Kenneth Anger Lucifer Rising 1966-1981
Kenneth Anger’s film Lucifer Rising has gone through many incarnations, from the incompleted 1967 original to a remake that took from 1970-1981 to fully realise – not to forget four attempted soundtracks – 1967: Bobby Beausoleil, 1969: Mick Jagger, 1972-3: Jimmy Page and the final 1979-1980: Beausoleil.
Confused? I was.
The theme of Lucifer, the light bearer, first manifested in Anger’s work in his 1947 film Fireworks. As he explained in the 1970 German documentary Magier des Untergrundfilms, he was only 17 years old when he portrayed a seeker, who, by striking matches conjurors a group of sailors who beat him as a youthful rite of passage. Lacking any special effects capability he hand painted a blob that was intended to represent Lucifer as a flash of light directly onto the film negative.
Following initiation into Aleister Crowley’s Ordo Templi Orientis, Lucifer Rising was intended as a celluloid homage to the order’s recognition of ancient Semitic, Babylonian and Egyptian gods. Inspired by Crowley’s poem Hymn to Lucifer, Anger’s project originated in San Francisco in 1966. His Lucifer wasn’t tainted by the Western-Christian devil, that confusion originates with a mistranslation (circa 1611) for the King James Bible. Anger’s Lucifer was the Greek ‘bringer of light’, the Promethean fallen angel who delivers divine knowledge to humankind. Lucifer is also the Roman name for the planet Venus in its early morning aspect.
Anger’s Lucifer began life with Bobby Beausoleil, a 19-year-old musician from Santa Barbara. As he drifted down the coast, he joined Arthur Lee’s band The Grass Roots in L.A (prior to their evolution into Love). After his arrival in San Francisco, Anger spotted him performing with The Orkustra at The Invisible Circus, a legendary 3 day Diggers’ event, (beginning 24th February 1967). In return for his participation, Bobby moved into Anger’s decaying mansion (for free) at Westerfeld House, 1198 Fulton, off Alamo Square. Beausoleil formed The Magick Powerhouse of O (Anger advised against ‘OZ’), to record a soundtrack for the project and several scenes were shot inside the mansion.
On 21st September 1967 Lucifer Rising “the stage-show” was performed at the Straight Theatre on Haight St. Anger, the Magus, performed a highly theatrical ritual with live music from the Magick Powerhouse of O. The 24 mins+ of music recorded at the event has since become regarded as Lucifer Rising soundtrack #1, however footage from the event was ultimately destined for another project.
Exactly what followed is sketchy. Accounts have been revised as old grievances were resolved. Anger’s car disappeared with 1600 feet of Lucifer Rising footage in the trunk and …Bobby Beausoleil also vanished.
There was a previous disagreement over $700 that was invested in marijuana, instead of instruments. As Anger later commented in Magier des Untergrundfilms, shot during the making of Lucifer Rising II, “the angel of light turned out to be a devil in disguise.” Worse still, his Lucifer was now involved with the devil incarnate – Charles Manson. For all the mystique surrounding Manson, he was nothing more than a celebrity hustler who resorted to supplying drugs to ingratiate himself. A failure, he bitterly retaliated with a psychotic extortion racket that resulted in multiple murders.
Supposedly, when Beausoleil’s vehicle broke down in the desert, he was seduced into Manson’s “family” of dumpster harpies. Allegedly the stolen Lucifer Rising footage was “held ransom” at Manson’s lair, The Spahn Movie Ranch, a derelict film location in the desert. Furious, but not wanting to battle the devil, Anger quit the US for Britain. A wise decision, since Beausoleil was jailed for his involvement in Manson’s instigated murder of Gary Hinman in July 1969.
Prior to leaving, Anger declared his death (as a film maker) with a full page “in Memoriam” (as Crowley had done previously) in the Village Voice (26th October 1967).
