Underground Film Journal

More » Underground Film Timeline: Index

Underground Film Timeline: 1980 — 1989

Below is a list of significant events and films in underground film history between the years 1980 and 1989. Reference key of sources appears at the bottom of the page.

1980

SIGNIFICANT FILMS

U.S.

Kenneth Anger

Lucifer Rising

(P.A.S.) (DVD)

Beth and Scott B

The Trap Door

(starring Jack Smith) (J.S.)

Joe Coleman

Raw Nerves: A Lacanian Thriller (1979/80)

(with Manuel DeLanda) (J.S.)

Tessa Hughes-Freeland

Every Master Taught a Different Way

(J.S.)

Yvonne Rainer

Journeys From Berlin/1971

(P.A.S.)

Nick Zedd

The Bogus Man

(J.S.)

1981

MAJOR EVENTS

Nick Zedd meets Jack Smith and helps the performance artist paint his film set/apartment.

(J.S.)

Tessa Hughes-Freeland moves from England to NYC to do a Masters Program in Cinema Studies.

(J.S.)

Canyon Cinema stops publishing its popular Cinemanews magazine.

(S.M.)

SIGNIFICANT FILMS

U.S.

Paul Tschinkel

DNA at Irvng Plaza

(J.S.)

1982

MAJOR EVENTS

Nick Zedd’s They Eat Scum is broadcast on Manhattan Cable Television’s Channel C. The Wall Street Journal condemns the broadcast on its front page on Dec. 20. The headline reads: “Public Access TV in New York Tends Toward Sex, Sadism.”

(J.S.)

SIGNIFICANT FILMS

U.S.

Stan Brakhage

The Arabic Numeral Series (1980-82)

(P.A.S.)

The Roman Numeral Series (1979-81)

(P.A.S.)

Julie Dash

Illusions

(D.E.J.)

Film still from Baby Doll by Tessa Hughes-Freeland featuring two women beginning to undress
Baby Doll

Manuel DeLanda

Harmful If Swallowed

(J.S.)

Nathaniel Dorsky

Hours for Jerome, Parts 1 and 2 (1980-82)

(P.A.S.)

Su Friedrich

Gently Down the Stream

(P.A.S.)

Tessa Hughes-Freeland

Baby Doll

(J.S.)

Walking Film

(J.S.)

Birthday Party

(J.S.)

City Film

(J.S.)

Relapse

(J.S.)

Warren Sonbert

Noblesse Oblige (1978-81)

(P.A.S.)

Nick Zedd

The Deprogramming (unmade, 1981)

(J.S.)

1983

MAJOR EVENTS

January: The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, along with Media Study/Buffalo launch their touring film retrospective, “The American New Wave 1958-1967,” at the U.S. Film and Video Festival in Park City, Utah.

(Article)

February 28: A group of student experimental filmmakers meet at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago to form the Experimental Film Coalition.

(Article)

Nick Zedd and Tessa Hughes-Freeland meet for the first time.

(J.S.)

SIGNIFICANT FILMS

U.S.

Beth and Scott B

Vortex

(J.S.)

Robert Beavers

Efpsychi

(P.A.S.)

Film still from A Woman's Touch by Warren Sonbert featuring a woman in San Francisco
A Woman’s Touch

Manuel DeLanda

Judgement Day

(J.S.)

Nathaniel Dorsky

Pneuma (1977-83)

(P.A.S.)

17 Reasons Why

(P.A.S.)

Tessa Hughes-Freeland

Joker

(J.S.)

Warren Sonbert

A Woman’s Touch

(P.A.S.)

Ela Troyano

The Bubble People

(starring Jack Smith and Phoebe Legere) (J.S.)

Totem of the Depraved

(co-directed by Nick Zedd; starring Nick Zedd, Phoebe Legere, Gia Gamba and James Richardson) (J.S.)

Nick Zedd

Geek Maggot Bingo

(co-produced by Donna Death; starring Zacherle, Donna Death, Richard Hell, Brenda Bergman) (J.S.)

The Wild World of Lydia Lunch

(starring Nick Zedd and Lydia Lunch) (J.S.)

1984

MAJOR EVENTS

Scott and Beth B break up and pursue separate careers.

(J.S.)

Nick Zedd begins publishing The Underground Film Bulletin using the pseudonym Orion Jeriko.

(J.S.)

The first annual New York Film Festival Downtown, founded by Tessa Hughes-Freeland and Ela Troyano, is held at Limbo.

