An unabashedly celebratory take on the ritual
magic of the late Aleister Crowley by one of his foremost disciples:
filmmaker Kenneth Anger.
LUCIFER RISING is Anger’s magnum opus, a hypnotic free-form phantasmagoria
First off, the Lucifer of the title is not the one the Christians refer to.
Kenneth Anger is referencing the bringer of light as represented by the planet
Venus. In this film Lucifer is evoked in human form through the “magick” of
Aleister Crowley, of whom Kenneth Anger is an enthusiastic adherent (Anger: “I’m
engaged in a long-term selling campaign. I have one product that I’m selling:
the 20th Century’s most misunderstood genius...Aleister Crowley”).
LUCIFER RISING was the most expensive of Anger’s films, and had the
lengthiest inception. Filming began in 1967 in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury
district, only to be derailed when the majority of the film was stolen (Anger
assembled the remaining footage into the 11-minute INVOCATION OF MY DEMON
BROTHER in 1969).
In 1970 a new version of LUCIFER RISING was initiated.
It ended up taking over ten years to reach fruition. In 1973 Anger created a
25-minute version with music by Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page; this was to be the
first part of a much longer film that was never completed. Instead Anger shot
some additional footage and added several optical effects to arrive at a
28-minute final edit in 1981, with music by ex-Manson family member Bobby
In Egypt the Goddess Isis signals Osiris, the lord of death. The two
communicate from two distant points by raising their respective talismans.
Their communication attracts the attentions of an earthbound high priest, who
engages in a ritual in which he slashes his wrists and expires in his bathtub.
This in turn awakens the Goddess Lilith from a sarcophagus in Egypt. She
performs a rite before the Sphinx that alerts six German priests, who ascend an
ancient solar temple at night. Lilith ascends the same temple in the daylight
and performs yet another invocation, which alerts yet another distant
individual: the Lord of Chaos, located in England. Luckily this individual is
quickly banished, paving the way for the appearance of Lucifer, a hippie-ish
dude wearing a leather jacket. He’s given a birthday cake that explodes; the
reverberations of this occurrence continue through the centuries until flying
saucers(!) appear over Egypt.
One would have to be an Aleister Crowley initiate to fully (or even
partially) comprehend this film--which to those in the know, according to
Kenneth Anger, is actually quite simple, like “a children’s fairy tale.” As a
visual poem of light and color the film is dazzling, and often downright
hypnotic. All the colors were carefully chosen for their specific associations,
as were the frequent dissolves, wipes and optical effects. There isn’t a single
wasted image or gesture in the entire film, which is as ruthlessly streamlined
as any ever made.
The subject is ancient pre-Christian gods replacing the current ones, and
the atmosphere shimmers with prehistoric mysticism, even as the action shifts
from past to present, often simultaneously juxtaposing the two. As a wordless
exercise in pure montage LUCIFER RISING is particularly evocative, with erupting
volcanoes, Egyptian deities, magicians, ancient monuments and bodies of water
all given equal prominence.
The film also contains one of the best-ever soundtracks for an Anger film,
courtesy of the incarcerated Bobby BeuSoleil. The acoustics may not be top
notch--the score was recoded in Tracy Prison with a band composed of fellow
convicts and instruments hand-crafted in the prison hobby shop--but the music is
as eerie and hypnotic in its own manner as the images. It all adds up to a
profound trance-like evocation of light and sound by one of the American
cinema’s true masters.
Puck Film Productions
Director/Producer/Screenwriter/Cinematographer/Editor: Kenneth Anger
Cast: Miriam Gabril, Donald Cammell, Haydn Couts, Kenneth Anger, Sir Francis
Rose, Marianne Faithful, Leslie Huggins