Watch David Bowie Star in His First Film Role, a Short Horror Flick Called The Image (1967)

Rock stars who became respect­ed actors… the pool is a small one, per­haps out­num­bered by the many musi­cians who have made less suc­cess­ful attempts at movie star­dom. But with­out a doubt, the for­mer cat­e­go­ry includes David Bowie. In his var­i­ous musi­cal guis­es, Bowie the cracked actor put to use the skills he honed for decades on movie after movie. Not every film is worth watch­ing, but near­ly every per­for­mance con­tains seeds of great­ness.

What you may not know is that Bowie the actor and Bowie the musi­cian grew up togeth­er. He had always been both, tak­ing his first film role in a short hor­ror flick, The Image, back in 1967, the same year he released his first, self-titled album. You can be for­giv­en for nev­er hear­ing about either. Nei­ther one made much of an impres­sion (and Bowie more or less dis­avowed the album). But the movie did have the rare dis­tinc­tion at the time of receiv­ing an X rat­ing. “I think it was the first short that got an X‑certificate,” says writer and direc­tor Michael Arm­strong, “for its vio­lence, which in itself was extra­or­di­nary.”

Tame by today’s stan­dards, the movie fea­tures 20-year-old Bowie as a paint­ing come to life. He got the part not because Armstrong—a fan of his first album—considered him “per­fect for the role. It was real­ly to give him a job.” Arm­strong described his star to The Wall Street Jour­nal as “very pret­ty” and “flir­ta­tious” and remem­bers Bowie’s impres­sive Elvis imper­son­ation. Bowie seems to have found the whole thing very fun­ny. On set, there were “a lot of issues with corpsing—bursting into laugh­ter dur­ing a take,” writes When the film appeared in the­aters, view­ers expect­ed to see porn—not only because of its X‑rating but also because, writes Rolling Stone, it “briefly screened between two porn films at a Lon­don the­ater.” (The film’s star saw the movie by him­self in a the­ater filled with lone men in rain­coats.) Bowie, says Arm­strong, “thought it was hilar­i­ous.”

The Image has only recent­ly appeared online thanks to the WSJ, who received per­mis­sion from the David Bowie Archive to show it. You can watch the almost 14-minute film up top. (You can see a Youtube ver­sion below it.) Like Bowie’s first album, it may not her­ald the birth of a new star—his abil­i­ties as an actor may not have been ful­ly evi­dent until his first fea­ture-length star­ring part in The Man Who Fell to Earth. But as with music, so with act­ing: Bowie nev­er stopped work­ing at the craft, and the films that fell flat seemed only to inspire him to work hard­er and cre­ate even more ambi­tious char­ac­ters.

The Image will be added to our col­lec­tion, 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, Doc­u­men­taries & More.

via The Wall Street Jour­nal/Metro

Relat­ed Con­tent:

A 17-Year-Old David Bowie Defends “Long-Haired Men” in His First TV Inter­view (1964)

Hear Demo Record­ings of David Bowie’s “Zig­gy Star­dust,” “Space Odd­i­ty” & “Changes”

How “Space Odd­i­ty” Launched David Bowie to Star­dom: Watch the Orig­i­nal Music Video From 1969

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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