THE FILMS OF KENNETH ANGER: A Review in Four Parts
Scorpio Rising and Lucifer Rising have nothing in common thematically other than both have the word “Rising” in their title. I paired these two up because they were my personal favourites of the collection.
SCORPIO RISING (1964)
Scorpio Rising was made while Kenneth Anger was staying in Brooklyn with his friend Marie Menken. Anger became acquainted with a group of motorcycle enthusiasts who met every Saturday at Coney Island’s Cyclone rollercoaster. The group allowed Anger to film their lives. Anger shoots footage in the men’s garages, workshops and bedrooms as well as a Halloween party and a bike race. The result is Scorpio Rising a documentary of sorts like only Anger could do. Anger comments that none of the men in the film were gay. The men did not want their significant others filmed which Anger said made the film appear “queerer” than it was. Anger remarks on the film’s title in the commentary; Scorpio is the sign of the Zodiac that rules the sex organs and machinery. The two are connected so it seemed logical to title his film Scorpio Rising.
The motorcyclist Anger calls Scorpio carried a scorpion amulet for luck.
Working on their handmade motorcycles was their passion. Anger calls it American Mechanical Folkart.
A wind up motorcycle toy moves along the floor as Peggy March sings Wind Up Doll.
This motorcyclist admires his lavender and white bike he calls The Grim Reaper. The motorcycle is his mistress.
Vanity; sometimes men decorate themselves.
This is Scorpio. Scorpio is a huge Marlon Brando and James Dean fan. The TV coincidently was playing The Wild One while Anger was filming which he worked into the footage.
Anger cuts in footage from a religious film called The Last Journey to Jerusalem. The film was delivered to him by accident and Anger kept it. The Lutheran Church tried to sue Anger over his use of their footage but lost due to fair use laws.
This shot is an homage to Bob Mizer’s Physique Pictorial art magazine.
Anger bought four kegs for the Halloween party.
A flag and checker set from Anger’s Nazi memorabilia collection. His flags were stolen during the shoot.
Anger includes footage from a bike race. One of the motorcyclists died during this race; he had a tattoo that said Blessed Blessed Oblivion on his arm.
Death smoking a youth cigarette on the cover of a 1938 copy of Look Magazine.
LUCIFER RISING (1972)
Kenneth Anger had a larger budget for Lucifer Rising than any of his previous films. The volcano photography at the beginning of the film was taken when Kenneth Anger joined a BBC team to capture footage of an erupting volcano near Iceland. Anger is fascinated with volcanoes and feels they tie in with the primal nature of creation theme of Lucifer. Lucifer Rising is all about Aleister Crowley and Thelema. Aleister Crowley wrote a poem called Hymn to Lucifer. Lucifer is the God of beauty and light and the literal translation of his name is I bring the light. Anger, a follower of Crowley’s Thelema is very proud of his library of Aleister Crowley books and features his collection in the film. I posted two tracks last week from Bobby Beausoleil’s score for Lucifer Rising. Bobby Beausoleil composed and recorded the soundtrack for Lucifer Rising while serving a life sentence in prison for his association with Charles Manson that resulted in the murder of Gary Hinman. Lucifer Rising is Anger’s highly visual, mesmerizing ode to Crowley, Thelema and the vastness and power of nature.
The flaming titles were created by visual/special effects artist Wally Veevers.
Actress Myriam Gibril as Isis the Magician. Anger comments on Ms. Gibril’s enthusiasm to bare her breasts and designed a costume that would show them off.
Director Donald Cammell (Performance, White of the Eye, Demon Seed) as Osiris Lord of Death.
Canadian motorcyclist Haydn Couts as “The Adept”. Waking from slumber, sitting on an Egyptian throne and washing off blood in a very cool bathroom. Part of Lucifer Rising was filmed in the apartment of art dealer Robert Fraser where Anger was staying while Fraser was in India.
Marianne Faithfull as Lilith. Shades of grey adorn Lilith representing night and fog. The female demon of discontent is a powerful but unhappy creature.
Six priests (six is a sacred number according to Crowley) climbing ancient stone steps in the Black Forest at night are juxtaposed with Lilith climbing the same steps in the daylight. The sacred solar temple in the film was rediscovered by the Nazis who used it to initiate the Hitler Youth.
The sacred solar temple altar.
Anger recreated Crowley’s temple pictured above is the magic circle.
Lucifer wears a jacket with his name on it. Lesley Huggins who dons the jacket was an authentic demon according to Anger.
Lucifer Mark VI Cake.
Anger uses footage from Dave Butler’s 1930 film Just Imagine. Anger thought Lesley Huggins looked like the film’s “Idol on Mars”.
More visual effects from Wally Veevers who created the UFOs in Lucifer Rising.
The Colossi of Nimrud in Upper Egypt. Anger burned the script of Lucifer Rising in the background. This static image lingers for some time while his script burns away.
Artwork done by Page Wood.