Home  >  History of EZTV  >  Pre-EZTV 1979-1982  >  Betamax Movies

Betamax Movies

Actress Irene Roseen in the Betamax film "Sudzall Does It All!" by John Dorr, 1979

In 1979, John Dorr began to experiment with home Betamax video equipment to make long-form film-style works. Informed by cinema and stage theater, these works were narratively based, as opposed to the more conceptually based videos that were seen at art spaces throughout the world.

During the late 1970′s, LA’s alternative theater scene was producing experimental works, both Queer as well as straight, at a variety of alternative venues such as the Deja Vu in Hollywood. Here playwright Terry Mack Murphy staged his play “The Other Woman”, which would ultimately be videotaped with a different cast, including Strawn Bovee, as an early EZTV project.

Frustrated with the lack of acceptance for his original screenplays from mainstream Hollywood, John Dorr decided to write a satiric work, at first to be produced as a play. The play was never produced, so Dorr decided instead to shoot the piece “Sudzall Does It All” on video, resulting in his first feature film. The project was shot with a black & white security camera and a home Betamax video recorder.

Sudzall does it all!, 1979

John Dorr's first feature, a farcical parody of the commercial film industry that was originally intended as a play. It was shot on low resolution home analog Betamax videotape using a Black & White security camera. The piece was shot in sequence over a weekend by simply "hitting the pause button" moving to the next shot, then releasing the pause.

This work inspired Dorr to make three other such works, each of which were more sophisticated than the next, and resulted in the creation of EZTV.

Starring Irene Roseen, Siri Murad, George Lafleur, Leonard Lumpkin, Jennifer Shotz, Starr Hilliard, Claudia Reame, Ben Herr, and Jeffrey Shotz

Invitation for the premiere screening of "Sudzall Does It All!" by John Dorr. Curated by Arlene Zeichner., 1979

First use of the name "EZTV" for screening of various videos at West Hollywood Park Community Building, 1982

Theatre program from the Deja Vu Coffeehouse in Hollywood for the Terry Mack Murphy play.
The café served as a popular alternative venue in early EZTV projects.

Video still of John Dorr's  second Betamax film "The Case of the Missing Consciousness", 1980

Initially, Dorr considered premiering "Sudzall Does It All!" by creating KGAY, a series of four-hour long screenings focused on gay themes. He was unable to gain support for this idea and proceeded with his second feature.
 
His first two projects, "Sudzall Does It All!" and "The Case of the Missing Consciousness" were not screened under the banner of KGAY. Ultimately, Dorr approached Arlene Zeichner, video curator at the art space LAICA (Los Angeles Institute of Contemporary Art), who offered Dorr the chance to do a screening. Dorr was happy to receive the screening and was featured in the LAICA Journal. But he realized that traditional art spaces would not be the ideal venue for watching feature-length projects. Art spaces were set up for seeing video work within the context of an art gallery set-up. Feature-films needed something more akin to a movie theater.

Dorr wanted to form his own venue, or at least connect with a group of like-minded videomakers. Now, instead of the name KGAY, he began to think more inclusively and was now considering the name VideoVisions. He imagined showing indie work on TV sets, at stores, banks, and other local venues, and then selling ads that would play between the videos.
 
Just as with KGAY, the VideoVisions name was never used. And no stores or other such venues were secured.
 
In 1982, he rented the community center in West Hollywood and presented several evenings of his own work, as well as the work of other video-filmmakers including Ken Camp ("As the World Burns") and Richard Moyer ("Rimbaud in L.A." starring Michael Kearns). This was Dorr’s first use of the term EZTV.

Dorr became convinced that Betamax movies would proliferate and become a viable production alternative to the typical 16mm film that independent filmmakers often turned to in order to create low-cost projects. Over a two-year period he produced “Dorothy and Alan at Norma Place” a two-hour biopic on the life of writer Dorothy Parker starring Strawn Bovee:

DOROTHY AND ALAN AT NORMA PLACE, 
TRAILER, 1982

Trailer for the 1982 feature-length biopic "Dorothy and Alan at Norma Place" by John Dorr. Shot on home Betamax analog video, this film is about writer Dorothy Parker and her contentious relationship with bi-sexual husband Alan. 

This was the first video to use the EZTV name and logo.

Starring Strawn Bovee and George Lafluer. 
Trailer edited by Mark Shepard in 1984.

DOROTHY AND ALAN AT NORMA PLACE,
Full Feature Film, 1982

EZTV's founder John Dorr's third (of four) analog Betamax video movie was the first in which he used the name EZTV. 

It premiered at a screening series Dorr organized in a West Hollywood community center and encouraged him to go forward the following year with creating EZTV Video Gallery.

Starring Strawn Bovee and George Lafleur.

Runtime: 1 hour 55 min

Approaching omega,1983

The last of John Dorr's four feature-length video "movies". Shot using analog home Betamax video equipment.

Starring Harry Hart-Browne, Robin Fuentes, Steve Griffin, Nita Talbot, and Jacquelyn Hyde.

Written/directed/shot by John Dorr.
Edited by Dale Matlock.

KGAY

Initially, John Dorr intended to premiere “Sudzall Does It All” as part of a four-hour program of Queer-themed work under the name KGAY.
 
He envisioned an evening of gay entertainment which would be funded by showing commercials made for local West Hollywood area businesses. He thought about a number of venues and drew out his ideas in these 1979 notes.

COLLECTION COMING SOON

Video Visions

Before settling on the name EZTV, John Dorr considered several other names. In a hand-written sketch typical of the way Dorr would work out his ideas, he declared an activist manifesto with such provocateur statements such as, “Return the visual arts to the ARTISTS” and “Depose the Hollywood suck-pigs!”, and then entice the reader with the prospect of “Make a feature for $25.”.

COLLECTION COMING SOON

Collections