Scorpio Rising, Kustom Kar Kommandos, Invocation of My Demon Brother, Rabbit's Moon, Lucifer Rising
There's lower Hollywood Spider Baby, for instance and then there's anti-Hollywood. In 1964, the same year Jack Hill shot his horror comedy, L.A.-raised avant-gardist Kenneth Anger made Scorpio Rising, a docufantasia that is still striking as an anarchist manifesto and a seminal fashion statement.
Paved with early 60s pop hits that have perky rhythms and ominous titles ("Devil in Disguise," "Torture," "Point of No Return," "Wipe Out"), Scorpio depicts a group of Brooklyn motorcyclists. With as much grease in their hair as on their gears, these artfully muscled men slowly slip on their jeans and leather jackets, flaunt their death's-head and Nazi regalia, hold a wild party in an abandoned church and go for a ride that ends in the death of one biker. Anger intercuts these ritually lurid images with scenes from Brando's The Wild One and a Lutheran Sunday School film of Jesus. The director's take on the moto-men is simultaneously exploitative and reverent, his style a fizzy concoction of iconography and fetishism. Even today, the film is as startling as it is seductive.
Anger has had a powerful influence on the next generation of filmmakers. He also befriended stars who would contribute to his films. Mick Jagger provides the synthesizer score for Invocation of My Demon Brother (1969); Jimmy Page, Marianne Faithfull and Mick's brother Chris appear in "Lucifer Rising (1981), a mesmerizing gloss on the works of the Satanist Aleister Crowley.
The filmmaker is also notorious as the author of the definitively sleazy star-gossip book Hollywood Babylon; and, on the films' commentary tracks, Anger (who turned 80 this year) is happy to gossip about his own films. He reveals that, on location for Lucifer in Egypt, "The mosquitos loved Marianne Faithfull. They would crawl under her dress and bite her tender inner thighs.... So she was our mosquito bait." The blood-stained scarf Faithfully carries is a memento of her real-life suicide attempt.
Images of blood and death course through the commentaries as well as the films. We learn that the crash at the climax of Scorpio Rising was not staged; Anger happened to be there to film the biker's death. Production on Kustom Kar Kommandos (1965) was halted when the young star was killed in a drag race. One of the performers in Demon Brother is Bobby Beausoleil, a Manson family member who was convicted of murdering Gary Hinman reportedly on Manson's orders. Anger stayed in touch with the killer, and later, from jail, Beausoleil wrote and played the score for Lucifer. Another Lucifer cast member was Donald Cammell, the writer-director (Performance, starring Jagger) who co-wrote the novel Fan-Tan with Brando and, in 1996, after producers took the film Wild Side out of his hands, killed himself. It was the only way this director could get final cut.
Art and life which one is weirder?