Journalist Seth Randal’s docu on a homosexual witch hunt in Boise, Idaho, “The Fall of ’55,” would seem hopelessly old-fashioned with its corny, newspaper headlined, TV expose-style narration, if it were not for its generous samplings of media quotations from 1955 and revelatory newsreel footage, some of it sensational. Unfortunately, most of the poised, rational talking heads interviewed were peripheral to the chronicled events or else were children at the time. After a niche fest run, well-documented pic should easily find a slot on gay-friendly cable.
Through multiple voices reading aloud from newspaper articles and letters to the editor, Randal shows how the discovery of a so-called homosexual sex ring preying on minors snowballed with alarming speed into an hysterical paranoia, leading to the conviction of 15 men and the intimidation of hundreds more. Randal unfortunately relies on somewhat insipid interviews with both a victim’s son and an instigator’s son to dramatize the probe’s impact. Excerpted letters to the prison warden by traumatized relatives testify more eloquently to the bewilderment and betrayal engendered by the witch hunt.