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Kenneth Anger Rising

Kenneth Anger bares his chest showing his Lucifer tattoo

There seems to be a specially renewed interest in the work of Kenneth Anger recently. Perhaps it’s because of the recent release of Fantoma’s two-volume DVD restoration. Or, because he’s finally been making new films and touring with them. Or, because he didn’t want his final legacy to be just as a funeral heckler.

Whatever the reason, I’ve come across a bunch of interesting articles on Anger that I want to share below:

First, this is from a few months ago, but the website Esotika Erotica Psychotica published a lovely analysis of Lucifer Rising, which writer Magick Mike calls Anger’s best film.

But for some historical backround on this particular film, Roy Frumkes just put online an interview he conducted with Anger back in 1997 for the magazine Films in Review. And it’s an extremely fascinating history. Basically, Anger shot footage for a film he intended to become Lucifer Rising in the late ’60s, but that footage was stolen when his friend Bobby Beausoleil killed Gary Hinman on the orders of Charles Manson. It’s kind of a convoluted story involving a borrowed van that had the film in it, so you should go read the whole piece to appreciate the total insanity of it.

At the time of the theft, Anger published his infamous “obituary” in the Village Voice and planned to make just one last film: A big-budget remake of Lucifer Rising, which was eventually fully completed in 1981.

Anger did stop making films for awhile, particularly after the success of his book Hollywood Babylon. However, since 2000 he’s been back at it. Critic Melissa Gronlund wrote up a review of two of these films, Ich Will! and Uniform Attraction, for Art Forum. These two particular films are comprised entirely of found footage and Gronlund found both movies to be “lacking.” Anger has made use of found footage before in his most famous film, Scorpio Rising, when he cuts in scenes of Jesus from a religious film that was misdelivered to his house.

Anger himself will be appearing at a screening of his newer films, plus Scorpio, at the REDCAT in downtown Los Angeles on Nov. 17. I’m hoping I can get to this myself. I’d like to see him in person and see these new works. UPDATE: Screening is sold out as of 11/15!

Scorpio Rising was one of the first truly “underground” films I ever saw back at the Dryden Theater in Rochester, NY when I was going to film school at RIT. For years, just about the only thing I could ever remember about it was the notorious mustard pranking scene and the motorcyclists hanging out in their clubhouse wearing skeleton masks. I do have the second Fantoma DVD volume, which I got because I wanted specifically to rewatch Scorpio. One of these days I’ll get the first volume.

One last closing thing regarding Anger is that I’m fascinated now not just for the films he did make, but for the films that never happened. In addition to the stolen Lucifer Rising — some of which did become Invocation of My Demon BrotherKustom Kar Kommandos is another film that’s a brief snippet of an uncompleted longer project. I’m not familiar enough with Anger’s history to know if there’s more unrealized projects, but maybe if we keep getting new articles and interviews with the man, I’ll get to find out.