Whether an early cut or work-in-progress of Lucifer Rising was ever publicly screened in 1967 remains a mystery. There was however a poster printed, designed by Rick Griffin. He lifted an 1870 engraving by Gustave Dore of Lucifer rising to heaven from an illustrated edition of Milton’s 17th C.E. epic poem Paradise Lost. In 2013, I showed a copy to Anger and dared to inquire- he was professionally dismissive: “just an early version“.
During a tour of North Africa, Europe and Britain in the early 1950s, Anger met Robert Fraser in London. Despite his privileged Etonian schooling, Fraser was every bit as maverick as Anger. Not only could he pass himself off at high society functions but – also gay –he could penetrate the criminal -gay- underworld of the Krays. He even claimed to have slept with the future Ugandan dictator Idi Amin! Since opening the Robert Fraser Gallery in the early sixties he was internationally renowned as one of the most influential pop-art dealers. As a fixture of Swinging London, the pop elite flocked to him… Not only did he commission two of his artists, Peter Blake and Jann Haworth, to design The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s LP cover but another of his artists, Richard Hamilton, designed the conceptual “White Album” package (the polar opposite of Pepper). If that wasn’t enough, when he sold McCartney a Rene Magritte painting of an apple, he planted the seed for the name of The Beatles’ new business venture. In terms of pop-culture, no one was more influential than Fraser. However, by 1968 the dream of Swinging London was in decline and so was Fraser. He was the only person involved with the infamous 1967 Rolling Stones drug bust to be jailed (for heroin possession). Hamilton immortalised the press coverage with his Swingeing (sic) London series of artworks.
However, Fraser’s attitude to heroin was clear : the only problem was not being able to afford a good, clean supply. As the psychedelic haze of the summer-of-love evaporated, he introduced his pop-star elite to opiates, the new drug-du -jour.
In a BBC documentary Anita Pallenberg freely admitted, “Robert turned me on to heroin“. He was probably (if not -almost certainly) the source too for her boyfriend Keith Richards, also Marianne Faithfull and John Lennon (errand boys were often sent from Apple HQ on Saville Row to collect ‘packages’ from the Gallery around the corner on Davies Street). In Miles’ biography of him, McCartney confesses that he tried heroin once- at Fraser’s instigation.
In 1967 Ajit Moorkerjee published an influential book, Tantra Art. For the recently enlightened it was a revelation. The Beatles were all sent copies by Miles from the Indica Bookshop. Meanwhile in Texas, Tommy Hall of the 13th Floor Elevators, selected the same two images as the front and back covers of the band’s seminal Easter Everywhere LP, that Harrison had painted on the roof and bonnet of his psychedelic mini (as seen in Magical Mystery Tour). While Easter Everywhere remains THE psychedelic LP of 1967, it went ignored by the wider record buying public, who instead, opted for Sgt Pepper. Allegedly Mookerjee, unhappy with Harrison’s plagiarism, tried to sue until it was established that repainting ancient artworks didn’t constitute copyright violation.
Upon his release from prison Fraser switched from dealing in superficial pop-art to eastern religious artefacts- particularly Tibetan prayer scrolls. Eventually, he quit the UK to study Sufi trance dance in India. Nik Douglas, (ex-pirate radio Caroline) was one of the ‘regulars‘ at Fraser’s flat on 23 Mount Street and knew Mookerjee via his travels collecting artwork in India and Tibet. Fraser proposed to reopen the gallery (which had remained closed while he was in prison) with an exhibition of Douglas’ inventory. Douglas recalls (in Harriet Vyner’s excellent biography of Fraser, Groovy Bob) the gallery being in “disarray” and instead Fraser sold much of Douglas’ collection privately – a lot to John Lennon.
Douglas also proposed filming the Kumbh Mela Festival, (held every 12 years) in Rishikesh, India. Fraser loved the idea and formed a production company. “The Stones” agreed to fund the venture – how could they refuse after the bust? Kenneth Anger was invited to tag along, in what became an unscripted, Magical Mystery Tour style film project. While this might have been the post-prison “sojourn” Fraser needed, it left Douglas burdened with the responsibility of directing while producing –in India, which is always chaotic. ‘The plan’ was to join the Beatles in Rishikesh where they’d be studying transcendental meditation with the Maharishi Yogi (February-April 1968). With everyone either high, arguing, or both, Anger dubbed the project Tantrum not Tantra. When he was asked to step in and salvage the project, he split to Egypt taking camera and film stock.