(J.S.)

Alf Bold, a curator or programmer at the Arsenal, comes to NYC to be the guest programmer for The Collective, an alternative film space on White Street.

(J.S.)

SIGNIFICANT FILMS

U.S.

Beth B

The Dominatrix Sleeps Tonight

(music video for Dominatrix) (J.S.)

Scott B

The Specialist

(J.S.)

Film still from The Ties That Bind by Su Friedrich featuring a woman and her mother
The Ties That Bind

Stan Brakhage

Tortured Dust

(P.A.S.)

Morgan Fischer

Standard Gauge

(P.A.S.; D.E.J.)

Su Friedrich

The Ties That Bind

(P.A.S.)

Tessa Hughes-Freeland

Play Boy

(J.S.)

Graffiti Hall of Fame

(J.S.)

Styx

(J.S.)

Richard Kern

Goodbye 42nd Street (1983/84)

(starring Beth B) (J.S.)

Zombie Hunger

(J.S.)

Zombie Hunger 2

(J.S.)

Blood Boy

(completed, but half of it never used and the other half used for Submit to Me) (J.S.)

The Right Side of My Brain

(J.S.)

Tommy Turner

Simonland

(filmed in part by Richard Kern; conceived with Jenny Holten; starring Tommy Turner and Nick Zedd) (J.S.)

Nick Zedd

School of Shame

(J.S.)

Thrust in Me

(directed with Richard Kern) (J.S.)

1985

MAJOR EVENTS

Nick Zedd, as Orion Jeriko, launches the Cinema of Transgression in issue #4 of his zine The Underground Film Bulletin by writing the movement’s manifesto.

(J.S.) (Article)

SIGNIFICANT FILMS

U.S.

Beth B

I Need Someone

(music video for Joan Jett and the Blackhearts) (J.S.)

Scott B

Last Rights

(J.S.)

Film still from Where Evil Dwells by Tommy Turner featuring a zombie
Where Evil Dwells

Erotic Psyche (Bradley Eros and Aline Mare)

Mutable Fire

(J.S.)

Ernie Gehr

Signal — Germany on the Air (1982-85)

(P.A.S.)

Tessa Hughes-Freeland

Rhonda Goes to Hollywood

(starring Rhonda Zwillinger) (J.S.)

Poppo at 8 B.C. Parts I–IV (1984/85)

(J.S.)

Bildo Does Klein: Models in Blue

(J.S.)

Richard Kern

The Manhattan Love Suicides

(includes the films Thrust in Me, Stray Dogs, Woman at the Wheel and I Hate You Now) (J.S.)

Stray Dogs

(starring Bill Rice and David Wojnarowicz) (J.S.)

Woman at the Wheel

(starring Nick Zedd) (J.S.)

I Hate You Now

(starring Tommy and Amy Turner) (J.S.)

Submit to Me

(starring Casandra Stark and Lung Leg) (J.S.)

You Killed Me First

(starring Lung Leg, Karen Finley and David Wojnarowicz) (J.S.)

Lung Leg

Worm Movie

(J.S.)

Casandra Stark Mele

Dead on My Arm

(soundtrack by This Heat) (starring Casandra Stark and Lung Leg, credited as “Lisa alias Lung”) (J.S.)

Tommy Turner

Where Evil Dwells

(co-directed by David Wojnarowicz; starring Scott Werner, Baby Gregor, Joe Coleman and Rockets Redglare) (J.S.)

1986

MAJOR EVENTS

October 20: Jeff Krulik and John Heyn premiere their underground documentary Heavy Metal Parking Lot at the d.c. space club in Washington, D.C.

(Article)

Nick Zedd produces the compilation VHS tape The Cinema of Transgression Volume 1 featuring the work of Nick Zedd, Richard Kern, John Spencer, Lung Leg, Richard Klemann, Erotic Psyche (Bradley Eros and Aline Mare), Michael Wolfe and Manuel DeLanda.

(J.S.)

Year of the 3rd New York Film Festival Downtown. Films include Pus by John Spencer.

(J.S.)

SIGNIFICANT FILMS

U.S.

Stan Brakhage

Confession

(P.A.S.)

Ernie Gehr

Reverberation (1969, revised 1986)

(P.A.S.)

Untitled: Part One 1981 (revised 1986)

(P.A.S.)

