Thursday, June 18, 2009


James Whale is best remembered for such classic fantasias as Frankenstein (1931), The Old Dark House (1932), The Invisible Man (1933), and Bride of Frankenstein (1935), though he himself preferred his 1936 version of the venerable musical Show Boat. One of Whale's more obscure efforts is 1933's The Kiss Before the Mirror, William Anthony McGuire's adaptation of a Ladislaus Fodor play, which the director remade a mere five years later as Wives Under Suspicion. Unlike the public domain retread, the original is currently unavailable on home video, but TCM premiered a lovely fullscreen print of this pre-Code melodrama on April 26, 2009.

Universal wanted Charles Laughton and Claudette Colbert for the leads, but they were otherwise occupied, so Frank Morgan and Nancy Carroll were loaned from Paramount. Morgan stars as Viennese attorney Paul Held, who defends his friend Walter Bernsdorf (Paul Lukas) against the charge of murdering Bernsdorf's adulterous wife Lucie (Gloria Stuart, whose early exit from the film was considered startling for its time). Bernsdorf follows Lucie to the home of her nameless bachelor lover (Walter Pidgeon), then shoots her through a window as she disrobes in silhouette. (Pidgeon also exits the picture at this point, never to return, and--for all the chatter of betrayal--seems largely forgotten.) Morgan's politically-incorrect defense strategy is that Bernsdorf was driven to the point of madness by his wife's infidelity, and thus was not responsible for his actions. Bernsdorf's first inkling that his wife was seeing another man occurred less than an hour before the murder, when the devoted professor canceled his evening lecture to return home to his beloved, only to endure her look of disgust at him, in stark contrast to her earlier emotion, as he kissed her neck and shoulders at her makeup mirror. ("You've ruined my hairdress!" she rants.) Lukas is believably anguished as he recounts the frenzy that overtook him, a frenzy immediately infecting Held.

Most appropriately for a film with "mirror" in its title, Held and Bernsdorf, as well as their wives, reflect one another. It transpires that the lawyer's spouse Maria (Carroll) is also unfaithful to her husband, though she feels considerably more guilt about her affair than the late Lucie. As Held observes her making herself up in the looking-glass, he suddenly realizes the truth about his wife, later trailing the anxious woman to a rendezvous with her lover (Donald Cook). Held's scheme, which he confesses to the horrified Bernsdorf, is to get the professor acquitted on grounds of temporary insanity, then immediately murder Maria. "All men suspect their wives," the enlightened Held assures the professor. Significantly, both men are considerably older than their spouses, while the women's lovers are closer to their own ages. Held already seems to be feeling the press of time, as he praises the opera Faust for its idea that "one could look forward to the years with such complacency if one knew that at the age of seventy, a kindly devil would touch him on the shoulder and make him young once more."

Maria attempts to break off her affair with her (nameless) paramour, while being driven around the bend by her obsessed husband. Held requests that she be present in the courtroom when he delivers his closing address ("I want to see your face when I speak"), and a memorable summation it is. His antics are enough to get any attorney ejected from the courtroom--especially when Held flourishes a revolver to Maria's terrified shrieks--but the largely male jury rules in the professor's favor, and the lawyer finally regains his senses. (Bernsdorf spends much of Held's speech hiding his face in his hands, and makes an amusing contrast to the hysterical counselor.)

The Kiss Before the Mirror functions as a footnote in Whale's horror and science fiction cycle. The countryside set through which Bernsdorf trails his wife is cannibalized from Frankenstein's exteriors, while the accused's cell suspiciously resembles the room in which Colin Clive kept Boris Karloff. Karl Freund's camera is appropriately Expressionistic, as befits the greatest of all German cinematographers; particularly memorable is the scene in which the eerily-lamplit Morgan explains his mad scheme to Lukas, as well as a 360-degree pan of the courtroom as Morgan delivers his closing argument. Stuart, who found renewed fame many decades later as the octogenarian Kate Winslet in James Cameron's Titanic (1997), returns from The Old Dark House, and would later play Claude Rains' fiancee in The Invisible Man.

Whale's film fairly sizzles with sexuality, as Morgan harps on Lucie's disrobing in her lover's bedroom as often as the judge and the censors let him get away with it. When the distraught Maria asks Held if Lucie's murder is justifiable "because she loved someone," Held counters that it is "because she lied." "That's no reason why she should've been shot down like a mad dog," Maria protests, to which he smoothly replies, "That, my dear, is a matter of taste." The director works in a homosexual newspaper sketch artist for between-the-lines followers of his films, while Held's office manager Hilda (Jean Dixon) is a definite free spirit who makes veiled reference to her randy private life: questioned by Maria as to whether she's "a lawyer or a new kind of woman," Hilda responds that she's a lawyer by day, but "at night--well, you might be surprised." (Such forthrightness is not to be found in the Wives remake, which recasts the cuckolded lawyer as a District Attorney.) Whale packs all this outrageousness into an economical sixty-eight minutes. The Kiss Before the Mirror is eminently worthy of DVD release, and hopefully TCM's screening will facilitate this.


"What's terrible about the cinema," Roland Barthes remarked at the dawn of the Nouvelle Vague, "is that it makes the monstrous viable." Kenneth Anger concurs: "I've always considered movies evil; the day cinema was invented was a black day for mankind." The Luciferian auteur's oeuvre is a form of magical combat, a synaesthetic spell against the structure of consensus reality. In 1986 Mystic Fire Video released Anger's Magick Lantern Cycle on four long-out-of-print cassettes, while BFI later issued the films as three volumes of its History of the Avant-Garde (a label, along with "underground," Anger abjures). Fantoma's long-anticipated two-volume restoration allows viewers to (re)visit his equinoctial gems with the renewed wonder they deserve. Anger unleashes more dynamism in these nine shorts than most directors manage in a lifetime of feature filmmaking.

The artist, born Kenneth Wilbur Anglemyer in 1927, evolved under the double spell of the cinematograph and the mountebank mage, Aleister Crowley (1875-1947). Anger's career is tangled in contradictions, if not downright dishonesty; he's as steadfast a self-mythologizer as the Great Beast himself. He claims to have appeared in several of the 1930's Baby Burlesks parodies, as well as--more pertinently--to have portrayed the Changeling Prince in Max Reinhardt and William Dierterle's extravagant A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935). Though casting logs and call sheets identify the performer in question as a girl named Sheila Brown, Anger's unofficial biographer, the late Bill Landis, insisted that Anger is indeed the Prince--an assertion challenged anew in historian Scott McQueen's audio commentary for Warner Brothers' recent Midsummer disc.

The fledgling artist staged puppet shows for friends and began making movies with his parents' wind-up sixteen-millimeter camera. He graduated from an interest in the French occultist Eliphas Levi (1810-1875) to the Thelemic work of Crowley, the Englishman who translated Levi's The Key of the Mysteries and proclaimed himself, among other outrageous identities, the magician's reincarnation. It is Crowley's antic post-Christian spirit that animates Anger's filmography, as well as his occasional literary endeavors. Mikita Brotman has argued that Anger was the first artist for whom "film, properly used and respected, is a spiritual form, a magical ceremony involving the display of trapped light." The Magick Lantern facilitates Crowley's "raising of the whole man in perfect balance to the power of Infinity," uniting microcosm with macrocosm through the incantatory medium of celluloid.



