Last week, in partnership with Watchmaker Films, we presented Tobe Hooper's rarely seen comedic short The Heisters (1964). This week: the main attraction, Hooper's debut feature, Eggshells, (1968/69), long believed to have been lost until, four decades on, it was rediscovered, restored and presented at the 2009 edition of the South by Southwest Festival.
That's when Louis Black, a co-founder of both the Austin Chronicle and SXSW, wrote that "Eggshells makes explicit what many have long assumed — that Hooper's sense of cinema is the defining characteristic that makes [The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)] great. Eggshells is a true 1968 film, psychedelic and political; it seems clear that Hooper had watched more than a film or two by Jean-Luc Godard. The film celebrates alternative lifestyles and politics and people and an odd, kinky semi-mysticism that is grounded more in humor than the supernatural. It captures what Austin looked like in the Sixties as well as the political sensibility shared by so many at the time. As a period piece and/or as a psychedelic film and/or as a first effort by a gifted director, the film is well worth watching. But there is something more going on. Throughout Eggshells are the kinds of telltale camera movements, manipulations of POV, casually intricate cutting, and scenes that are mystifying and haunted, elements that all come to fruition in Chainsaw, where they harmoniously work together to create that horror film masterpiece."
A year later, Eggshells screened at London's Frightfest and, writing in Sound on Sight, John McEntee found it to be "a delirium fueled commentary on America's narcotic comedown, a fever dream picture that concerns itself with the unconnected and frankly incoherent experiences of a group of counter-cultural types, two couples and a mute young gentlemen who reminded me of a tuned in, turned on Harpo Marx… In a mosaic of student art-film experimentation the film rejects any connective membrane and proceeds as a sequence of seemingly unbonded vignettes, the most arresting for me being the mute chap sword fighting with himself in a jump-cut combined montage, a memorable display that is superseded when he discovers a mysterious light lurking in the basement which prompts a kaleidoscopic assault of sound and bewildering pseudo-fractal imagery. Other sequences evoke the consumerist baiting conclusion to Zabriskie Point as one of the crew strips naked and torches his car and belongings [and] other tamperings with animation techniques remind one of the early short film efforts of David Lynch (interestingly enough from the same period), namely The Alphabet and The Grandmother…. [T]he film heralds the themes of incarceration and control that have populated Hooper's work for years to come."
Beyond those rare festival screenings, Eggshells has seldom been seen and has never had a proper release. Until now. Watch and enjoy.