti-hero characters, film noir is an American film cycle that dominated the box office in the 1940's and 50's. At the time, homosexuality was banned from American cinema under the Production Code, yet film noir still managed to offer subtle and implicit representations of homosexuality. The sadistic prison guard in Jules Dassin's Brute Force (1947), Captain Munsey, is one such example and the film uses many signifiers to suggest his homosexuality. The implications that such a reading has on the narrative of the film are immense, and this paper merely scratches the surface of possible interpretations.

Despite film noir's offering of some of the earliest portrayals of homosexuality in American cinema, scholarship on representations of homosexuality in film noir is few and far between.  By revisiting Brute Force and examining how it manages to queercode Captain Munsey under the restraints of the Production Code, this paper seeks to spark new conversation among film scholars regarding homosexuality in film noir, and more broadly, films made under the Production Code. Moreover, the discourse surrounding representations of LGBTQ characters in American cinema has become increasingly mainstream, and by revisiting films from the past and analyzing them from a modern perspective, scholars can seek to gain new insight on the history of LGBTQ representation in cinema.