The Films of Kenneth Anger, Volume One covers the first half of the director's Cycle, from finished projects to fragments and fragments to finished projects. (Regrettably, such teenage efforts as Who Has Been Rocking My Dreamboat [1941], The Nest [1943], and Demigods [1944] are nowhere to be found and likely no longer exist.) The set opens with the Prix Henri Chometter-award-winning Fireworks (1947; B/W, 15 minutes), lensed at Anger's parents' house when the Anglemyers were out of town (though Anger's brother Bob has located the shoot elsewhere), and unreleased for two years. J. Hoberman and Jonathan Rosenbaum have credited its creator with "provok[ing] the first major scandal of American avant-garde" cinema, and it's easy to see why: when Anger's hallucinatory homoeroticism was unspooled at London's Royal Film Society in 1950, the Indian Ambassador's wife cried, "That film should be burned," and left in a righteous huff. Seven years later, exhibitor Raymond Rohauer was convicted of disseminating obscenity for reviving Fireworks at his legendary Coronet Theatre. His conviction was overturned in 1959 by the California State Supreme Court, which imperiously declared "that homosexuality is not to be approved of, but society should understand its causes and effects." Sexologist Alfred C. Kinsey was so impressed with the picture that he obtained a copy for his archives; this marked the beginning of Anger's decades-long relationship with the Institute, for which he did volunteer research.

Anger has pronounced Fireworks "all I have to say about being seventeen, the United States Navy, American Christmas, and the Fourth of July." The Dreamer (Anger) wakes from his troubled sleep to cruise a darkened men's room, which opens into an alternative universe of freeways, a painted bar backdrop Anger liberated from an old western set, and swooning sexual violence. He encounters a body-building sailor (Bill Seltzer), who shows off by flexing his muscles and walking on his hands. Anger is swatted by Seltzer when he produces a cigarette and asks for a light (a common enough come-on, but one which, in Anger's psychoverse, contains magnetic resonance), has his arm twisted by another sailor, and is finally scourged by several chain-wielding tars, who rip open his chest to reveal a ticking electrometer. Anger's Eleusinian mini-epic offers male sadomasochism as mystery initiation, achieving apotheosis in the notorious money shot (seamen/semen) of a Roman candle phallus. Anger's subsequent transmogrification into a Christmas tree, which is consumed in the family fireplace, echoes his earlier Tinsel Tree (1942), while ritually lampooning the cult of the Dying Father. Sacrifice, a theme permeating Anger's work, would find further release in other projects, from the killing of an Aztec prince in 1950's Golden Bough-inspired The Love That Whirls--destroyed on grounds of obscenity, a then-frequent practice, by the Comstocks at Eastman-Kodak--to the more overtly Crowleyan ceremonies of Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome and Lucifer Rising.

Anger prepared at least five different versions of Fireworks, two of which (an early draft and a 1966 hand-painted print) are lost. Anger's friend and fellow filmmaker, Ed Earle, notes that the sequence of the Dreamer lying naked in a public urinal was originally longer and contained additional violence. The director's narrated prologue has been restored by UCLA from the surviving prints; the original negative A/B rolls are themselves lost, leaving only positive copies. (Mystic Fire's and BFI's print, which contained red-lettered title and end cards, does not appear here but would have made a nice supplement; the title card is reproduced in the set's lavish booklet.) Emulsion scratches are present but scarcely distracting; if anything, they enhance the film's rich rawness. The source music, a melancholically martial excerpt from Ottorino Respighi's "The Pines of Rome," alternates with silence throughout. According to Anger, the original release also contained music by Ernest Schelling, but it is not retained in any video version.

The director states in his commentary that Fireworks was inspired by a dream, which was itself generated by Los Angeles' infamous Zoot Suit Riots. He identifies the actors as soldiers studying combat photography at the University of Southern California, though Earles has described the men as "tricks who had no inhibitions." Whatever the truth is (and that's sometimes a quantum question where this artist is concerned), Anger recalls them with obvious affection and protests that, despite his protagonist, he himself is an adamant non-smoker.



Puce Women was originally intended as a feature about Hollywood actresses in the Nineteen Twenties. Unable to procure funding, Anger abandoned the project, eventually releasing the six minutes he had in the can as Puce Moment (1949; color). This fragment casts Yvonne Marquis (identified elsewhere as Anger's cousin, though he makes no mention of it in his commentary) as a star(let) selecting a sequin dress of the title shade from her vast wardrobe, reclining dreamily on a chaise longue, and walking four magnificent borzoi--an archetypal image oddly prefiguring Barbara Steele's memorable entrance as Katia in Mario Bava's La Maschera del Demonio (1960; U.S. Black Sunday). Puce Moment exudes the austere ambience of a silent film, achieved through eight-frames-per-second camera speed and Marquis' languid movements. Anger has said of his original conception that "I was, in effect, filming ghosts," and certainly his actress seems to exist in another, transdimensional time. There is much to savor here, from the screen-filling image of flapper gowns dancing on their racks as Marquis chooses one--they shimmer and shake like phantasms--to the Florine Stettheimer-inspired sequence of the siren on her floating couch.

MTI's digital transfer of the archival internegative looks grand. The perennially obscure Jonathan Halper's songs, the dissonant "Leaving My Old Life Behind" and the more introspective "I'm a Hermit," were added in 1971 (possibly supplanting a Verdi overture in Anger's original withdrawn version), and augment the film's temporal dislocation. The first tune's furious feedback sounded muddy in previous prints and especially benefits from Fantoma's upgrade. Anger observes in his commentary that Marquis later became mistress to former Mexican President Lazaro Cardenas, and states that the film's dresses were worn by the likes of Clara Bow and Barbara Lamarr. He also recycles the story that his grandmother was a costume mistress in the days before sound, but Anger's siblings have vigorously disputed this. The booklet credits the director as photographer, though most sources cite his fellow cineaste Curtis Harrington, who modestly demurred that he "was sort of there, you know, pushing the button."



Anger moved to Paris after the destruction of The Love That Whirls. A collaboration with his admirer Jean Cocteau, Le Jeune Homme et la Mort, based on the latter's ballet, collapsed due to further money woes. (Cocteau's novel Les Enfants Terribles, filmed in conjunction with Jean-Pierre Melville, had earlier inspired The Nest, while Fireworks had taken the Poetic Prize at Cocteau's Film Maudit festival.) Anger labored in Henri Langlois' Cinematheque Francaise, most notably restoring a montage reel from Sergei Eisenstein's abandoned 1931 folk opus, Que Viva Mexico!, which the impressionable youngster had first seen at age five when it masqueraded under producer Sol Lesser's Thunder Over Mexico cut. The director then received some stock from a Russian team shooting in France, and was allowed to work in the Films de Pantheon studio during the four summer weeks it traditionally closed. The result was his only thirty-five-millimeter venture, Rabbit's Moon (B/W, 17 minutes). This fragment of a proposed longer project languished in the Pantheon's vaults until 1971, when Anger reduced it to sixteen-millimeter and scored it with classic doo-wop mixed with a Balinese monkey chant. Rabbit's Moon combines Japanese myth and imagery with the Commedia dell'Arte, the mysteries of sol with those of luna.

