Articles and Fragments



The Units
'Turn On
The Senses'

   Three songs on the sound track of Scott Ryser's Units Training Film No. 1 are on the group's recently released LP on the 415 label titled Digital Stimulation. The numbers are "Bugboy", "High Pressure Days" and "Warm Moving Bodies." "I-Nights", the fourth song on the soundtrack of the film, distributed by One Way Films, was released on an earlier 45 record.

   "Sounding like more than three people, like maybe six or seven, Scott Ryser, Rachel Webber and Brad Saun- ders present highly intelligent sentiments and highly audible synthesizer runs," said The College Radio Report. The Units records have been popular on campus radio stations from SUNY- Buffalo to the University of San Fran- cisco.

   The Units have also been able to reach beyond the campus, Digital Stimulation was listed in the Los Angeles Times as one of the top ten records of 1980. The British New Music Express said ". . Speaks loudly of the benefits of sprinkling your silicon chips with a pinch of amphetamine sulfate. Mmm, tasty!"

   The Units Training Film No. 1 evolved out of found footage which was projected while the Units performed live. "I was making films before I got involved with music," Ryser told the San Francisco Chronicle. "My work was shown at theaters around San Francisco like the Intersection and the Roxie. The early movies had actors and plots. Then I got into film collages which lent themselves to fast-paced music. I chose to create my own soundtracks. In the training film, Ryser uses old medical films, home movies and industrial footage intercut to show the breeding, feeding and training of an individual until she/he becomes a faithful unit in the corporate wheel.

   The footage, combined with the music, makes The Units Training Film No. 1 a stunning film. "Their post- Learian advice to "turn off the sentences/And turn on the senses" may be our only hope" said the College Radio Report.


(advertising flyer)

(Friday, August 7, 1981)

USA. 1979-1981. (Total time: 93 min.)

11:30 p.m.
A compendium of the most recent and best short films about and by the New Wave and Punk movement/musicians, including:

DEAF PUNK by Richard Gaikowski, with the OFFS.
DEAD KENNEDYS LIVE by Steve Schmidt.
JINX by Graeme Whifler, with TUXEDOMOON.
LOUDER FASTER SHORTER by Mindaugis Bagdon with the AVENGERS, MUTANTS, SLEEPERS and UXA, live at the Fab Mab.
UNITS' TRAINING FILM No. 1 by Scott Ryser. Found footage with the San Francisco UNITS.
SPEED by Phil Hopper.
FRICTION by Tadashi Hersoe. The #1 punk band in Japan.
IN SEARCH OF by Michael Connor. A saga about a piece of clay in search of an identity. Animation
THE DEATH OF JIM MORRISON by Tom Huckabee. Sex, violence, angst, death and rock n' roll. Music by THE DOORS.

Calender for Roxie Cinema, SF.
October 1980



A program of films to infuriate the complacent, rile the restless, and defy the dull. Ghosts Before Breakfast (1927) by Hans Richter, Ballet Mechanique (1924) by Fernand Leger, Land Without Bread (1932) by Luis Bunuel. Our Trip to Africa (1961-66) by George Kuchar, and Units (1980) by Scott Ryser.
TUES. 7:35, 10:30


A documentary on the dadaist art movement of the 1920s featuring interviews with survivors of the early days - their paintings, films, poetry, sculpture, and songs.
TUES, 6:30, 9:25

S.F. Sunday Examiner & Chronicle

New Wave at Cinemathesque

'Dead Kennedys'
To 'Deaf Punk'

By Calvin Ahlgren

PUNK and New Wave are in some ways interchangeable terms. It is a matter of style- New Wave incorporates elements of choice and pertains to Fashion with a capital F, Punk styles in general cleave to lower-case readings.

As for music; the two approaches are less distinguishable, though there seems to be some agreement that punk accentuates nouveau-dadaistic dedication to chaos, and New Wave, potentially more forward-tending venues. If punk is black, New Wave is chartreuse, if punk is anarchistic, New Wave is a taste of the new, a breath of life. These may be generalizations, but both also seem to derive grounding in a new look at old things: using elements of the '50s in applications the Eisenhower generation never dreamed of.

