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THE FILMS OF KENNETH ANGER: A Review in Four Parts

Posted in movies, USA with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 16, 2013 by goregirl

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.

screenshot-from-2013-06-13-185455Anger added the stud work to one of the motorcyclist’s leather jackets to use for his credits.

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The motorcyclist Anger calls Scorpio carried a scorpion amulet for luck.

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Working on their handmade motorcycles was their passion. Anger calls it American Mechanical Folkart.

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A wind up motorcycle toy moves along the floor as Peggy March sings Wind Up Doll.

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This motorcyclist admires his lavender and white bike he calls The Grim Reaper. The motorcycle is his mistress.

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Vanity; sometimes men decorate themselves.

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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.

Screenshot from 2013-06-13 19:09:14Scorpio in transit to a Halloween party.

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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.

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This shot is an homage to Bob Mizer’s Physique Pictorial art magazine.

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Anger bought four kegs for the Halloween party.

Screenshot from 2013-06-13 19:11:33Sex and machinery.

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A flag and checker set from Anger’s Nazi memorabilia collection. His flags were stolen during the shoot.

Screenshot from 2013-06-13 19:16:12screenshot-from-2013-06-13-191804Anger juxtaposes pictures of Jesus Christ and Marlon Brando.

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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.

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Death smoking a youth cigarette on the cover of a 1938 copy of Look Magazine.

Screenshot from 2013-06-13 19:25:56More of Anger’s stud work on a leather belt to end the film.

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.

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The flaming titles were created by visual/special effects artist Wally Veevers.

screenshot-from-2013-06-13-204714Anger accompanied the BBC to film a volcano erupting near Iceland.

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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.

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Director Donald Cammell (Performance, White of the Eye, Demon Seed) as Osiris Lord of Death.

screenshot-from-2013-06-13-205037screenshot-from-2013-06-13-205131Screenshot from 2013-06-13 20:52:02Canadian 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.

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Marianne Faithfull as Lilith. Shades of grey adorn Lilith representing night and fog. The female demon of discontent is a powerful but unhappy creature.

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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.

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The sacred solar temple altar.

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Anger recreated Crowley’s temple pictured above is the magic circle.

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Lucifer wears a jacket with his name on it. Lesley Huggins who dons the jacket was an authentic demon according to Anger.

Screenshot from 2013-06-13 21:01:35Musician Jimmy Page holding The Stele of Revealing as he observes a photo of Aleister Crowley.

Screenshot from 2013-06-13 21:02:35Screenshot from 2013-06-13 21:03:48The makeup, costumes and sets are magnificent! Anger’s use of bold colors was especially appealing.

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Lucifer Mark VI Cake.

Screenshot from 2013-06-13 21:06:12This scarf was used by Anger to wrap Marianne Faithfull’s wrists after a suicide attempt.

Screenshot from 2013-06-13 21:08:08A psychedelic shot of Osiris.

Screenshot from 2013-06-13 21:08:21Osiris holding “the little servants” which he drops into the Nile one by one.

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Anger uses footage from Dave Butler’s 1930 film Just Imagine. Anger thought Lesley Huggins looked like the film’s “Idol on Mars”.

Screenshot from 2013-06-13 21:09:45Osiris and Isis.

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More visual effects from Wally Veevers who created the UFOs in Lucifer Rising.

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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.

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Artwork done by Page Wood.

LISZTOMANIA (1973) – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in movies, UK with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 29, 2013 by goregirl

lisztomaniaDirector Ken Russell throws everything but the kitchen sink into Lisztomania! It is a biography, comedy, musical, drama, war, horror, fantasy thing. Franz Liszt is a flamboyant womanizing rockstar-esque classical composer and his peer Richard Wagner is a Nazi vampire who uses his compositions for evil. Needless to say Russell takes liberties with the composers’ lives! By the way, the Pope is Ringo Starr. Strangely, Lisztomania is not nearly as well-known as Ken Russell’s Tommy which was made the same year and also stars Roger Daltrey. What a shame because Lisztomania is definitely the superior film. Was it because of the Nazis? Did the living relatives of Richard Wagner protest? In my opinion, Lisztomania is one of the 1970s greatest underappreciated gems!

lisztomania2Lisztomania opens with Franz Liszt caught in bed with the wife of a Count. The Count challenges Liszt to a duel but settles with sealing Liszt and his cheating wife inside a piano and places them on a railroad track before a train  approaches. The flash of a camera brings Liszt back to the present where he is about to perform a piece of music written by Richard Wagner. Liszt’s theatrics provoke his bonnet-wearing female audience to scream at him like a rockstar, and Liszt throws some chopsticks into the composition much to Wagner’s horror. During his performance he motions towards women in the audience to whom he would like to become acquainted. One of these women is Princess Carolyn. There will be more on her later.

