Plot: A man named Thomas (Gerald Jacuzzo) pays a visit to a local bath house, but he doesn’t seem interested in the steam. His loneliness pushes him to go to the bath house and he does meet some people, several men who are too aggressive for his tastes, but also a kind man named Mr. Jaffee (Robert Dahdah). The two strike up a conversation about love, feet, and life in general, with an obvious chemistry between them, but also a sense of nervous hesitation.
Entertainment Value: Vapors is the first movie from cult cinema legend Andy Milligan and while it runs just over 30 minutes in length, it shows a lot of what would later become some of his signature elements. The premise is simple, with a man going to a bath house for some social interaction, but even in this basic locale, Milligan crafts an almost surreal atmosphere. This is a place where men can be themselves, for better or for worse and this is Milligan, so there’s some bad apples here. The scope is intimate and the narrative plays out in pretty much real time, with the two men engaged in this discussion, while the others sometimes bust in with comments. So this is all about dialogue and characters, but there’s a kinetic feel throughout, as the conversation is a candid and revealing one, so it never feels dull.
The emphasis on dialogue means the cast has to shoulder much of the movie, as there’s not much else to hold the audience’s attention. The leads here are Gerald Jacuzzo and Robert Dahdah, both of whom are fine in their roles. The conversation feels raw, candid, and nervous at times, all of which serves the material well and the performances have a built in shakiness that seems right at home. If these two were steadfast, iron clad actors, it would lose some of that hesitant, nervous presence. The others have smaller roles and add some humor at times, which is a nice touch. While not as aggressive or outlandish as his later work, Vapors still touches on a lot of what Milligan would be known for, in specific sexual identity and social dysfunction. For fans of his work, this short film is well worth a look.