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An army of gay/nazi bikers make their engines roar and ride the way to pain/pleasure as sexual and sadistic symbols are intercut into the dazing chaos and rhythmic experiences of this underground film by cult director Anger. Written by
Bruce Byron worked as a motorcycle messenger in Manhattan. His zodiac sign was Scorpio, and so he called himself that, as well as carrying at all times the scorpion amulet which he is seen kissing and holding in the film. The honorable discharge certificate from the United States Marine Corps, on the wall above his bed, was his own, as were all the pictures of James Dean and Marlon Brando, of whom he was a big fan. He is seen reading the Sunday comics section from a newspaper, which really was his favorite thing to read. The newspaper clipping near his bed, with the headline "CYCLE HITS HOLE & KILLS TWO," was about an accident in Times Square that had killed one of his friends. Another friend, who worked in a medical-products factory in New Jersey, had supplied him with the pure methamphetamine powder which he snorts from his fingers during the "Heat Wave" sequence. See more »
One of Kenneth Anger's most popular and thematically accessible short films, "Scorpio Rising" consists of a series of montage images overlain by thirteen pop songs of the early 1960s. The film expresses nonconformist themes that herald the onset of the American counterculture movement. As the visuals focus on a group of New York City motorcyclists, viewers perceive a bohemian lifestyle, a nihilistic subtext, elements of erotica, and an amusing sense of irony from the juxtaposition of images and music.
There is no plot, no dialogue, no sets, no acting. Anger simply records on camera what he finds as he happens onto these bikers, who are not actors. Sans music, the film could easily be thought of as a polished home movie. It conveys a sense of realism and frankness. Cinematography is somewhat grainy; colors are muted. There are many close-up camera shots, and quite a few extreme close-ups.
The music gives thematic depth to the images and imposes varying moods and feelings, not the least of which is nostalgia, along with melancholy, lost childhood, rebellion, humor, and just a hint of fatalism. Probably one of the better sequences is the Bobby Vinton recording of "Blue Velvet" recorded over images of a couple of young guys who don their biker uniforms. A sequence or two in the middle seems either unnecessary or out of place. Editing is a bit fast and erratic in the second half.
Prospective viewers should expect the unexpected, given that "Scorpio Rising" is a 1960s underground film. It is definitely different. This is one of several that Anger made, all experimental. In retrospect, he can be thought of as a poetic visionary whose cultural influence is still being felt in the 21st century, especially in cinema.
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