TelevisionRecent coverage of J.X. Williams on French TV.
- Oct 9, 2009 5:16 PM THE J.X. WILLIAMS ARCHIVE ANNOUNCES TOURING EXHIBITION IN EUROPE AND OTHER INITIATIVES
- Mar 24, 2009 12:18 AM Things to do in Denver...
- Feb 27, 2009 3:40 AM Check out this event: Underworld Cinema: The Life & Work of J.X. Williams
- Nov 23, 2008 12:00 PM Underworld Cinema: The Life And Work of JX Williams (Film Screening + Presentation)
- Oct 9, 2008 3:38 PM Views From The Apocalypse (Screening of JX + More)
About me:J.X. Williams (193? - Present) Numerous critics have proclaimed J.X. Williams (birthname unknown) as one of the most influential figures in American avant-garde cinema (along with Stan Brakhage and Kenneth Anger) as well as an innovative cult director for several notorious exploitation films produced in the 1960's and 1970's. Tarantino, Scorsese, Waters and other directors acknowledge a huge creative debt to Mr. Williams yet his films are rarely exhibited today, due to legal issues and the poor condition of surviving prints.
Born in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles, he was raised in a working-class Jewish family with strong ties to organized labor and the Communist Party. His father, a set designer for Warner Brothers, was a labor agitator and his activities clearly influenced Mr.Williams early leftist leanings. After dropping out of high school, he took a job in the mailroom in RKO studios and quickly rose through the ranks to become an assistant in the Writers' Division. Though never credited on any production, he was known to have Dore Schary's ear and would likely have been taken under contract if not for unforeseen events. Like many screenwriters of his time, Mr. Williams had leftist sympathies and was known to frequent meetings of groups with ties to the Communist Party. After these activities were reported, he was subponaed to appear before HUAC during their 1947 hearings on Communist infiltration of the movie industry. Mr. Williams refused to testify and, although he did not serve time, the major studio subseqently blacklisted him.
Without means of support, he drifted into petty crime and fraternized with low-ranking members of the Los Angeles Mafia. These associations soon brought him in contact with notorious mobster Johnny Rosselli who took him under his wing. Recognizing Mr. Williams interest in film, Rosselli put him in charge of directing and distributing mob-funded nudie and pornographic films. Unfortunately, the vast bulk of these loops have been lost or destroyed so little is known of this early period of Mr. Williams' career.
Over the next ten years, Mr. Williams amassed a small fortune as a smut impresario with the blessing of Johnny Rosselli. At the same time, he continued to operate in the shadows of legitimate Hollywood productions as a ghost writer. Mr. Williams claims to have penned 72 screenplays that became major motion pictures. Although almost no one has been able to verify his claims, a consortium of studios quietly settled a copyright lawsuit filed by Mr. Williams for an undisclosed sum.
As the 1960's opened, Mr. Williams debauched years of hard drinking and reckless gambling caught up with him. He found himself in debt to the Mafia and his life was in danger. As a result, he fled to Europe in hopes of directing legitimate films without the stigma of the blacklist. After a few false starts, he produced his first featurette PEEP SHOW (1965). Hailed by Henry Langlois as the harbinger of an American "nouvelle vague", PEEP SHOW chronicled a mafia conspiracy against Frank Sinatra to addict him to heroin.
PEEP SHOW holds a significant place in cinematic history for a number of reasons. Most notoriously, the film's use of pornographic imagery got it banned from several countries and even resulted in the director's brief incarceration in Rome.
More importantly, however, the film tackled a multitude of subjects that did not come in vogue until the seventies. Nearly a decade before Coppola and Scorsese, PEEP SHOW offered an unrelentingly grim and realistic portrait of organized crime, undoubtedly influenced by Mr. Williams' personal experiences as a onetime "gofer" to Johnny Rosselli and other mobsters in Los Angeles.
Released less than two years after the assassination of JFK, PEEP SHOW was also the first film to explore the dark side of Camelot. Besides tracing the tangled web of theories that may have led to the assassination, PEEP SHOW gives a blistering account of the fixing of the 1960 election and the unholy alliance between Joe Kennedy and La Cosa Nostra. Large portions of the film were made from appropriated footage, predating similiar works by Craig Baldwin, Jay Rosenblatt, and other avant-garde directors by more than a decade.
Mr. Williams followed a year later with the tawdry I, JEZEBEL (1966). Reviews were mixed, however, and it may have prompted his return to the US. With the power of the blacklist finally diminishing in the late 1960's, Mr. Williams undertook a series of exploitation features that pushed the limits of taste and taboo. This period includes such gems as E.S.P. ORGY (1967), MONDO VIETNAM (1968), and THE PHANTOM OF THE CINEMA (1969).
During the next two years, he struggled with production for THE VIRGIN SACRIFICE (1970), a three-hour long Satanic horror epic. Reputedly, Sammy Davis Jr. was an early backer of the film and a contributor to the soundtrack before a falling out with Mr. Williams. After a short but promising stint on the festival circuit, the film was lost and the negative was destroyed in a fire in the lab where it was stored. A film maudite in every sense of the phrase, the film is infamous in the annals of film history for the rampant drug use and violence on the set. As Peter Bogdanovich later observed "Though most people have forgotten the film, few have forgotten its tortured origins. It immortalized Mr. Williams as perhaps the greatest enfant terrible since Von Stroheim.
Despite the disastrous undertaking, Mr. Williams continued to release films through his Cine-Vision Studios, including kaboom! (1973), L.A. DEATH TRIP (1975), and YOU AXED FOR IT! (1978). These low-budget exploitation pieces were panned by critics but proved commercially successful on the drive-in and grindhouse circuit. He spent an increasing amount of time making hardcore pornographic films to fund his productions but his last film, NUNF*CKER (1979) is considered one of the the best. Not surprisingly, the title, if not the film, also attracted a great deal of controversy, especially from Catholic groups who picketed the screenings.
J.X. Williams also became a director of early music videos for various punk and new wave groups in Los Angeles in the late 1970's and early 1980's.
After a legal settlement in 1981 with several major film studios over copyright disputes, Mr. Williams moved to Zurich, Switzerland and retired from filmmaking. He is infamous for his reclusiveness and distaste for the public eye.
For more information, please visit our official website. ..
Who I'd like to meet:The Archive would like to meet all cineastes and cinephiles who support film as an art form.
In particular, we are interested in contacting anyone who has worked with J.X. Williams or appeared in one of his films. Also, former employees of AFI Films, Cine-Vision studios, JX Productions are encouraged to get in touch with the Archive.
The Archive is in search of several lost films by J.X. Williams and offers financial compensation to anyone who possesses or can provide information leading to location of the following list of films.
- Status: Single
- Zodiac Sign: Libra