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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
The church scenes were filmed inside an old church next to the Brooklyn garage where the party was taking place. The church building had been abandoned and was being demolished, and Anger got into it, with his camera, through a broken door. Scorpio's climbing on the altar during the "I Will Follow Him" sequence, delivering an excited political rant, and kicking old prayer-books and hymnals off the railing and to the floor, was all Bruce Byron's idea. The scene during the "Torture" sequence of a young man having his trousers and underwear pulled off, and a full bottle of mustard squeezed onto his naked abdomen, was the club initiation of a new member - having mustard rubbed over the groin and testicles, which caused a burning sensation but was not permanently harmful. See more »
Scorpio Rising marks the beginning of the mix-tape approach to film-making, the technique of adding texture, flow, counter-point to images by over-laying them with a soundtrack of pop songs. Kenneth Anger takes this technique to its limit right from the start, eschewing dialogue, narrative and everything else in favor of a thirty-minute greatest-hits medley wedded to a chaotic assemblage of pictures having to do with some gay-Nazi-anarchists engaged in all manner of rebellious behavior, from reading comic books to smearing mustard on a fat guy's stomach and tearing his pants off. The result is a bizarre fusion of the innocent and the profane, the quaintness of yesterday's Elvis/Bobby Vinton hits alongside the amateurish depravity and two-bit spectacle of Anger's underground opus.
Despite its reputation as a sort of counter-culture landmark, the movie seems largely irrelevant, a museum piece commemorating the excesses of '60s cult movie-making. It consists primarily of badly-lit home-movies of some nameless, faceless leather-fetishists posing like the most slovenly male-models you can remember, then going to some degraded costume-ball that degenerates into the sort of orgiastic hi-jinks that were a staple of "controversial" sixties cinema. For kicks, Anger keeps cutting in little snippets from a silent movie about Jesus, demonstrating a grammar-school-level sense of how to shock middle-brow audiences. This is avant-gardism at its most obnoxiously pointless, the deliberate mingling of opposing elements (bubbly pop tunes over random sexual carnage, cross-cutting between a gay-Nazi orgy and shots of the Last Supper) for the purpose of suggesting all sorts of potential meanings, none of which have been sufficiently thought-out.
Anger is so concerned with creating an intense experience that he forgets anything he might've known about film technique and simply wallows in his own fanatical, vaguely Satanic weirdness. Yet despite the film's sloppiness, it occasionally points the way toward what later, better filmmakers would do with the director's indisputably pioneering idea. The fusion of pop-music and pop-image (see the Layla sequence in Goodfellas; bits of Easy Rider; much of Tarantino) can lead to a sense of electricity, a heightening, where a moment can come to summarize the whole of the film texturally. The first glimmers of this galvanizing effect can be felt for a second here-and-there in Scorpio Rising, but either Anger didn't understand what he was on to, or didn't care. As so often happens in experimental film, the pioneer has the inspiration but lacks the expertise, the know-how necessary to employ the technique in a meaningful way. The little ripples of potential energy never amount to anything for Anger, who winds up coming across like Roger Corman without the movie-making acumen.
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