Peripheral Visions is a monthly screening series of cult action and horror films from the 70s and 80s, co-presented by the Belcourt Theatre and Third Man Records in Third Man Record’s Blue Room.
Once called the “Queen of the New York Underground,” Alyce Wittenstein may not be a name even the most ardent film buffs recognize, but we hope to remedy that with this triple dose of criminally neglected sci-fi mini-epics. Delicious dystopian tales overflowing with the kind of creativity that could only flourish in the fertile grounds of the 1980’s New York art scene, these three films comprise a sort of loose trilogy which was compiled for the first time in 1995 and released under the title MULTIPLE FUTURES. Wittenstein will join us via Skype following the films.
Post-screening discussion via Skype with director Alyce Wittenstein
The first in what would come to be known as the MULTIPLE FUTURES trilogy, BETAVILLE – a post-modern nightmare – finds a down and out detective Coman Gettme (played by Wittenstein mainstay Steve Ostringer) returning to his hometown after a chance meeting with The Girl (Holly Adams). Once the two arrive in Gettme’s Cadillac, things immediately go from bad to worse for this gumshoe when he learns that High Fashion is the new law in town. Gettme becomes obsessed with The Girl and is determined to meet back up with her and “save” her from the these fashionable fascists. This New Wave nightmare send-up to Jean-Luc Godard’s existential sci-fi exercise in cool would go on to be nominated for a number of awards at festivals and play all over the world -- often (unsurprisingly) alongside ALPHAVILLE.
NO SUCH THING AS GRAVITY
In the not too distant future the LaFont corporation has all but taken over Earth. The company has revolutionized all elements of style, beauty, education, and housing but in the process (progress?!) has shipped many of Earth’s more “useless” inhabitants to the mysterious man made planet – and the largest scale experiment in human history – known as Nova Terra. Two scientists – Kay Zorn (Holly Adams) and Albert Leenhardt (Steve Robinson) are about to receive a prestigious award for their work on the LaFont Facelifter when they learn that Nova Terra is disrupting the Earth’s gravitational pull and will soon collide if it’s not destroyed. A headstrong lawyer and Kay’s boyfriend – Adam Malkonian (a scenery chewing Nick Zedd) – mouths off to a judge (the incomparable Taylor Mead – RIP) while defending a human teacher and is ordered to be relocated to the doomed planet. After meeting with the ambassador of Nova Terra (Emmanuelle Chaulet of Eric Rohmer’s BOYFRIENDS AND GIRLFRIENDS), Malkonian learns that perhaps the LaFont Corporation hasn’t been entirely truthful about what really happens on Nova Terra and vows to stop the destruction.
Wittenstein’s first sync sound film is overflowing with amazing set pieces and incredible performances. Some scenes were shot at the New York Hall of Science – including an Ames room and a number of other dazzling optical illusions. Look out for cameos from Michael J. Anderson (TWIN PEAKS), Wittenstein’s father as the insidious Andreas LaFont, and the director herself on Nova Terra.
“The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old are dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.” —Antonio Gramsci, Prison Notebooks
The quote above opens Wittenstein’s third and final film – THE DEFLOWERING. Again featuring some of Wittenstein’s tried and true players – Holly Adams, Emmanuelle Chaulet, Taylor Mead, and more – the film concerns yet another evil corporation this time HUXLEY BIO-TECH and their means to sanitize/beautify this world of ours. This time Wittenstein (with Ostringer back on production design) takes the costuming helm as well.
The TIB (Total Immune Breakdown) virus has left the planet reeling and lethal allergic reaction are at an all time high. Huxley’s efforts to produce perfect, designer children that are immune to viruses have had the side effect of hyper-allergic reactions. Why isn’t anything being done about allergies? No one wants to fund it! With the mortality rate skyrocketing, can mankind bounce back and feel the soft caress of skin against skin ever again or will the line at the Holo-Memorial Funeral Home grow ever longer?
Synopses and trailer courtesy of Spectacle