As the director notes in his commentary, what looks to the West like the man in the moon resembles a rabbit to the East, and Japanese children still put out rice cakes for this creature at the full moon. Against the stunning forest Anger constructed in perspective--itself not terribly dissimilar to Midsummer's (Holly)woodland dark and deep--the primal figures of Pierrot (Andre Soubeyran), Harlequin (Claude Revenant), and Columbine (Nadine Valence) enact their timeless triangle. Harlequin, the film's Lucifer surrogate, bedevils Pierrot by juggling invisible balls, planting invisible flowers, and conjuring an eighteenth-century magic lantern that projects an image of Columbine that Pierrot covets. Columbine, however, rejects the clown's loving offer of a full moon; she's a lunar illusion, a hope on the edge of eclipse. Pierrot's soul, symbolized by the hare, leads him into another, more lethal realm; his plummet from the satellite (a jarring dummy toss exorcising the director's contemporaneous suicide attempt) leaves the solar Harlequin triumphant as ever. Anger chose his cast from Marcel Marceau's mime school, and their poses, which he intended to suggest carved ivory figures, are picture-perfect. Revenant's movements, an entrancing trickster prance, are brilliantly contrasted to Soubeyran's hangdog haplessness, while Valence sparkles as a Bijou eidolon.

UCLA's reconstruction marks, astonishingly, the first time that Rabbit's Moon has appeared in its original left-right image orientation. The film underwent a reversal in reduction, producing a mirror image of Anger's photography. (The reversed-negative is being preserved in sixteen-millimeter and thus does not appear as a supplement.) The original blue tints, interspersed with magical red symbols, are even more otherworldly in this restoration, though a few vertical lines persist. Fantoma's disc provides a handful of silent outtakes.



Anger made test shots for an adaptation of the Comte de Lautreamont's Les Chants des Maldoror, but--once again--no funds were forthcoming, and French surrealists, led by Ado Kyrou, allegedly promised bodily mischief if the director proceeded. Lautreamont's "Hymn to the Ocean" sequence was filmed, however, and the so-called war of pins and flies was photographed inside a glass container. Anger journeyed to Egypt in late 1951, where he began the outline for Hymn to the Sun, which reads much like a Paul Bowles scenario of magic and menace. This project, too, was never realized, and he soon settled in Rome. He still had film stock left over from the Pantheon project, and envisioned Eaux d'Artifice (1953; 13 minutes) as a four-part, increasingly-graphic account of the Sixteenth Century Cardinal Ippolito d'Este, whose family built the Tivoli Fountains.

D'Este, the second son of Lucrezia Borgia, was a hedonist whom Anger revered as a sex magician into golden showers: "...the whole garden is actually a private dirty joke. It has ten thousand fountains and everything is pissing on everything else and it's like inexhaustible piss." D'Este is perhaps a kindred spirit of Hellfire Club founder Sir Francis Dashwood, who (legend has it) designed a formal garden on his estate to resemble a nude woman whose double flowerbeds and shrubbery triangle were equipped with hidden fountains--much as Anger's Water Witch (Carmilla Salvatorelli) echoes minor Hellfire member the Chevalier d'Eon: both have been identified as persons of ambiguous sex. The performer was in fact female; she was a circus dwarf recommended to Anger by Federico Fellini. Taking as his model Giovanni Piranesi's etchings, Anger used her small size to suggest a greater scale to the water garden than actually exists, and the effect is stunning. This mysterious masked figure patrols the fountains under heavy gowns and an enormous headdress (which resembles frozen waves), observed by the streaming faces of baroque statues and accompanied by the staccato strings of Antonio Vivaldi's "Winter" section of "The Four Seasons."

Despite the fact that he was able to realize only a portion of the d'Este project, Eaux d'Artifice--whose imaginary French title puns on fireworks ("feux d'artifice")--remains Anger's most sensual picture. Visually, it expands upon such pioneering waterworks as Jorris Ivens' Regen ("Rain," 1929) and Ralph Steiner's H2O (1929); erotically and metaphysically, it expands the intersection of Nature and Supernature. One of Anger's greatest strengths is his manipulation of myth to create sacred space, a pagan zone just on the other side of things, accessible through the four elements. It's as if the camera has captured a time and place that never begins, yet never really ends. The backlit gardens employ natural sunlight to look like no night on earth, while the glowing serpentine water (its drops isolated at different camera speeds) recalls the gemlike hues in the "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor" sequence of Walt Disney's Fantasia (1940). By the time Salvatorelli, after playing hide and seek with the viewer, merges with the glittering spray, one is eager to join her in this incandescent darkness.

Fantoma derives its internegative from the original reversal A/B rolls. The restored blue tints of this black-and-white film (photographed through a red filter) enhance its oneiric appeal; especially enchanting is the emerald coloring of Salvatorelli's hand-held "fan of Exorcism," which is alchemically aglow like some enormous winged insect.

Anger says nothing about d'Este's exploits in his commentary, instead praising his actress and pointing out the use of magical coincidence in the film's most memorable sequence. A clog had caused the fountains to overflow on one level; this led to Salvatorelli's stately descent of the flooded steps, which shimmer in the shadows. Silent siren Louise Brooks considered Eaux d'Artifice Anger's "sexiest film," and certainly the spectral, spurting water is like an extended medley of the Dreamer's seminal submission in Fireworks. In 1993, the picture was selected for preservation by the Library of Congress.



Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome (1954; color, 38 minutes) shifts Anger's energies into magical overdrive. Photographed in the spirit of Art Nouveau, the film had its genesis in a "Come As Your Madness" masquerade ball thrown by Renate Loome (Lilith) and Paul Mathison (who played Pan and designed the picture's striking titles.) In attendance were eroticist Anais Nin (Astarte), her head encased in a birdcage filled with "the ticker tape of the unconscious." Anger appeared as Hecate, while Curtis Harrington arrived as Cesare the Somnambulist from Robert Weine's The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919). (Harrington later surfaced from the underground to create such memorable features as 1961's mermaid mood song Night Tide). Samson De Brier (formerly Arthur Jasmine), who had appeared in Alla Nazimova's 1923 production of Oscar Wilde's Salome, came as an Eastern potentate, while Kathryn Kaddell attended as Cleopatra, evolving into Isis for Pleasure Dome. Looming over all of them was Marjorie Cameron, whom Anger had befriended. "She is surrounded by an evil aura," Nin wrote at the time, "which fascinates Paul, Curtis, and Kenneth." Cameron was the flame-haired widow of Jack Parsons, a Crowley disciple who worked as a rocket scientist at Pasadena's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Parsons was much taken with Crowley's pivotal poem/scripture The Book of the Law, which prophesied the death of Christianity and the ascension of Horus, Crowley's "Crowned and Conquering Child." Eager to speed the New Aeon along, Parsons executed the Babalon Working with scribe and pulp novelist/Dianetics guru L. Ron Hubbard. Parsons' masturbatory magic, he believed, attracted the elemental Cameron to him (a good thing, too, as Hubbard had seduced Parsons' girlfriend in the interim) and they attempted to conceive a moonchild. Parsons later blew himself up in a chemical experiment, though more conspiracy-minded souls insist he was engaged in some diabolical act.

The film was photographed at De Brier's house, which Anger had previously requisitioned for Puce Moment. Anger comments on the audio track that De Brier "had his own universe in his home, which was unique in Hollywood." This total environment with its incredible orange doors and gold-leaf ceilings was worthy of J.K. Huysman's Des Esseintes, and ideal for Anger's phantasmagoric vision. Betty Vaughn, De Brier's houseguest, was intended to take over the role of Hecate, but she dropped out of the picture after a row with the director, leaving Anger to return as the crossroads goddess. Personality flare-ups between Nin and Cameron resulted in the prominence of the latter. "This is a card game and the stake is ego," De Brier cannily noted in his diary.

