John E. Schmitz, a friend of Kenneth Anger, made films that were not frequently screened outside of Los Angeles. He distributed his work through Anger and Curtis Harrington’s early cooperative Creative Film Associates and later through Raymond Rohauer. The Voices achieved a measure of short-lived notoriety when it was seized, along with Fireworks, by the LAPD vice squad at Rohauer’s Coronet Theater on the last day of its run in Oct. 1957.
The Voices is the less complex and less inflammatory of the two films. It is nevertheless an equally queer film, the hero’s voyeuristic regard of a nude female notwithstanding. There is an incessant dissatisfaction running throughout the film, a flight from homosexual desire neurotically and inadequately displaced through rather unconvincing heterosexual interactions.
Though Schmitz’s film is not mentioned by Jonas Mekas (not yet the most important advocate of the New American Cinema) in his infamous 1955 screed about the infantile state of American experimental film and the “conspiracy of homosexuality,” his complaint describes it rather precisely: “The external theme of these films concerns a young frustrated man … a youngster tragically aware (in his 18th year or so) that he ’can’t be one with the world’ … Escapism, unresolved frustrations, sadism and cruelty, fatalism and juvenile pessimism are the fundamental and recurrent themes of these films. Their protagonists seem to live under a strange spell. They do not appear to be part of the surrounding world, despite many naturalistic details that we find in these films. They are exalted, tormented, not related in any comprehensible way to society or place or family or any person.”