PRIVATE VIEW: Friday 5th September 7pm
EXHIBITION: Sat 6th September – Sat 27th September, Mon – Sat, 12 – 6pm
Linda Leitch presents: SATURATION 70
A vision past of the future foretold: The greatest cult movie you have never seen
In September, the Horse Hospital will host an exhibition that documents and recreates an extraordinary lost pop culture artefact—Saturation 70—an uncompleted science-fiction fantasy film about ecological destruction shot in and around a UFO convention at Giant Rock (near Joshua Tree) and Los Angeles in 1969 and 1970.
This visionary film project—a ‘Wizard of Oz’ for the 60s counter-culture—was helmed by writer-director Tony Foutz and starred Julian Jones Leitch (the then five year-old son of Brian Jones), Gram Parsons, Michelle Phillips (of the Mamas and the Papas), Stash Klossowski de Rola (the bon vivant son of painter Balthus) and couturier to the stars, Nudie Cohn (of ‘Nudie suit’ fame).
In 1967, Foutz was working on another film project entitled Maxagasm, a feature film vehicle for the Rolling Stones to star in and produce an original soundtrack, with a script co-written with Sam Shepard. The film, which was optioned by James Coburn, was the hottest unproduced script in Hollywood for several years.
While planning special effects sequences for Maxagasm with Douglas Trumbull, Foutz was tipped off about the UFO convention at Giant Rock and decided to make a documentary there to test out his and Trumbull’s ideas. The documentary turned into a larger feature film project—Saturation 70—about a group of aliens (the Kosmic Kiddies) who land on earth to save it from ecological destruction, and in the process assist a lost Victorian star child (Julian Jones) who has fallen through a wormhole to return to his own time and place.
Much like Alejandro Jodorowksy’s legendary unrealized adaptation of Frank Herbert’s sci-fi epic, Dune—subject of the acclaimed recent documentary, Jodorowksy’s Dune—Saturation 70 was a project ahead of its time.
The film was co-produced by special effects maestro Douglas Trumbull, who had just completed work on Stanley Kubrick’s 2001, and intended as a showcase for the radical film and computer effects he was developing at his facility in the San Fernando Valley. Another veteran of 2001, British cinematographer Bruce Logan (later the special effects director on Star Wars and Tron), shot Foutz’s film. Gram Parsons and Roger McGuinn of the Byrds were set to compose original songs and score for the film, with McGuinn utilising his newly-acquired Moog synthesizer.
Many elements from Foutz’s original script, which is packed with prescient themes and imagery, would be explored by other filmmakers in years to come. He wrote of ‘data clouds’, projecting propaganda in the sky, that would later find form in the advertising dirigibles featured in Ridley Scott’s Bladerunner over a decade later.
Principal photography on Saturation 70 was all-but-complete when the funding fell through. The footage subsequently disappeared.
The exhibition at the Horse Hospital will feature all that remains of the project: pages from the script, a series of never-before-seen production stills and behind-the-scenes photos from the Saturation 70 shoot, alongside a screening of the only-existing footage from the film, a five minute showreel cut to the Flying Burrito Brother’s version of the Rolling Stones’ “Wild Horses”, which was recorded contemporaneously to the Saturation 70 shoot for the second Burrito Brothers album, Burrito Deluxe, which also features the band dressed in costumes from the film on its sleeve.