Harrington pointed out "that nobody in the cast knew how they were going to be used in the finished film," but the result is spectacular, funny, and disturbing. Pleasure Dome references Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "Kubla Kahn," and assembles characters from various mythologies for a Eucharistic orgy--Bacchus being torn by the Bacchantes. De Brier shines in multiple roles as Lord Shiva, the Great Beast 666, Osiris, Cagliostro, and Nero, while Cameron doubles as the Scarlet Woman and Lady Kali. Loome's son Peter, appearing as Ganymede, recalls Shakespeare's Changeling Prince. The mythopoeic mix starts slowly, building and building until--as Shiva spikes Pan's yage--it erupts in a chromophonic frenzy of crosscuts and superimpositions. It is here that Anger's careful study of Eisenstein's theory of montage metamorphosizes into a butterfly of dark and paranoid beauty. Especially effective is the sampling of Henry Otto's Dante's Inferno (1924) as the inflamed women swarm lustily over Pan, their personalities dissolving in ecstatic affirmation. Anger's sense of space is simultaneously vast and claustrophobic, reinforcing the director's notion that the Pleasure Dome being inaugurated is an escape-proof prison--the downside, it would seem, of any total environment.

Anger tinkered considerably with this film through the years. Microtonal composer Harry Partch provided him with tapes of his work, but threatened to sue over its inclusion in the picture. In 1958, the director, emulating the climax of Abel Gance's Napoleon (1927), prepared a three-act-and-screen print for the Brussels World's Fair. Landis recounts the event with relish: the German projectionists were not scrupulous enough for Anger's satisfaction, "and [he] charged into their booth, screaming inflammatory epithets....[Anger] dragged his head against the stucco wall of the booth until his blood seeped down it." This impassioned protest, not surprisingly, marked the end of the Brussels version, but Anger exhumed Pleasure Dome eight years later as the psychedelic experience par excellence. Supplemented with Leos Janacek's intense Glagolitic Mass, this version was screened, along with his earlier films, in New York for the Spring Equinox. Anger designed a playbill for this occasion, urging audiences to "follow me into the flower called nowhere." This slightly shorter edition has become Anger's standard cut, and incorporates several shots from Puce Moment.

Anger's commentary, alas, addresses none of Pleasure Dome's backstage melodrama, sticking instead to analyses of his jewel-like colors and the film's vivid artificiality. He does reveal that De Brier "was rumored to be the bastard son of the King of Romania, and I think he liked people to believe that"--a thought expressed, incidentally, with no discernible irony. Anger resurrects his grandmother, who for this go-round was "an interior decorator in Hollywood." He also identifies the various cabalistic symbols that appear like flashes from the Overmind, before blandly concluding that the film's "ultimate feeling is one of spirituality."

Fantoma has transferred the internegative of Pleasure Dome's 1993 restoration (which adds even more superimpositions), and the film is alive with color, though not without brief frame jitter. In the late Seventies, Anger replaced Janacek's dead-language track with Electric Light Orchestra songs, though this version has not been included, perhaps due to problems over the music rights. Anger never obtained permission to use the various tunes that invigorate his work, a negligence that--after Phil Spector's lawyers objected--sent Scorpio Rising into a legal limbo from which it has only recently returned.

Fantoma's first Anger volume is slipcased with the aforementioned booklet, which contains an introduction by Martin Scorcese. Also included are still-packed notes for each film, behind-the-scenes shots from Rabbit's Moon and Pleasure Dome, extracts from Volume V of Nin's long-running diary, as well as De Brier's Film Culture article on Pleasure Dome's production, and several brooding shots of the youthful Anger. Restoration before-and-afters are provided for each film. A lovely surprise is forty-three of the director's color sketches for Puce Women. All films appear in their original 1.33:1 aspect ratio.



Anger next journeyed to Crowley's Thelema Abbey, the Sicilian "monastery" where the magus conducted his sexual rituals. The place was scarcely more than an abandoned shanty (Crowley and his cronies had been deported in the early Twenties), but Anger helped to renovate the house, uncovering erotic frescoes and the temple room's magic circle. His half-hour documentary, Thelema Abbey, was sponsored by Picture Post and broadcast on British television in 1955, but disappeared when the magazine folded. Plans for a 1961 film of Pauline Reage's Story of O were scuttled when Anger discovered that the funds furnished by the lead actress's boyfriend derived from the ransom payment to automobile heir Eric Peugeot's kidnappers, and the actress's father--Charles de Gaulle's Minister of Finance--learned she wasn't off taking harpsichord lessons after all. Legend locates the twenty minutes Anger shot as being literally underground, though apparently this extends no further than the archives of the Cinematheque Francaise, and the book would have to wait fourteen years for Just Jaeckin's softcore adaptation. Anger's primary endeavor during this period was the work for which he is most infamous, Hollywood Babylon (1957; revised U.S. edition 1974).

Anger was down and out in Paris, and approached Cahiers du Cinema with the idea of compiling Hollywood's secret history. The journal suggested that he channel his gossipy, and not always accurate, tales of celebrity misbehavior into a book, which Jean Jacques Pauvert (who had previously defied French censors by publishing the Marquis de Sade) would release. Opening with a Crowley quote, "Every Man and every Woman is a Star," from Magick in Theory and Practice, Anger traces the hellish movements of his heavenly bodies in lurid, Bestial prose. "I have developed a case of enormous, petrified, extremely sour grapes over the subject of Hollywood," Anger once declaimed, and this mocking, overwrought chronicle--Tacitus in Tinseltown--is the destitute director's attack on the land in which he never became a Star. The picture-filled book is essentially a surrogate film, a documentary done for coffee tables. Anger dishes dirt on everyone from "Fatty" Arbuckle to "Monster" Mae West, climaxing in the "Hollywoodammerung" of various performers (replete with disturbing corpse shots of Lewis Stone and cover girl Jayne Mansfield). It's deconstruction by death ray, and it spawned numerous imitations in the fields of music and television. Anger later claimed to have written Babylon "for one reader in a thousand"--in other words, the book was supposedly composed in a secret code that no one has ever been able to decipher, if it even exists (though Anger did offer a thousand dollars to anyone who cracked it). The book's publishing history is as lurid as its sensationalism. Marvin Miller, who had earlier made a mint ripping off Maurice Girodias' Olympia Press, brought out an unauthorized, rewritten edition in the mid-Sixties, and later a softcore film of it. Anger was never compensated, though book and movie were ordered withdrawn by a federal court; bootlegs of both have surfaced periodically. Miller, whose outrageous career encompassed everything from embezzlement to arson, was eventually sentenced to eight years in Wire City, and Hollywood Babylon ultimately received an official American release through Rolling Stone's Straight Arrow imprint.



