Flaming Creatures

  • The Toronto Premiere of Jack Smith's 1962 Classic
  • Friday, November 31 Two Shows: 7pm and 9pm $7 members/$10 non-members
  • Jackman Hall, AGO Dundas & McCaul

Part of Winter 1992

This event is a special benefit to purchase a Canadian print of Flaming Creatures. It presents Jack Smith’s classic film for the first time in Toronto — thirty years after its making and shortly after its posthumous release following Jack Smith’s untimely death of AIDS. Flaming Creatures is populated with some of the richest character types ever to emerge from the gay camp sensibility: transvestites of many kinds (including a vampire Marylin Monroe), odalisques, Arabs and a multitude of “Flaming Creatures”, all caught up in Smith’s vision of a Roman-cum-Hollywood orgy. Flaming Creatures also has the most notorious censorship history of any American avant-garde film. Early screenings of the work were raided (including an attempted 1965 screening in Toronto), prints were seized and charges laid. The height of this hysteria came when Flaming Creatures was hauled before the U.S. congress as an example of deviant culture. Flaming Creatures and the two other films in this program (the filmmaker’s first work, Scotch Tape and a restored segment from his Normal Love), present after many years Smith’s lurid, steamy, surreal vision of the cinema. J. Hoberman of the Village Voice will be in attendance to discuss Flaming Creatures and Jack Smith’s infamous career as a filmmaker, performer and writer.

Scotch Tape Jack Smith, 5 min, 1962. Jack Smith’s first film, Scotch Tape, was named after the piece of scotch tape that was caught in the camera while shooting and that appears in the corner of the frame throughout the film. The cast cavorts about the ruins of a scrap yard with a green plastic flower.

The Great Pasty Triumph (a segment from Normal Love) Jack Smith, 14 min, 1964.

Currently the only section of Normal Love restored for exhibition, The Great Pasty Triumph is part of a series of episodes containing a pantheon of monsters derived from the stock mythology of Hollywood horror films, including a green mummy and a mermaid having a mud fight with a werewolf.

Flaming Creatures Jack Smith, 45 min, 1962/63.
In 1962 Jack Smith threw a `Scheherazade party’ lasting for seven consecutive weekends on the roof of a movie theatre in the Lower East Side. Smith and his friends, clad in various styles of drag, staged for the camera an array of scenes from an imaginary transvestite orgy. The resulting film combines limp penises, bare breasts and a variety of audacious sequences with a sound-track composed of 78s of German tango bands and Latin American pop songs. Since its debut screening in the spring of 1963, Flaming Creatures has led a troubled life. Admirers revelled in the film’s images of sexuality and gender confusion, congratulating Smith for introducing a radical sexual politics into American film practice. However, not all the film’s viewers became fans. Theatres showing the film, in New York as well as Austin and Ann Arbor, were raided. The NYPD and US Customs seized prints of the film. Angry with what he considered misrepresentation of the film, Smith finally withdrew Flaming Creatures from circulation in the early 1970s and stopped releasing films altogether, stating that he had become disgusted at the sight of his witty and beautiful comedy reduced to a “sex issue of the Cocktail World”.