Tessa Hughes-Freeland

Rat Trap

(in collaboration with Tommy Turner) (J.S.)

Butthole Surfers

(J.S.)

Richard Kern

Death Valley 69

(music video for Sonic Youth and Lydia Lunch; starring Lung Leg) (J.S.) (Watch)

Fingered

(starring Lydia Lunch, Lung Leg and Marty Nations) (J.S.)

Pierce

(starring Audrey Rose and Capt. Kirk) (J.S.)

Warren Sonbert

The Cup and the Lip

(P.A.S.)

Casandra Stark Mele

Wrecked on Cannibal Island

(starring Casandra Stark and Jack Natz) (J.S.)

Go to Hell

(co-directed with Nick Zedd and David Rutsula) (J.S.)

Nick Zedd

Go to Hell

(a collaboration with David Rutsula and Casandra Stark) (J.S.)

Kiss Me Goodbye

(starring Nick Zedd and Angelique Anguish; music provided by Swans) (J.S.)

1987

MAJOR EVENTS

May 3: Richard Kern screens The Evil Cameraman at the Ritz, where it’s stopped after 45 seconds and the bouncers and management of the club threaten to beat Kern up for producing “kiddie porn.”

(J.S.)

SIGNIFICANT FILMS

U.S.

Beth B

Salvation!

(J.S.)

Abigail Child

Is This What You Were Born For? (1981-87)

(In seven parts: Prefaces, Both, Mutiny, Covert Action, Perils, Mayhem, Mercy) (P.A.S. says in six parts, but lists 7 titles)

Film still from Alaya by Nathaniel Dorsky featuring an abstract pattern
Alaya

Nathaniel Dorsky

Alaya (1976-87)

(P.A.S.)

Tessa Hughes-Freeland

Jane Gone

(J.S.)

Richard Kern

Submit to Me Now

(starring Nick Zedd and Casandra Stark) (J.S.)

The King of Sex

(starring Nick Zedd and Rick Strange; soundtrack by Killdozer) (J.S.)

Nick Zedd

Police State

(starring Nick Zedd, Rockets Redglare, Willoughby Sharp) (J.S.)

1988

MAJOR EVENTS

Richard Kern‘s Fingered screens at the Berlin Film Festival at the Zoo Atelier Cinema. The film was jeered while Kern gave the audience the finger.

(J.S.)

SIGNIFICANT FILMS

U.S.

Charles Pinion

Twisted Issues

(J.S.)

Jim VanBebber

Roadkill: The Last Days of John Martin

(J.S.)

Nick Zedd

Whoregasm

(starring Nick Zedd, Susan Manson) (J.S.)

1989

MAJOR EVENTS

Jack Smith dies due to AIDS-related illness in September.

(J.S.)

SIGNIFICANT FILMS

U.S.

Peggy Awesh & Keith Sanborn

The Deadman

(P.A.S.)

Beth B

Belladonna

(co-directed with painter Ida Applebroog) (J.S.)

Thanatopsis

(starring Lydia Lunch) (J.S.)

Film still from Water and Power by Pat O'Neill featuring a radio tower
Water and Power

Stan Brakhage

Faust (series) (1987-89)

(Consisting of Faustfilm: An Opera, Faust’s Other: An Idyll, Faust 3: Candida Albacore, Faust 4) (P.A.S.)

Pat O’Neill

Water and Power

(P.A.S.)

Jeri Cain Rossi

Kill the Poor

(J.S.)

Tessa Hughes-Freeland

The Story of the Little Green Man

(J.S.)

Philip B. Roth

Boys/Life

(S.M.)

Warren Sonbert

Friendly Witness

(P.A.S.)

Casandra Stark Mele

We Are Not to Blame

(starring Nick Zedd, Casandra Stark, Laura Mae Jessen and Richard Kern) (J.S.)

REFERENCE KEY:

D.E.J.: David E. James. The Most Typical Avant-garde: History and Geography of Minor Cinemas in Los Angeles. Berkeley: University of California, 2005.
J.S.: Jack Sargeant. Deathtripping: the Extreme Underground. Brooklyn: Soft Skull, 2008. (Originally published: London: Creation, 1995.)
P.A.S.: P. Adams Sitney. Visionary Film: the American Avant-garde, 1943-2000. New York: Oxford UP, 2002.
S.M.: Scott MacDonald. Canyon Cinema: the Life and times of an Independent Film Distributor. Berkeley: University of California, 2008.