The Films of Kenneth Anger, Volume Two opens with the pivotal picture of the artist's career. After returning stateside and encountering a gang of bikers at Coney Island, he created the most successful underground film of its time. "From the moment that Kenneth Anger's arachnid talents flashed on the silver screen," critic and director Gregory Markopoulos wrote of Scorpio Rising (1963; color, 28 minutes), "everyone knew, indeed felt, that an extraordinary motion picture was being unfurled." Scorpio Rising positively detonated in cinemas, sending shockwaves in every direction. Los Angeles theatre manager Mike Getz, who regularly programmed experimental movies, was found guilty of having exhibited "an obscene film" after an American Nazi Party nimrod was offended by Anger's eroticisation of Third Reich iconography. Prosecutor Warren I. Wolfe, as Hobermann and Rosenbaum recount the trial, "had taken pains to exclude all those who 'customarily enjoyed books and movies'" from his all-female jury, which never viewed the entire film, but was shown instead blown-up stills of Scorpio's male nudity. Susan Sontag, Martin Ritt, and Allen Ginsberg testified for the defense, but to no avail. Fortunately, as it had done for Fireworks, the California State Supreme Court overturned the verdict.

Partially dedicated to Jack Parsons, the Hell's Angels, and assorted celebrity suicides, Scorpio Rising reflects Anger's own astrological sign, functioning both as Triumph of the Will-styled propaganda and trickster machismo parody. The film follows a gang of motorcyclists from their obsessive work on their bikes to an orgiastic Halloween party and a deadly race. Scorpio (Bruce Byron), the central figure, is an impoverished man's Marlon Brando/James Dean, an absurd fellow with delusions of fascist grandeur. Scorpio devours comic strips, snorts crystal meth, pretends to shoot a menorah and a cross on his tiny television screen, and desecrates an abandoned church in Brooklyn Heights. He's the most fleshed-out of all the director's characters: adrift in dreamland, but with the power to cross over into the waking sleep of this world. Anger pulls no punches as the film accelerates towards annihilation, unleashing the full force of Ra Hoor Khuit, the vengeful wargod who concludes The Book of the Law. His masterstroke is the cultural appropriation of the low-budget Lutheran-produced biblical drama, The Last Road to Jerusalem, a copy of which was, he claims, accidentally delivered to his front porch by a confused postman. (Landis believed it was actually purchased in a camera store.) "With my Hawk's head I peck at the eyes of Jesus as he hangs upon the cross," Crowley wrote in Verse 51; thus does Anger juxtapose Jesus with the heretical Scorpio, the messiah in the temple with Dionysian revelers. It's a return to the Pleasure Dome, but Anger's scope is paradoxically wider here; the involution from gods to men like gods illuminates the madness lurking in the shadows of popular myth. Scorpio is youthcult in full, thorny flower, bringing down the temple of Jehovah and other "crapulous creeds." Ranting and raving to Nazi images, commanding his imaginary armies, he's the inevitable consequence of blind devotion--the dystopian death dance of all mass movements. (A split-second shot of Byron's masked eye powerfully echoes Anger's convulsive cyclopean appearance as Hecate.) The real-life fatal crash that climaxes the film (photographed by Anger on the bikers' last run from Brooklyn to Walden Pond), as startling as it at first seems, is in fact mere punctuation, a point brusquely emphasized by the silver-studded word "END" on a belt that is casually tossed to the floor. We're not, in the final analysis, the demigods we like to think we are.

Scorpio Rising marks the director's first ironic use of pop songs, a strategy that has provoked many commentators to proclaim this film the forerunner of the music video. Thirteen tunes simultaneously underscore and undermine the visuals, opening with Ricky Nelson's "Fools Rush In (Where Angels Fear to Tread)" as Anger unveils one of the most startling title sequences in motion picture history: Scorpio Rising studded on the back of a biker's leather jacket, with the director's name on his belt. The Randells' "Wind-Up Doll" accompanies shots of toy police cyclists traveling in aimless circles. When the Grim Reaper appears in a greaser's garage to the strains of "My Boyfriend's Back," the viewer understands who the real fatal lover is. The cyclists' party primping to "Blue Velvet" is as narcissistic as Puce's siren's (Anger's camera caresses and teases them), while Scorpio's amphetamine-fueled meltdown to "Point of No Return" and "I Will Follow Him" parodies Pan's Pleasure trip.

Fantoma offers a new internegative derived from the original reversal rolls, though the usual traces of grain remain. As with the earlier films, the sound is splendid. Scorpio Rising won numerous awards around the world, including First Prize for Documentary at the Poretta Terme Festival of Free Cinema in Italy; it also netted a Golden Mermaid at Rapello and First Prize at Foothill College's Third Annual Independent Filmmakers' Festival.

Byron wanted money and fame, but Scorpio took him nowhere fast. Powerless to turn the performance to his advantage--Landis depicts him as a clueless creature who "spent his life living up to Kenneth Anger's satirization of him"--vengefully obsessed with the director and his own lost shot at the Big Time, Byron haunted screenings of the film through the years, haranguing audiences. Anger doesn't address Byron's pseudo-stalking in his commentary, but he does complain about the intense smell of the ex-Marine's cat-filled bedroom ("I'm a dog person myself"), expresses amazement that the volatile soldier was ever honorably discharged, doubts the pistol Byron brandishes onscreen was legal, and wonders if the actor stole one of his Nazi flags that appear in the church sequence. (They went missing during production.) He also points out, as many others have, that David Lynch duplicated his use of the Bobby Vinton ballad, and reveals that the Lutheran Church sued him over his sampling of their Grade-Z epic, but the court ruled that he had "fair use" of it. "They should be ashamed to show such a corny film to their children," Anger sniffs. Apparently they are, as the picture has been permanently pre-empted by Scorpio Rising, and exists publicly only as framents in Anger's film. Discussing the climactic death sequence, Anger is unexpectedly defensive: "I'm sorry the fellow was killed," he says, "but it wasn't like I tripped him." He points out that the dead biker's arm tattoo, which has always been difficult to make out, most appropriately reads, "Blessed, Blessed Oblivion."



After Scorpio's breakthrough, Anger reverted to fragmentation with Kustom Kar Kommandos (1965), which shifts the juvenile romance of the machine from motorcycle to muscle car. Again this was to have been a much longer work--the Ford Foundation had awarded Anger ten thousand dollars for the purpose--but only three minutes were completed when his living expenses and film upgrading efforts consumed the rest of the grant. KKK combines astrological blues and pinks in a Pop Art evocation of Knight and Chariot (or, as Anger prefers, "Pygmalion and his machine mistress"), all set to the Paris Sisters' hypnotic version of "Dream Lover." The Maker's (Sandy Trent) All-Chrome Ruby Plush Dune Buggy is polished by the driver until it gleams lustily, offering the camera a dynamic range of slithering reflections. The powder puff with which Trent polishes his vehicle resembles a fat white cat, while the customized seats envelop his body in their warm womb. Like the mythical sculptor, the Maker has fallen for his creation and the feeling is one of erotic worship.

Anger doesn't have much to say about Kustom Kar Kommandos, but the enclosed booklet offers the film's poetic prospectus and is titled simply "Kustom." Anger's original structure was similar to Scorpio Rising's, and was to contain another pointed pop soundtrack of eight, rather than thirteen, songs. ("Dream Lover," incidentally, is not one of them, though it's hard to imagine a more perfect accompaniment.) Anger has claimed that Trent was killed in a car crash, but this has never been verified and the director's commentary is mum. Fantomas' high-definition digital transfer minimizes the original reversal A/B rolls' occasional flutter.