lisztomania1There is a heavy emphasis on Franz Liszt’s relationship with Richard Wagner in Lisztomania. Liszt’s and Wagner’s first interaction in the film speaks volumes about the nature of their relationship. While Wagner has been participating in an uprising Liszt has been locked away composing music. When Wagner reappears he is a wanted criminal asking Liszt for money. At this point we learn Wagner is a vampire. You read that right. Richard Wagner is a vampire. Richard Wagner is one character that will stay with me forever and ever! This is one of the most outrageous and hilarious fictional interpretations of a real person’s life I have ever seen! Wagner is not only a vampire composer of classical music but an embracer of Nazi propaganda, which he incorporates into his compositions. Wagner’s Nazi leanings have compelled him to use his music for evil. Wagner is also a mad scientist and is working on a creature that will rid the world of Jews! Paul Nicholas is the cat’s ass as Wagner! As much as I loved Wagner it is Liszt who gets most of the focus. It is hard not to admire Roger Daltrey’s enthusiastic performance as Franz Liszt; he is just perfect as the arrogant and showy composer. Recruiting a rockstar to play a classical “rockstar-like” composer was sort of a no-brainer really, but Daltrey is nonetheless an excellent choice.

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lisztomaniaLook at those mad set pieces in Liszt’s boudoir!! Garish and showy like the man himself. Have I mentioned that Liszt is married with three children?! Liszt…you are such a dog! All is not well with this marriage. Franz and Marie’s ensembles are as gaudy as their interior design. Franz’s robe coordinates with the room! Marie’s voluminous frilly bright pink dressing gown is like a moving gaping wound. The sets and costumes are superb throughout Lisztomania; colorful, creative, quirky, and often comical!

lisztomania3Princess Carolyn wastes no time seducing Liszt with a proposition! For control of Liszt’s life, Princess Carolyn will grant him the ability to compose brilliant music. Princess Carolyn is a cigar-smoking, humorless and intimidating woman with a magnificent wardrobe. In Liszt’s hallucination, the Princess appears to him as the Devil and oh what a truly magnificent outfit she wears for the occasion! Princess Carolyn completely dominates Liszt’s life but like everything else, it too shall pass.

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Lisztomania14lLiszt has a hallucination that he is being attacked by five of the Princess’ female attendants. But Liszt is able to tame the wild women with his music. They react so passionately to his music that it gives him an erection large enough for five women to ride like a carousel horse. They watch it grow and grow and grow and grow! I am not really a fan of musicals but I sure did enjoy this rousing crowd-pleasing number! It begins with a giant cock and ends with a guillotine. I am sure I would watch a lot more musicals if they incorporated giant cocks.

Lisztomania5Richard Wagner mad with power! Artist! Vampire! Villain! Nazi!

Lisztomania10Liszt decides to live his life as an abbot?! He is visited by the Pope who catches him in bed with a woman. The pope lays down the law; Liszt is to exorcise Wagner or he will be excommunicated and his music banned forever!!

lisztomania7Liszt arrives at Wagner’s castle where he lurks in the shadows observing a ritual where a man portraying a Jewish brute is seen raping and tossing women like rubbish.

Lisztomania8Wagner unveils his creation to Liszt. The Frankenstein-inspired Thor creature was concocted by Wagner to kill Jews. Unfortunately the creature does not react in a manner that suits Wagner so it is back to the table for Franken-Thor. The creature is played by Rick Wakeman of Yes, who also scored the film.

Lisztomania12Liszt’s eldest daughter Cosima is seduced by and marries Wagner. She fully embraces Wagner’s principles and together they lead an army of spirited children to world domination. “We will be the master race!” The children march in Superman like costumes that boast “W” in Wagner’s honor. “The flowering youth of Germany was raped by the beast!” Cosima’s Nazi leanings and her hatred for her father makes her Wagner’s perfect ally.

Lisztomania4Nazi Franken-Wagner rises to kill the Jews!

lisztomania14Cosima leads Nazi Franken-Wagner through Berlin with an electric guitar machine gun!

Lisztomania11No detail is spared…look at the work on that electric guitar machine gun!

lisztomania2I don’t want to spoil the whole damn movie for you but the finale is as wonderfully cuckoo as the rest of the film! “Peace at last!”

Lisztomania is truly one of a kind! It is cheeky, clever and funny as hell! I laughed heartily and often throughout. The film is perfectly cast and the performances are top-notch by all. The music is an interesting mix of rock and classical with a score from Rick Wakeman of Yes and lyrics written by Ken Russell and Roger Daltrey. The sets and costumes are astounding. The story while clearly a loose biography does actually draw from some non-fictional sources including Marie d’Agoult’s book Nélida. And Lisztomania is a term accredited to Heinrich Heine who used it to describe the response to Liszt’s actual performances. Lisztomania has been one of my favourite film experiences of the year and makes me excited to check out more of Ken Russell’s work! My highest of recommendations with whip cream and a cherry on top…a perfect score!

***Thanks for another fan-fucking-tastic recommendation Mr. Arrate!***

Dungeon Rating: 5/5

Directed By: Ken Russell

Starring: Roger Daltrey, Sara Kestelman, Paul Nicholas, Ringo Starr, Rick Wakeman, John Justin, Fiona Lewis, Veronica Quilligan, Nell Campbell, Andrew Reilly, David English, Imogen Claire