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Underground Film Yearbook: 1972

By Mike Everleth ⋅ November 23, 2008

This is my second in a (hopefully) series of posts looking at the underground film scene of the 1970s, a period that, to me, gets criminally glossed over. The below is a collection of rough data of films, filmmakers and significant events happening in 1972.

In 1971, Jonas Mekas ended his popular film column in the Village Voice, but 1972 saw the publication of a book collection: Movie Journal: The Rise of a New American Cinema 1959-1971, put out by Collier Books. The book doesn’t include all of Mekas’ full columns, but only the parts Mekas feels significantly covers the underground film movement. Still the book runs 434 pages and, as far as I can tell, has never been reprinted.

1972 also sees the release of a new edition of Parker Tyler’s notorious Underground Film: A Critical History, which was originally published in 1969. The book completely slams the later experimental and avant-garde film scene. For a preface to this new edition — and which also can be found in later reprintings — Tyler takes exceptional offence to Mekas criticizing the book in his “Movie Journal” column by excerpting out all of Tyler’s negative criticisms regarding underground film. Tyler also has negative things to say about David Curtis’ book Experimental Cinema, published in 1971.

By 1972, underground film as a “movement” and a phenomenon had mostly fizzled out. But that didn’t mean that there weren’t many filmmakers still producing experimental and avant-garde works, as evidenced by the lengthy list below compiled from the Canyon Cinema and Film-makers’ Cooperative online catalogs.

Since I only just started this project looking at the ’70s year-by-year, I haven’t yet uncovered exactly what venues were friendly to underground films and to where most of these filmmakers may have been screened. The only film festival I’ve found that was open to the underground was the Yale Film Festival, which screened at least a few experimental films, including Carolee Schneemann’s controversial Fuses, which was completed several years earlier.

Also, ’72 was a good year for midnight movies. The most significant movie release of the year it can be argued, I think, was the release of John Waters‘ most notorious film, Pink Flamingos, a major midnight movie hit. Waters’ trash aesthetic, so perfectly displayed in Flamingos, would have a significant influence on the Cinema of Transgression movement that would start developing at the end of the decade. Another big midnight movie hit was Robert Downey Sr.‘s Greaser’s Palace with Downey, like Waters, seeing his career evolve out of the underground and into the midnight world.

1972 would also see the release of Herschell Gordon Lewis‘ final film, The Gore Gore Girls. While this isn’t considered an underground film, nor was Lewis an “underground” filmmaker, he still had considerable influence on John Waters. The cannibalism scene during Divine’s birthday party in Pink Flamingos is a probable homage to Lewis. Yet another not-quite-underground-but-still-significant film released in 1972 was Heat, the last movie in a trilogy directed by Paul Morrissey and produced by Andy Warhol, who had given up directing underground films himself just a few years earlier.

Kenneth Anger came out of his self-imposed retirement from filmmaking, complete with an “obituary” in the Village Voice, to make a second version of Lucifer Rising. The first version was never finished after the footage was stolen and Anger refused to pay the ransom to get it back.

Lastly, Stan Vanderbeek made several films himself in 1972, as you can see in the list below. But, he also starred in a short documentary called The Computer Generation in which he shows how he combined computer graphics into filmmaking. This was a novel practice at the time, but was soon to become extremely commonplace.

Born in 1972 was future avant-garde filmmaker Marie Losier.

Below is the list of films that I compiled with an official release date of 1972, organized alphabetically by director’s last name. This isn’t meant to be a complete list, but just what I could find so far. If anyone has a film to add, along with proof of year of completion, please leave a comment below.

Kenneth Anger: Lucifer Rising

Adolfo Arrieta: The Adventures of Sylvia Couski

Scott Bartlett: Medina

James Benning: Time and a Half

Patrick Bokanowski: La Femme qui se Poudre (A Woman Powdering Herself)

Bryce Bond: Minority By Choice

Stan Brakhage: Sexual Meditation: Room With View
Sexual Meditation: Faun’s Room, Yale
Sexual Meditation: Office Suite
Sexual Meditation: Hotel
Sexual Meditation: Open Field
The Presence
The Process
The Riddle of Lumen
The Shores of Phos: A Fable
The Wold Shadow

