Flaming Creatures (1963)

Flaming Creatures (1963)

“Do they make a lipstick that doesn’t come off?”

Underground director Jack Smith presents tableaux of orgiastic sensuality, lipstick application, rape, and dance over an eclectic soundtrack, culminating in a plaster-shaking earthquake.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Experimental Films
  • Sexuality
  • Surrealism

Jack Smith’s infamous 43-minute underground classic — shot on partially destroyed film stock, lacking any cohesive narrative, and meant to be “a comedy set in a haunted music studio” — is admired by at least one critic (Jonathan Rosenbaum of the Chicago Reader) as a “jubilant, celebratory film” which possesses “the collective force of a delirious apocalypse”. For my money, however, I find the film devilishly difficult to grasp, and probably more hype than substance. Nonetheless, it remains an undisputed icon of experimental film, and should be seen (endured?) by every film fanatic at least once.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • A groundbreaking example of anarchistic filmmaking

Must See?
Yes, simply for its place in cinematic history. Listed in the back of Peary’s book as a film with historical importance and a Cult Movie.


  • Controversial Film
  • Historically Relevant

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)


3 thoughts on “Flaming Creatures (1963)

  1. Can’t really, in good conscience, call this a must: not on moral grounds, mind you, it’s just that…it really sucks! It is a painful, painful waste of time. It’s not clever, it even fails as camp, and much of it is out-of-focus. Still, if you’re dying to know how 43 minutes can feel like 3 hours, this is the film for you!

    There are some…sigh…’experimental films’ that film fanatics are encouraged to hunt down. Like, unfortunately, this one. Like ‘Chelsea Girls’…which is dangerously close to 5 times as long as ‘Flaming Creatures’, just as pointless, just as crashing a bore. And did I mention 5 times as long?! Seldom has a film experience made me ask myself, “What’s wrong with me?! Why am I here?!”

    Remember those little books of images we used to use our thumb to flip through to see image movement? ‘Flaming Creatures’ is like that, only with little continuity. For whatever reason, it was an outrageous ‘flavor of the month’ when released. If I’d had the desire to be au courant at that time, though, it’s likely I’d’ve been left with the strength for one word: tedious.

  2. I’ve tried watching “Flaming Creatures” twice now, simply to verify that I’m not nuts in hating it — and I don’t think I am. With that said, I’m still willing to concede its importance in film history, and would bet that most hardcore film fanatics will be curious to at least check it out. What surprises me, however, are contemporary critics who continue to find something of lasting worth in the images themselves; I say, accept this film as a curiosity, an experimental work MEANT BY ITS DIRECTOR AS NOTHING MORE THAN A SATIRE, instead of trying to look for hidden depths which simply aren’t there. I should also add that I think something’s inevitably lost by watching this film as a tiny download; I’ll bet original viewers watching it on a full-sized movie screen did indeed “get something more out of it.”

  3. Oh, I don’t know – I didn’t think the download was that tiny. I think I pretty much got what there was (for my liking, anyway). I’ve watched lots of stuff at youtube and can enjoy and/or sense potential that way. I can imagine seeing something on a smallish screen and wishing the screen were bigger because I would like to enjoy it more fully.

    But not ‘Flaming Creatures’. I was simply bored to tears.

    I see your point about recognizing its place in cinema history. Personally, I just don’t believe that every film of this sort (experimental) that was largely written about and is considered significant in cinema history actually is that significant.

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