THE VELVET UNDERGROUND IN BOSTON (1967, sound, color, 33 mins. Dir: Andy Warhol):
This newly unearthed film, which Warhol shot during a concert at the Boston Tea Party, features a variety of filmmaking techniques. Sudden in-and-out zooms, sweeping panning shots, in-camera edits that create single frame images and bursts of light like paparazzi flash bulbs going off mirror the kinesthetic experience of the Exploding Plastic Inevitable, with its strobe lights, whip dancers, colorful slide shows, multi-screen projections, liberal use of amphetamines, and overpowering sound. It is a significant find indeed for fans of the Velvets, being one of only two known films with synchronous sound of the band performing live, and this the only one in color. It's fitting that it was shot at the Boston Tea Party, as the Beantown club became one of the band's favorite, most-played venues, and was where a 16-year-old Jonathan Richman faithfully attended every show and befriended the group. Richman, who would later have his debut recordings produced by John Cale, and later yet record a song about the group, is just possibly seen in the background of this film.
UPTIGHT #3 (1966, 60 mins. Edited by Danny Williams. Photographed by Danny Williams and Barbara Rubin):
During the early days of the Velvet Underground' s collaboration with Andy Warhol, they began to experiment with multi-media performances called "Andy Warhol's Uptight," a predecessor to the Exploding Plastic Inevitable shows that were staged later in 1966. Around this time, a series of films were shot, possibly for use as background projections in the shows. This reel, recently discovered and restored, is the only one that was edited into a finished form. It was shot on January 27 & 28, 1966, and chronicles the appearance of the Velvet Underground on David Susskind's television show, long before they signed their record contract or were known to almost anyone. The footage, shot by VU light-show engineer Danny Williams and young experimental filmmaker Barbara Rubin (Christmas on Earth), includes scenes in the television studio and travelling on a bus. Besides the band, the "cast" includes many notable faces from the New York avant garde underground and Warhol's entourage, including Tuli Kupferberg and Ed Sanders of the Fugs, Angus Maclise, Gerard Malanga, Paul Morrissey, and many more.
Danny Williams, who edited the footage shot by himself and Rubin, is just emerging as a rediscovered, previously-unchroni cled yet crucial member of the early Warhol/Factory circle. Williams' filmmaking career got an auspicious start with his work as an editor for the Maysles brothers (notably on their 1964 documentary WHAT'S HAPPENING! THE BEATLES IN THE U.S.). Soon after this he met Andy Warhol and became his boyfriend, moving into Warhol's Manhattan townhouse. He was put to work wiring the flashing, tension-inducing light shows that were a key element of the Velvet Undergound's performances, and also shot experimental reels using Warhol's own Bolex 16mm camera. These recently rediscovered films reveal an expert manipulator of in-camera editing and stroboscopic techniques. At age 27, Williams mysteriously vanished after visiting his family in Massachusetts, his borrowed car found next to the ocean but his body never found. Danny Williams' full story is told in the excellent 2007 documentary A WALK INTO THE SEA: DANNY WILLIAMS AND THE WARHOL FACTORY, made by his niece Esther B. Robinson.