Anger began making private reels during this period, one of which--perhaps his greatest film maudit--briefly landed him in hot water as a federal fugitive. Freelancing for the Kinsey Institute, he recorded a sadist doctor putting his masochistic patients through stiff workouts in the man's soundproof torture chamber. The acts were consensual, but when Anger foolishly had the footage developed at a drugstore, the San Jose County police thought they had a bona fide snuff film on their hands. The doctor was arrested and Anger was interrogated, an experience the director appears to have relished. The Institute came to his aid, but Anger, who was to be the state's witness, defied an order to remain in California and ventured to Colorado for a film festival. He was taken into custody at director Stan Brakhage's house by the town sheriff (a friend of Brakhage's) and a San Jose County Assistant District Attorney. Brakhage's friendship with the sheriff, who now opened a file on him, ended then and there. One hopes that Anger's footage did not suffer the same ignominious fate as The Love That Whirls.

Anger made more private reels and returned to San Francisco to document the hippie scene. By now he had joined his friend Anton LaVey's Church of Satan, and his new project was a "fallen angel manifesto" called Lucifer Rising. Inspired by Crowley's "Hymn to Lucifer," Anger searched for the devil he considered "the patron saint of the visual arts." Lucifer is the Roman name for the planet Venus, and was worshipped both as Aurora (morning star) and as Vesper (evening star). The Gnostics revered Lucifer as the Herald of the Dawn, and Robert Graves speculated that the rebellious King of Babylon in the Book of Isaiah was derived from the observation that Venus is the last proud star to defy the sunrise, and that it must have been punished for its disobedience. Lucifer is also a surrogate for Horus, the "Crowned and Conquering Child" whose id dominates his superego, and he manifested himself in the form of Bobby Beausoleil. Beausoleil ("beautiful sun") was a guitarist and artist who'd been an early member of the Los Angeles rock band Love; he was also a member of Charles Manson's entourage.

Beausoleil became Anger's chauffeur and moved into his house, a former Russian embassy. The pair presented the Equinox of the Gods ritual for Mabon at the Straight Theatre, where Beausoleil's band, the Magick Powerhouse of Oz, performed. Inevitably the two fell out, with Anger accusing Beausoleil of stealing his Lucifer footage from his car trunk after the guitarist decamped. This was the impetus for the full-page October 26, 1967 obituary for himself that Anger ran in The Village Voice to mark not the end of his life, but his cinematic career: "In Memoriam Kenneth Anger Film Maker (1947-1967)." The advertisement recalled Crowley's 1930 mischief when the Beast staged a suicide in an unsuccessful attempt to interest a publisher in a novel about just such a stunt. Anger recycled what was left of Lucifer as his "attack on the sensorium," Invocation of My Demon Brother (1969), which won Film Culture's Tenth Independent Film Award that same year.

The director traveled to London, drifting into the orbit of the Rolling Stones, to whom he functioned as a kind of Cagliostro figure. Beausoleil had by this time been arrested and sentenced to death for the murder of Gary Hinman in a drug deal gone sour, though his sentence was commuted to life after California's abolition of capital punishment. The Stones' biographer Tony Sanchez contends that the group believed that Anger actually inspired Beausoleil to homicide, which made him a "perversely fascinating" figure for the rockers. Mick Jagger, whom Anger involved in his Lucifer project, is credited with "sound" on Invocation--an abrasive drone created on a Moog Modular synthesizer. (This same keyboard, which appears as a prop in Jagger's feature debut, Nicholas Roeg and Donald Cammell's Performance [1970], was sold by the dissatisfied singer to Berlin's Hansa by the Wall recording studio, and ultimately wound up in the capable hands of Tangerine Dream member Christopher Franke).

If ever a movie looked like a spell, Invocation of My Demon Brother (color, 11 minutes) is that picture in spades. The film is bookended by three yellow circles forming "as above, so below" triangles, effectively uniting starry world with atom. Horus appears in a painting under the titles. Anger combines frantic fragments of the Mabon ritual with shots of a dope-smoking funeral for his feline Midnight (LaVey cameos here in full devil gear, a shrunken cat head in each hand), as well as the Stones' disastrous, butterfly-obliterating Hyde Park concert in memory of their late guitarist Brian Jones, and looped footage of American soldiers disembarking from a helicopter in Vietnam. (This footage, printed on a C roll and playing to the A and B rolls, appears throughout Invocation and is allegedly visible through infrared glasses.) The albino Wand Bearer (Speed Hacker) presides over images of nude boys lounging and a hanged man's contorting legs, his photophobic eyes contracting in seemingly speed-induced muscular spasms. Back at the Straight Theatre, Beausoleil's band grooves while the Magus (Anger) holds aloft Mercury's symbol, burns Crowley's "Testament of Oz," and widdershins around a magic circle to summon Lucifer--Beausoleil's body with a solar swastika projected onto it. Images come at the viewer like missiles, kaleidoscopically and subliminally: the Eye of Ra, the Eye in the Triangle, Beausoleil's glowing orbs--more than any other Anger film, Invocation watches us while we watch it. The death-obsessed bikers of Scorpio have become the expendable legions of our National Security State, impulsively going to their doom in the eternal return of American empire-building, playing the war games of the War God. Anger's flame imagery is as powerful here as it is in Pleasure Dome; light scorches the retinas in pagan pyrotechnics. The film's most astonishing sequence is a smoky accelerated shot of Anger descending the staircase of his Embassy like a marble statue come alive, to (de)generate into a voodoo doll bearing the sign, "ZAP! YOU'RE PREGNANT! THAT'S WITCHCRAFT!"

Fantoma's internegative is taken from the original reversal A/B rolls and looks fine. The disc features, as a delightful bonus, part of the Magick Powerhouse of Oz's original recording sessions for Lucifer Rising--indeed, this is the band's only recording, period. This quasi-Indian forerunner of Beausoleil's later, definitive score was located by television producer Brian Butler, and was originally released as the second disc in White Dog's 2004 Lucifer Rising CD package. Fantoma urges the viewer to understand that this jam session is "not intended as an alternative soundtrack," though it makes a fascinating footnote to this film's strange history, and--given Anger's extensive modification of his work over the years--it deserves acceptance, and utilization, on its own considerable merits.



In 1979, Anger resurrected and condensed Rabbit's Moon as a surprise birthday present for Stan Brakhage's seven-year-old son Roark. This was achieved by skip-printing every other frame and substituting A Raincoat's demented pop ditty, "It Came in the Night," for the earlier doo-wop. (Actually, Anger uses it twice, which somewhat negates the effect; an extended remix would not be out of place here.) This "kiddie version" runs seven minutes and obviously omits much of the original--including, most distressingly, Pierrot's fate--well and truly transforming the film into a slapstick, quasi-music video. There are additional moody shots of clouds obscuring the moon that are not present in the original and are perhaps outtakes.

For years the only domestic video version of Rabbit's Moon has been the Raincoat cut, though BFI offered the original edition in Volume 2 of its Anger trilogy. Fantoma's sparkling upgrade of the '79 condensation stands, and capers, on its own.



Late the following year, Anger finally unveiled Lucifer Rising (color, 28 minutes)--his biggest-budgeted production--at New York's Whitney Museum. The bulk of Michael Cooper's photography had been completed in 1973, but Anger spent the next several years editing the picture. ("Devil Film to Get State Aid," the Sunday Telegraph had memorably complained in 1971.) Originally he had engaged his fellow Crowleyite, Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page, to score the picture. Page had an extensive collection of Crowley's books and artwork--the world's second largest, in fact--and lived in the Beast's Loch Ness castle, Boleskine. According to the audio commentary, Page delivered only twenty minutes' worth of music, and Anger required more. He doesn't discuss his fallout with Page, who cameos in Lucifer, or the sensational press conference he held to humiliate the guitarist. (Anger was particularly peeved that Page hadn't selected him to direct the band's 1976 concert opus, The Song Remains the Same, a tumultuous task that fell to Joe Massot and Peter Clifton.) Anger now renewed his friendship with the imprisoned Beausoleil, who agreed to score the picture with his all-inmate band, and who delivered one of the truly classic film soundtracks.

