Fallen in Flames: Four Nightmares by Curtis Harrington

When and Where

Monday, October 30, 2023 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm
Deluxe Screening Room, IN-222E
Innis College
2 Sussex Avenue, Toronto, ON M5S 1J5


Curtis Harrington, widely regarded as one of the most significant American avant-garde filmmakers of the 1940s, and an early contributor to the New Queer Cinema, was born in Los Angeles in 1926. From an early engagement with the work of Edgar Allan Poe, Harrington began to pursue a style of filmmaker that would later come to be known as the trance film, or psychodrama, his films populated with monstrous doppelgängers, visions of ghosts and skeletons, and the terrors of wasted youth and secret longings. This program showcases Harrington’s early nightmares, films that anticipate his later engagement with melodrama and gothic horror.


  • Fragment of Seeking (1946, 16mm-on-digital, 16 mins): "Harrington plays a young man desperately seeking out the fleeting image of a female companion, and though he never quite catches her, he discovers much more through the surreal explorations of his own sexuality.”
  • Picnic (1948, 16mm-on-digital, 22 mins): “Beginning in the reality of American middle-class life, Picnic portrays the idealistic dream-quest of the protagonist, from which he is finally cast off.”
  • On the Edge (1949, 16mm-on-digital, 6 mins): “In this fragile, yet frightening poetic fantasy, set against a dark industrial landscape, Harrington casts his own mother and father in the lead roles.”
  • The Assignation (1953, 16mm-on-digital, 8 mins): “Long considered lost, this was Harrington’s first colour film. It was shot in Venice, Italy, and follows a masked figure through the labyrinthine canals of the city, building to a spectacular climax.” An adaptation of Poe’s “The Assignation.”

TRT: 52 mins.

AD HOC aims to rethink what an experience of cinema can be. We seek to reposition historical landmarks and buried treasures within the on-going tradition of experimental and other non- commercial modes of filmmaking, drawing on work from Toronto, throughout Canada, and internationally. Within these parameters, we aspire to diversity in programming, as well as to multimedia and interdisciplinary screening events that bring together varied communities.

AD HOC = Stephen Broomer, Madi Piller, Jim Shedden, Tess Takahashi, Bart Testa.

AD HOC would like to thank James Cahill, Denise Ing, Charlie Keil, and the staff of Innis College and the Cinema Studies Institute.

Contact Information


Cinema Studies Institute, Innis College