The Cinematheque, at the San Francisco Art Institute, lets us look at the subject Thursday, with a screening of about a dozen short films, loosely defined as San Francisco New Wave. The entries vary from straight documentary, such as Steve Schmidt's "Dead Kennedys" (ten minutes of recorded frenzy by the band, definitely punk, and its adherents at the celebrated Mabuhay Gardens in North Reach) and Richard Gaikowski's "Deaf Punk" (capturing an enigmatic joining of a band called the Offs and their audience at the S.F. Deaf Club) to the found-footage "Units Training Film" by Scott Ryser, one of the members of the Units (New Wave); to the one-minute bursts of orchestrated spacethink/ritual by the Residents (filmed by the talented Graeme Whifler).

The technical mastery of the medium varies among the films. Phil Hoppers' "Speed," a brief color venture made in 1980 with optical pointers for special effects, is a more painterly work that interests the eye in abstracted forms and motions. "Friction," by Tadashi Hirose (4 1/2 minutes, color), which was brought to the U.S. by well- known filmmaker Bruce Connor, uses the camera with deliberate technique to record Japan's leading punk band In a style that imbeds the music in a filmic texture. Whifter's Resident films, including "Hello Skinny," are sharply, technically competent, interesting in their constructs and imbued with a cryptic wit that enhances the band's given artso-zaniness.

On the other hand, "The Death of Jim Morrison" (color. 15 min.), by Tom Huckabee and Will Van Overbeek, attempts to collate some actual footage of the late American lead singer of the Doors with a fictignalized representation of his death and times. The film is both amateurish in spots and ambitious, blending at times into earnestness and failing at others into pretentiousness. Morrison was celebrated during his lifetime as a spokesman for the emerging consciousness that flowered in punk music. Joan Didion, in her 1971 volume of essays, "The White Album," called the Doors "the Norman Mailer of the Top 40, missionaries of apocalyptic sex... Morrison, a 24-year-old graduate of UCLA who wore black vinyl pants and no underwear and tended to suggest some range of the possible just beyond the suicide pact... described the Doors as 'erotic politicians.' It was Morrison who had defined the group's interests as 'anything about revolt, disorder, chaos, about activity that appears to have no meaning.' ... It was Morrison who wrote most of the Doors' lyrics, the peculiar character of which was to reflect either an ambiguous paranoia or a quite unambiguous insistence upon the love-death as the ultimate high."

In all the films on the program, there is a sense of capturing the elusive elan surrounding the punk/New Wave era. Vitality, however focussed or directed, bleeds through the often-diffuse presentations of the musicians and their audiences recorded live, and the deliberate- construct films, such as Ryser's "Units Training Film," radiate with a certain intelligence and wit.

Gaikowski, 40, laughed ruefully when asked last week whether he understood any workable definitions separating punk and New Wave. "If there's any difference," he said, "it depends on how much time has lapsed between talking about one or the other."

A onetime reporter for the Hearst Corp. in various parts of the U.S., Gaikowski turned to filmmaking after his association with the Roxie Theater for the first three years of its renaissance. About a year ago, he started making films and founded One Way Films to solve some of the distribution problems which plague the medium of the independents films. "The response has been surprising," he said, "They've been well received in Omaha, Atlanta, places like that, as well as Los Angeles and New York, where you'd expect a more positive reaction. I just had a package show in St. Louis, and they were ecstatic about it. Of course. the stuff does better in some places than in others, depending on the promotion.

"It seems like a lot of independent films got stuck in the '60s for a long time. A lot of people have said to me they're happy to see the new imagery" taken on by New Wave films.

The enthusiasm is not confined to small movie houses. "Friction" is finding an international audience. Hopper's "Speed" and Ryser's "Units Training Film" will be screened during the San Francisco Film Festival's Bay Area Filmmaker's Week (Friday through May 5). "Deaf Punk" and other One Way offerings have been invited to a screening in Poland.

The Cinematheque will screen a program of San Francisco New Wave films Thursday at 8 p.m.