Filmed at various occult "power points" across the globe, Lucifer Rising juxtaposes long shots of the four elements with Anger's invocation of the Light-Bearer. Along the banks of the Nile, Isis (Miriam Gibril), the Life Force, signals to her lover Osiris (Donald Cammell), Lord of Death. The Adept (Haydn Couts) rises De Brier-like from his bed to continue their godly work, stares out his window at a golden dawn (symbolizing the Victorian occultists whose members included Crowley, MacGregor Mathers, and William Butler Yeats), and sacrifices a fair maiden. Lilith (Marianne Faithfull), Lucifer's rejected bride, awakens in a sarcophagus to the full moon, extends her arms under the Sphinx, and mounts the sacred solar temple at Externsteine where the Nazis initiated their Hitler-Jugend. The Magus (Anger) consecrates a magic circle, banishes the Lord of Chaos (Sir Francis Rose, one of Crowley's friends) in the center, and summons Lucifer (Leslie Huggins, whose jacket recalls the studded back in Scorpio Rising). The film climaxes with the reunion of Isis and Osiris as Wally Beavers' flying saucers soar above temple columns and the Sphinx, a charming bit of science fiction anticipated by the Mark VI birthday cake earlier presented to the Light Bearer.

Anger's Lucifer commentary is the most gossipy and entertaining of the bunch. He says of Gibril that she "had beautiful breasts and she wasn't at all shy about showing them." Cammell, who shot himself in the mid-Nineties, "was fascinated with death, and what're you gonna do?" (Curiously, Anger doesn't address Cammell's claim that he was one of Crowley's illegitimate children.) The most amusing recollections involve the drug-addled Faithfull: "Whenever she attempted to commit suicide, it was always with someone within range that could save her." Lucifer Rising, in truth, is littered with suicides; Cooper, who also photographed album covers for the Beatles, later took his life. (In typical fashion, Anger claimed responsibility for Cooper's final exit "because I bawled him out too often.") Anger deplores Faithfull's chain-smoking, "but Capricorns are very stubborn and you can't do anything about it. At least I don't care to." He also takes her to task for putting his crew at risk by smuggling a box of heroin into Egypt, a firing squad offense. The dope, which she concealed in a cosmetics case, "looked like gray powder, and since her makeup was gray anyway, I think sometimes she forgot herself and powdered herself with heroin."

Anger asserts that his crew observed an actual saucer at dawn, but the object moved too quickly for the camera and had to be recreated. It's worth noting that the contemporary vogue for UFOs dates back to 1947, the year of Parsons' Babalon Working, as the sorcerer scientist believed that alien spacecraft was an enigmatic engine in The Book of the Law. "The UFO is an idea intended to confound science," ethnobotanist Terrence McKenna wrote, "because science has begun to threaten the existence of the human species as well as the ecosystem of the planet." Our collective unconscious is thus alerting us to the ethical danger "whenever history builds to a certain kind of boil." The world inside our skull is transmitting hallucinogenic signals, but Anger states that, even though he "considered it like a sign from the gods that something was happening," he's "glad I don't know what it means, because it's a mystery....I certainly don't want the answer to everything." Anger's attitude extends to the rest of his commentaries, as he rarely discusses the esoteric meanings of his films.

Fantoma offers another sparkling transfer from a new internegative, and the score has been digitally remastered at Absinthe Studios from original sources. Beaulsoleil's soundtrack disc, though currently out of print, is available in digital download format, and is well worth seeking.



Anger's filmic output slowed to a crawl after Lucifer Rising. He has, however, been busy in recent years, and a splendid supplement to the second set is 2002's The Man We Want to Hang. (The punning title is courtesy of Lord Beaverbrook's Sunday Express attack on Crowley.) This wordless twelve-minute documentary examines thirty artworks either by or about the Great Beast, and was photographed at the October Gallery's 1998 Crowley retrospective. Anger's commentary is especially helpful as he identifies the various works while Adam Rogers' camera pans and zooms (lapsing for a split-second out of focus on one red-and-black-chalk mermaid piece). The film opens with Augustus John's sketch of Crowley, while along the way we see the mage's eerie self-portraits as ancient Chinese mystics with constellated orbs, his interpretations of the various Scarlet Women in his life (a portrait of Leah Sublime [Hirsig] sports a sinister grin like Conrad Veidt in Paul Leni's The Man Who Laughs [1928]), and watercolor landscapes of Stromboli (Anger helpfully points out the tiny tumescent figure in the lower left-hand corner) and Tibet. There are drawings of Adam, Eve, Cain, Abel, and the Serpent, as well as Crowley's vampiric rendition of his follower Gerald Yorke. Of particular interest is a landscape of the Boca de Infierno ("Mouth of Hell"), the Portugese cliff face where Crowley staged his suicide. There's also the guru's sketch of Norman Mudd, whom Anger derides as "one of Crowley's disciples that couldn't hack it," and actually did kill himself. The end credits are followed, most appropriately, by a noose. Anger received, this same year, the Los Angeles Film Critics' Lifetime Achievement Award.

The Man We Want to Hang looks fine in its digital rendition, and Anatol Liadov's music is perfect accompaniment. Fantoma's second Anger volume is slipcased with another booklet containing more behind-the-scenes photos, as well as appreciations by Guy Maddin and Gus Van Sant, plus additional hosannas from Scorcese. Bobby Beausoleil's essay, "Fallen Angel Blues," poignantly recounts his Freedom Orchestra's attempt to "[reach] out of the darkness to touch the inner light of their better natures." Restoration before-and-afters are included for all pictures except The Man We Want to Hang. The sets make a handsome pair, and sport Lucifer Rising's sphinx/saucer logo on both covers. All films appear in their original fullscreen ratios.



Anger has been credited with several apocryphal projects over the decades. Only thirteen copies (a reference to the original American colonies) of "the Eisenstein of Satanism"'s chained tricolor bicentennial box, Senators in Bondage (1976), were allegedly produced, while a year later wealthy collectors were offered Anger's Fireworks cannibalization, Matelots en Menotte ("Sailors in Handcuffs") in twelve pricey prints. Denunciation of Stan Brakhage (1979), the supposed cinematic result of a long-simmering fallout with his fellow auteur--Brakhage won a Film Culture award that Anger coveted--was scheduled for another dozen copies. According to Robert Haller of Anthology Film Archives, these mysterious items exist only as press releases, though Alice Hutchison's recent Anger-approved monograph still lists them in the director's filmography.

