Directed by Juleen Compton (USA, 1966, 82 min.). 35mm.

Written, directed, and self-financed by Compton, The Plastic Dome of Norma Jean (1966) is the story of a clairvoyant teenage girl, Norma Jean (Sharon Henesy), taken advantage of by a boy band, fashioned after the Beatles, determined to exploit the young woman’s powers as part of a hoax revival. 

Filmed in the Ozarks with a cast of young, unknown actors (a 25-year-old Sam Waterston co-stars in his first film appearance), the picture’s opening title sequence—the two young leads walking through a bucolic setting with Michel Legrand’s sentimental score—suggests a tender tale about a pair of young companions. However, the movie quickly takes an unusual turn when Norma Jean and her friend Vance (Robert Gentry) pick up an enormous plastic dome they’ve ordered. The narrative never reveals the structure’s origins or purpose, but the image of the looming yet magical two-story-high edifice provides an engaging and enigmatic set piece for the rest of the movie. 

Stylistically accomplished, the movie is an impressive example of American independent feature filmmaking during the mid-1960s and an uncommon portrayal, for the time, of female agency. 

During the 1970s, Compton moved to Los Angeles in hopes of directing features in Hollywood. In 1974, she participated in the inaugural year of the American Film Institute’s Directing Workshop for Women and wrote scripts for television movies. Frustrated with Hollywood’s sexist hiring practices, Compton returned to New York City after completing her third film, the independently produced Western Buckeye and Blue (1988), to run her successful off-Broadway theater company, the Century Center for the Performing Arts. 

Synopsis by Maya Montañez Smukler.

Restored by UCLA Film & Television Archive with funding provided by Century Arts Foundation. Restored from the 35mm original picture negative and 35mm original track negative. Laboratory services by PHI-UCLA Film Laboratory. Sound services by Audio Mechanics, DJ Audio, Inc., and Simon Daniel Sound.


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