Title: Fred Engelberg Personal Films and Papers

Collection Number: 0113

Span Dates: 1955 – 1980

Creator: Fred Engelberg

Extent: 1200 reels , 25 boxes

Links: Fred Engelberg Online Media

Subject(s): Fred Engelberg , Independent Cinema , Experimental Film , Documentary Film , Filmmakers , Stanton Kaye , Henry Jaglom , Les Blank , John Altoon , Simon Wiesenthal , Allen Ginsberg , Naomi Livergant Ginsberg, Larry Bell , Ku Klux Klan , KKK , Jewish History , Judaism , Folk Music , Photography , John F. Kennedy , JFK , Artists , Los Angeles , Sixties Culture , Seventies Culture , Vietnam War , World War II , India , Yogi Bhajan , Beat Generation ,

Notes: Fred Engelberg was a filmmaker, actor, poet, writer, photographer, and musician deeply involved in the Los Angeles arts community of the sixties and seventies. Engelberg released two folk music albums through Crestview/Elektra and founded several film production companies, including TrimBin Films, Chen Films, and BJ Productions. He contributed footage to the 1974 film “Hearts and Minds” and completed two feature films for BBS Productions (“Last of the Polish Jews” and “Godswill”). Despite his talent, well-known collaborators, and numerous artistic contributions, Engelberg is virtually unknown today. Much of this is by choice. Engelberg often preferred to stay in the background and let others take the limelight. Later, he grew disillusioned with the business side of the art world and left Los Angeles in the late 1970s to live as a recluse.
The Fred Engelberg Collection features prints and original elements of films owned or created by Engelberg, ¼” magnetic audio reels of Engelberg’s music – including unreleased tracks, legal papers associated with Engelberg’s production companies, correspondence, personal notes, screenplays, photographic prints and negatives, extensive documentary research materials for films both made and unmade, and Engelberg’s personal Lettera 22 typewriter and 16mm Canon Scoopic camera.
Films in the collection include the feature-length documentaries “Last of the Polish Jews” and “Godswill.” The latter follows a group on ninety day “trip of happiness” with Yogi Bhajan in India. “Grave Echoes” is a finished documentary about John F. Kennedy. “Sanctuary” focuses on a church that gave refuge to Vietnam deserters in the 1960s. The experimental “Episiotomy” is one of Engelberg’s better-known films; it mixes trimbin footage, negative images, and non-sync sound. Unfinished films in the collection include a documentary about the Ku Klux Klan, for which Engelberg was one of few people ever granted access to the KKK archive, an unedited feature titled “The Vietnam Chronicles,” projects about artists Larry Bell and John Altoon, and an adaptation of Allen Ginsberg’s Kaddish, a poem and play about Ginsberg’s Jewish Immigrant mother who died in an asylum, because of this the collection holds all of Naomi’s original short stories.


Citation: Fred Engelberg Collection, Hugh M. Hefner Moving Image Archive, University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts

Location: USC Hefner Archive

Access: Available by appointment or some digital scans for a fee. Some online media.