Bill Brand: Moment

Robert Breer: Gulls and Buoys

Richard Brick: The House Construction Home Movie

James Broughton: Dreamwood

Rudolph Burckhardt: Doldrums

Silvestre Byrón: Deliciosas muñequitas perfumadas
Los años dorados
Point Blank

Roberta Cantow: Autostop

Tobe J. Carey: The True Light Beaver Film: After the Revolution

Pola Chapelle: Those Memory Years

Tom Chomont: Persian Rug, A/Portret/Aria/Lijn II

Robert Crawford: Scenes From New York City Transit

Bill Creston: Video Journal II From Grandma’s House to Bar Mitzvah

George George Csicsery: Ceremony

Agrippa Depaula: Voodoo Grandmother Djatassi

David Devensky: I Wish I Could Shimy Like My Sister Kate

Robert Downey Sr.: Greaser’s Palace

Stephen Dwoskin: Dyn Amo
Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet

Ed Emshwiller: Scape-Mates

Shirley Erbacher: Dance #8

Victor Faccinto: Filet of Soul

Focus Pocus Film Squad (Howard Lester et al): Focus Pocus Scholastic Teaser Reel

Hollis Frampton: Yellow Springs
Tiger Balm
Apparatus Sum
Hapax Legomena VII / Special Effects
Hapax Legomena VI / Remote Control
Hapax Legomena V / Ordinary Matter
Hapax Legomena II / Poetic Justice

Amy Greenfield: For God While Sleeping
Dervish 2

George Griffin: Candy Machine
Trikfilm 1

Walter Gutman: Dances From the Nature of Civilization

Amy Halpern: Three Preparations

Leonard M. Henny: Why Worry?

Louis Hock: Elements
Silent Reversal

Peter Hutton: New York Near Sleep for Saskia

Takahiko Iimura: Models: A-1: 2 Min. 46 Sec. 16 Frames
Models: A-2: Timing 1, 2, 3, 4
Models: A-3: Time Length 1,2,3,4
Models: A-4: Timed 1,2,3
Models: B-1: Counting, 100 Or X’s
Models: B-1: Timing 1, 2, 3, 4
Models: B-2: A Line 1, 2, 3
Models: B-3: To See the Frame, Not to See the Frame
Models: B-4: Seeing, Not Seeing

Roger Jacoby: Futurist Song

Jim Jennings: Edge

Helene Kaplan: Conveyor Belt

Marjorie Keller: The History of Art 3939

Alexis Krasilovsky: Cows
Charlie’s Dream

James Krell: Paper Palsy

Irving Kriesberg: Out of Into

George Kuchar: The Sunshine Sisters

Owen Land: What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Standish Lawder: Raindance

Howard Lester: The Nose

Barbara Linkevitch: Thought Dreams

Lenny Lipton: Dogs of the Forest
Life on Earth

Michael Lovell: Bebe’s Elbow

Curt McDowell: Siamese Twin Pinheads

Adolfas Mekas: Going Home

Jonas Mekas: Reminiscences of a Journey to Lithuania
Happy Birthday to John

Richard Meltzer: A Royal Flush in August

Toney Merritt: Little Swahili Dancers

J.J. Murphy: Highway Landscape
Sky Blue Water Light Sign
In Progress

Werner Nekes: T-WO-MEN

Dore O.: Blond Barbarism Blonde Barbarei

Sheila Paige: Women’s Happy Time Commune

Tom Palazzolo: Hot Nasty

Alice Anne Parker: Introduction to Humanities
Near the Big Chakra

Suzan Pitt: Cels
A City Trip

Yvonne Rainer: Lives of Performers

Larry Rosing: Six Short Films

M. Jon Rubin: No Heros

Sol Rubin: Gay Parade

Carolee Schneemann: Plumb Line

Paul Sharits: Axiomatic Granularity (in progress)

Guy Sherwin: Newsprint

Michael Siporin: Openings

John Smith: Triangles
Someone Moving

Warren Sonbert: Carriage Trade

Alan Sondheim: Compilation I
Compilation II

Barry Spinello: Daylight
Film Graphics: Abstract Aspects of Editing

Cecile Starr: Richter on Film
A Talk With Carmen D’Avino

Fred Barney Taylor: The Structural Films of David Rimmer

Harold Tichenor: Concerto for Water, Sun and Wilderness

Walter Ungerer: The Terrible Mother

Stan Vanderbeek: You Do, I Do, We Do
Who Ho Ray No.1

Jon Voorhees: Rivers of Darkness/ Rivers of Light
Serving Time

Michael Wallin: Kali’s Revue

John Waters: Pink Flamingos

Michael Wiese: Messages, Messages

Dorothy Wiley: Cabbage
The Weenie Worm or The Fat Innkeeper
Zane Forbidden

Joyce Wieland: Pierre Vallieres

Paul Winkler: Scars

Doris Wishman: Keyholes Are for Peeping

David Woods: Turnip

Jud Yalkut: Cinema Metaphysique Nos. 1-4
Kenyon Film
Waiting for Commercials