Underground Film Journal

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Flaming Creatures Memories

Journalist Alex Goldblum has posted an audio interview, embedded above, with actress Judith Malina about her experience appearing in Jack Smith‘s seminal 1963 underground film Flaming Creatures. Although the film was made close to 50 years ago, Malina has a good recollection of the filming, including Smith’s more outrageous directions. Word of warning: Malina’s comments play over scenes of the actual film, which are NSFW as they include male and female nudity.

The nicest part of the interview is the glowing terms with which Malina describes Smith, who was known as a very difficult person to get along with. But, Malina only speaks of him as a great artist who worked with actors the way painters work with paint. (That’s a somewhat paraphrase of her comments.) Even when Smith asks her to commit an outrageous act, Malina apparently didn’t hesitate.

I’m not enough of a scholar of Flaming Creatures to pick Malina out in the film. I’m not sure if she appears in the scenes that Goldblum has chosen for this video and I can’t even recall at which point the scene that she acted in is cut into the final film. If you want to try to pick her out, you can watch the full Flaming Creatures online at Ubu.com.

Film still from Jack Smith's Flaming Creatures in which an actress is molested by her male co-stars

At the time, Malina was a co-founder, actor and director of the avant-garde Living Theater group. After acting in Flaming Creatures, she and her husband Julian Beck would leave the U.S. after an ugly court case involving alleged tax evasion. Returning several years later, Malina would go on to work with the Living Theater and act in mainstream productions, such as Dog Day Afternoon, Radio Days and the first Addams Family movie. She still continues to act today.

Malina was also interviewed in the film Jack Smith and the Destruction of Atlantis, which is available on DVD. (Amazon | Netflix) Sadly, Flaming Creatures itself is still not available on DVD.