Thursday, June 18, 2009


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.