Two Stills from Jack Smith’s Flaming Creatures
New York: Archives Malanga, ca. 1963. Two vintage silver gelatin photographic print. 8 x 10 in. Sticker affixed to verso of each with typed manuscript annotation and photo credit. Near fine. Item #5930
Two rare production stills from Jack Smith’s most well-known film, Flaming Creatures, capturing Irving Rosenthal, Marian Zazeela, La Monte Young, Joel Markman, and Beverly Grant in action.
Flaming Creatures is a satire of B-movies, Hollywood melodramas, and a tribute to actress Maria Montez featuring a score by Tony Conrad. The film is a largely non-narrative experimental short and includes segments that parody a lipstick commercial, allusions to Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, and a rape scene that turns into an orgy, and more. Smith’s artistic vision and recurrent themes are all on display in the hallucinatory and transformative 40-minute film.
The film has been banned repeatedly in the years since its first screening in 1963 due to its graphic depiction of sexuality and violence alongside the sexually ambiguous nature of
the performers, who included drag performers, transgender actors, and gay men and women. During a screening in March 1964, police seized the print of the film being screened at the Filmmakers’ Cinematheque and Jonas Mekas, Ken Jacobs, Jerry Sims, and Florence Karpf were arrested and charged. During this raid, the police also seized the only print of Andy Warhol’s film on the making of Normal Love, another Jack Smith film, which was never returned and is now considered lost.
While Jack Smith did not participate in the obscenity trial, the ordeal strained his relationship with Mekas and they never completely reconciled.
Exceptional artifacts of underground cinema.