*I know, it’s not like me to issue more than one post in a day, but I’ve got some stuff here that really can’t wait. And even if most of you aren’t interested in the material I’m about to cover, I’d hate to get even one of you interested only to have the window of opportunity slammed down on your poor fingertips.

I just now finished watching this very curious short film (46:09) called Peep Show. It’s supposedly from 1965, put together by an ultra-obscure director by the name of J.X. Williams. Mr. Williams has apparently existed on the most documentation-free fringes of the film industry, crafting Mob-backed porno loops in the ’50s and ’60s, the latter portion of their illegal period (er, the pornos, not the Mob). He eventually went into exile in Europe, where he created many other interesting and little-seen films. Actually, nobody has seen these films. Except, apparently, for Noel Lawrence, editor of the lovely OtherZine and noted cohort of Craig Baldwin’s San Francisco-based Other Cinema, a documentary/stock-footage/avant-garde/experimental/multimedia showcase theater, which has run everything from live orchestra accompaniment of vintage porno (a la those musical performances in front of Buster Keaton films I’m sure you‘ve heard about) to chats by Rick Prelinger of The Prelinger Archives (AKA: the true justification for the internet) on the niceties of copyright law. They’ve also got a dvd label; I highly recommend Decasia for fans of rotting home-movie footage from the early 20th century set to throbbing industrial music (that’s all of you, I believe). And aside from his Williams fandom activities (oh he even erected a website, the darling!), Mr. Lawrence is also the only person in the world to have spoken with Mr. Williams. And is now the only restoration expert working on the only distribution of a Williams film to have ever appeared before the general public in all of anyone’s memory. I bet the appearances of patently contemporary visual fonts and too-smooth fades in the film are also a product of the ‘restoration’ (hey, maybe the originals were lost!), overseen by the reclusive Mr. Williams.

Ah, but all cynicism aside, this is a fun film, quite ingenious in its play with film history. There’s no original footage at all; the story is, Williams needed to get a ‘tell-all’ film about his days on the US fringe made, but didn’t have access to funds (too hot a topic) or actors (ditto). So, nestled in Copenhagen, he simply cut a bunch of stock footage together and slapped an original narration atop. Why, it’s almost the sort of thing a dedicated film archivist could do today, were he or she interested in creating a conspiracy-themed mash-up flick! And what a conspiracy! Set up as the confession of a mysterious figure riding in the back of a Chicago cab with a gun to his head, the film tells a twisted tale of smut, dope, and politics. Sammy Giancana and La Cosa Nostra figure in heavily, with cameos by President John F. Kennedy and Frank Sinatra, the latter having been hooked on smack by Mob figures in order to secure his influence on the former, also the star of a hidden-camera stag flick, allegedly shot by… J.X. Williams himself! Yes, Mr. Williams is a character in his own film, and we even get to see his JFK hardcore footage, which never quite cuts to the male performer’s face (of course!). I did mention there’s dabs of period hardcore sex, right?

That’s probably the least of this film’s worries in securing distribution; there’s also the classic Sinatra tune (I’ve Got You) Under My Skin, and a Saul Bass title sequence taken straight out of Otto Preminger’s The Man With the Golden Arm. The film also makes liberal use of drug-themed outtakes from the aforementioned Sinatra star vehicle, blended in with a slew of miscellaneous exterior shots, slices of stock footage, drawings (including one of a nun with telltale manga eyes, and I'm not talking ‘60s-era Tezuka), maps, photos (some of them rather clumsily doctored), and other fine things. There’s even some top-secret recorded telephone chats, in such a fortuitously scratchy and dim state that subtitles are needed and the period veracity of the audio quality cannot be ascertained. But, as I've said before, it’s a fun little piece, brimming with zero-budget ingenuity, at least a modicum of period-proper visual detail (not too tough to pull off with a stock-footage film purporting to be a stock-footage film from decades ago; the scratchy state of the various visual footages suspends an amazing amount of disbelief no matter how old the thing's supposed to be), some genuine wit (a random peep-hole blackmail canister is alliteratively titled ‘Mansfield Miscegenation Madness’) and a lovely, clever backstory. But even if you don’t give a shit about the backstory or the smoothness of the period simulation, it’s a nice little conspiracy picture, for those who just can’t resist hearing about the Mob’s partnership with the CIA in plotting Fidel Castro’s assassination, with the promise of lucrative tourist gaming monies dangled as the proverbial carrot. Also: graphic fellatio, and the triumph of art over humankind’s basest desires. Don’t tell the super surprise ending!

So yeah, I liked it, haphazard as the fact-within-fiction can be. And how can you see this fine short film? Well, normally you’d have to catch a rare showing at some bold theater, but for TODAY ONLY you can download a 5-day ‘rental’ (a big 300+ meg file) for $2.99 from GreenCine, which is hosting it as part of its Online Film Festival. It’s a one-time deal; you don’t need to sign up for their subscription rental service or anything. You will need to download the latest DivX player, which is free, and they’ve got the links. I just saw the film tonight, and unfortunately the series ends at midnight (I think) today, Sunday the 26th. Just wanted to give you ample warning, in case I’ve said anything that piqued your interest. I’d hate for you to miss your big chance.

But talking about stuff that’s been unavailable for a while? Oh, I never said I wouldn’t do that…

More later today.