Experimental filmmaker, Hollywood historian, and occultist Kenneth Anger died earlier this month. Anger had quite the storied career, especially if you believed everything he told you. Anger said he got his start playing a cherubic changeling child in the Warner Bros. version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. From there, he collected Hollywood gossip and rumor into Hollywood Babylon, a tawdry paperback that helped fund his experimental film career. Anger’s use of popular music, his overtly queer and occult themes, and his audacious use of color all impacted later filmmakers like Martin Scorsese and John Waters. In many ways, Anger also pioneered what would become the music video, using montage and popular music to tell slippery stories of lust and violence. Lucky for us, many of his most important works are on YouTube.
Rips of Fireworks, Scorpio Rising, Kustom Kar Kommandos, Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome, and Lucifer Rising are all available on YouTube. The original soundtrack to Lucifer Rising is also available to stream on YouTube, despite being taken off Spotify. Lucifer Rising’s score was done by Manson family killer Bobby Beausoleil while in prison for the murder of Gary Hinman, with an all-inmate orchestra.
The quality is low, but in a way that almost adds to the furtive and legally dicey energy of Anger’s work. The man was not afraid of offending prevailing sensibilities or courting controversy. If there ever was an illicit, under-the-counter filmmaker, it was Kenneth Anger.