Anger's most visible endeavor in the Eighties was Hollywood Babylon II (1984), a book in which his bitterness got the better of him. Some of the material in this volume, as is the case with the original Babylon, should be approached with extreme skepticism. The "Hollywood Hospital" section, for example, reports with lip-smacking satisfaction that character actor George Zucco, best remembered for such Poverty Row gems as Dead Men Walk (1943) and The Flying Serpent (1946), died raving--"screaming he was being stalked by the Great God Cthulu!," no less--in a madhouse. It's a tantalizing Tale from the Darkside, but there's not a shred of truth in it. Anger's description of James Dean as a "human ashtray" craving cigarette burns at a leather bar is similarly lurid, and was decried by Dean's friend Dennis Hopper. One senses that Anger is lashing out at all and sundry, and the author paid a poetically exorbitant price for this: after sending a copy of the book to the Reagan White House with a note instructing the President's wife "to read page so and so," he promptly found himself being audited by the IRS. Anger admits that this bit of cheekiness "was one of the most stupid things I ever did." Desperate for cash, he sold the rights for Babylon to a television producer for a short-lived syndicated late-night show hosted by Tony Curtis.

Anger's other recent projects include Don't Smoke That Cigarette (2000), a compilation of ancient coffin nails commercials intercut with cancer footage, scored to the accompaniment of Hank Williams' "Smoke, Smoke, Smoke That Cigarette." A commentator at the Internet Movie Database complains that "Anger has simply taken a videotape produced in the 1990s called SMOKE THAT CIGARETTE, added 'Don't' and his name to it, and portrayed it as his own." If true, perhaps this act of cultural appropriation is an hommage to Marcel Duchamp. Ich Will! ("I Want!," 2000), described as "an ironic re-editing of Nazi propaganda films dealing with...the Hitler Youth," was commissioned by, and premiered at, Austria's Donau Festival. Anger Sees RED (2004) is a brief high-definition video in which Anger follows the titular muscled youth through the streets of Hollywood and De Longpre Park. Elliot's Suicide (2004) is a tribute to Anger's late neighbor, former Heatmiser singer Elliot Smith, who terminated a promising solo career by stabbing himself in the heart. The long-delayed Mouse Heaven, also completed the same year with the help of a Rockefeller Foundation Media Arts grant, is a delightful collage of rare Mickey Mouse memorabilia from the legendary Birnkrant collection. Anger prefers the character's original incarnation as a demonic rat, and possibly this piece is his revenge on Walt Disney, of whom he once remarked, "When I meet [him] in hell I'll kick him in the balls" for emasculating poor Mickey. Mouse Heaven was shot on video, includes songs by Ian Whitcomb and the Proclaimers, and marks Anger's first use of CGI. Finally, I'll Be Watching You (2007) and Foreplay (2008) revisit the voyeurism of Anger Sees RED: in the first film, a lovemaking security guard and bodyguard are observed by another man on a surveillance monitor; in the second, the camera erotically scrutinizes a practicing soccer team.

In 1995 Anger himself received the Babylon treatment with the publication of Bill Landis' unauthorized biography. Anger unleashed his lawyers on Landis, the publisher of underground cinema journal Sleazoid Express, comically and ludicrously demanding that the book contain no pictures of him. Landis carefully delineated the many discrepancies in Anger's legend, and for thirteen years seemed to have weathered the spell the director placed upon him--a defiance trumpeted on the Sleazoid website: "The book he couldn't curse away! Feel Ken Anger's agony of being pressed between two covers!" (Landis succumbed at age 48 to heart failure in December 2008.) Alice L. Hutchison's more recent tome (2004), a nominee for the New Zealand Prime Minister's Award for Literary Achievement, was produced with Anger's full cooperation, and unsurprisingly steers clear of the various inconsistencies of its subject's life and work. It does, however, offer stunning stills from his films, which Anger has exhibited in galleries around the world as part of his "Icons" series. Also invaluable is the reprinting of Anger's 1950 statement on Fireworks, "Application d'Artifice," originally published in Jean Boulet's St. Cinema des Pres, as well as 1951's Cahiers du Cinema essay, "Modesty and the Art of Film." Readers should be aware that Hutchison has been accused by Miriam Dagan of plagiarizing the latter's post-graduate thesis on Anger, as well as a Carel Rowe essay on the director, charges Hutchison vehemently denies.

Anger has been credited with penning Atlantis: The Lost Continent, but this work was actually composed by Crowley for part of his Equinox series, while the director contributed an introduction decades later. He also translated Lo Duca's A History of Eroticism into English (1961), although he has falsely been attributed authorship. Deborah Allison, reviewing Hutchison's monograph in the online Film Journal, states that Anger provided forewords for Anton LaVey's last two volumes, The Devil's Notebook (1993) and the posthumous Satan Speaks! (1999), but those introductions are actually credited to Feral House publisher Adam Parfrey and musician Marilyn Manson, respectively. Anger definitely wrote the foreword for David K. Frasier's 2002 compilation, Suicide in the Entertainment Industry, and his essay, "A Vivianne Romance: Ode to a French Screen Legend," composed in suitably Babylon-ian style, appears in Jack Stevenson's 2002 sexploitation survey Fleshpot.

Anger completed Hollywood Babylon III some years ago, but complains that E.P. Dutton rejected the manuscript for being "too rough." Observer journalist Sanjiv Bhattacharya, investigating this claim in 2004, notes that Dutton's editors "know nothing of such a manuscript." This third volume is said to contain various explicit sexual and violent images, including an alleged photo (which Anger has been promising to reveal for at least three decades) of Marlon Brando performing fellatio. There's also an expose of Tinseltown's Scientology connection, and Anger believes that fear of Church litigation has hindered publication. The director's autobiography, Look Back Ken Anger, has also been promised. Authors Darwin Porter and Danforth Prince have recently published their own Hollywood Babylon, and Anger's curses are once again flying through the ether.

While the world awaits Anger's new literary efforts, a lovely tribute to the director is available on YouTube. Verdi Cries (for Kenneth Anger) sets Natalie Merchant's song to a montage of Cycle scenes, but is slightly compromised by printed scrawls praising the director, when surely his images should be sufficient. Anger is battling prostate cancer, and expected to die on Samhain 2008, but happily the Magus is still with us. Erstwhile Soft Cell crooner Marc Almond, who himself nearly perished in a motorcycle crash several years ago, has recently covered Scorpio"s "Devil in Disguise" for a planned tribute disc to the director.

The most interesting recent Anger-related work is Zachary Lazar's 2008 novel Sway, which recreates and reimagines the Sixties through the cultural collision of Anger, the Stones, Beausoleil, and Manson. It's an absorbing, vaguely DeLillo-esque exploration of the underside of the hippie dream, from Brian Jones' swimming pool to Altamont and Spahn Ranch. Lazar captures the madness that constituted this decade as accurately as the filmmaker's magick lantern. Anger is the subject of Elio Gelmini's Anger Me (2006), and appears in Nik Sheehan's 2008 documentary about Brion Gysin and his Dreamachine, FLicKeR. He also performs on theremin with guitarist Brian Butler as the "magick ritual of light and sound" duo Technicolor Skull.

If Kenneth Anger has chosen to reign in the underground rather than serve in Hollywood, the cinema has been immeasurably enriched by his rebellion. His career is an extended psychic enchantment, a radiation of astral realms though the display of trapped light. Despite his dark influence on film and music video, one cannot truly imagine this iconoclast being absorbed into the mainstream; rather, he has absorbed the mainstream into his work, deforming and transforming it. Manipulating his Ektachrome and digital demons by the might of his will, Anger reminds us that, as P.D. Ouspensky so memorably put it, "Man has within him everything from a mineral to God." He is the world's most significant pagan filmmaker, and Fantoma's splendid restoration of the Magick Lantern Cycle at long last gives this devil his due.


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