Back in London, and despite friends in high places, Anger wasn’t universally popular. When John Lennon held his first solo art show You Are Here in July 1968 at Fraser’s gallery , Anger, armed with lit sparklers, tried to pop as many of the 365 white balloons as he could, much to the annoyance of Fraser and presumably John & Yoko.
However, Anger’s hocus pocus wasn’t focused wasn’t on the Beatles. Not only did he desire the Stones bi-sexual (according to Faithfull’s autobiography) lead singer but he also fancied him as the new Lucifer. Since The Stones’ current LP was titled Their Satanic Majesties Request and their new song (filmed by Jean Luc Godard) was Sympathy for the Devil, how could he be wrong? Further Jagger and Faithfull were both interviewed for the Lucifer worshipping Process Church’s magazine. In 1968 Jagger & Anita Pallenberg starred in Donald Cammell’s film Performance. Cammell knew Crowley as a boy and his father Charles published one of the earliest biographies in 1951 The Man, The Mage, The Poet. For Anger this was a simple task of joining the dots … Jagger = Lucifer.
Jagger played along with Anger as far as recording a monotonal Moog synthesiser soundtrack for Lucifer Rising but backed out of the acting role, later suggesting his brother Chris for the role. Although production started on Lucifer II with Jagger II, it soon halted after to an onset altercation. In her autobiography Faithfull claims that when things didn’t work out as Anger hoped, he became a nuisance. He’d turn up outside Mick’s house on Cheyne Walk, Chelsea and throw William Blake books through the open window. Jagger retaliated by burning all the occult works Anger had been trying to ‘groom’ him with (Crowley and Eliphas Levi etc). Marianne Faithfull also claimed that both Mick and Keith were sceptical about Anger’s “satanic hocus-pocus” and neither took him seriously.
With the Lucifer Rising project seemingly dead, Anger edited the surviving footage shot at Westerfeld House (featuring Bobby Beausoleil & and Anton Lavey of the Church of Satan) with the footage from the Straight Theater. The “new” 11-minute film was called, Invocation of My Demon Brother. To lay all the old demons (surrounding the project) to rest he added footage from the Stones’ performing at the Brian Jones memorial concert in Hyde Park on 5th July 1969 and edited everything to Jagger’s Moog soundtrack. The film was distributed via the underground film network from August 1969. Rivalled visually only by Anger’s Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome, Invocation of My Demon Brother is my favourite of his films. The results were abrasive and harsh, yet spectacular: split screen naked torsos, skull bongs, dead cats and a cast of freaks- this was unique celluloid magick.
If link is broken: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6hViwq39nU8&feature=emb_logo
This is the nearest we can get to the original Lucifer Rising- the final cut edited to Beausoleil and the Magic Powerhouse of O live performance at the Straight Theatre in 1967.
Lucifer II: Part I
Lucifer II was Leslie Huggins, a former steel worker from Middlesbrough, who Anger “street cast” when he was exiting a London Tube station.
On 4th February 1969 Jann Haworth opened a solo show at the Robert Fraser Gallery . She recalls (again in Harriet Vyner’s biography) Anger attending with “Lucifer in tow”. Despite her scepticism (and annoyance) with Anger and his project, she designed and made the iconic Lucifer Rising jacket.
While Fraser was in India studying dance, Anger took over Fraser’s new flat on 120 Mount Street (he’d moved from #23) in 1969/70. With alleged funding from Anita Pallenberg, he hung a sign on the door, “cursed be he who disturbs the sleep of the pharaohs” and set about filming Lucifer Rising mark II in the basement.
A press conference / photo op was staged with several other underground film makers and/or photographers in attendance, including Dennis Hooper and Alejandro Jodorowsky.
As mentioned, he allowed a German film crew to document the making of Lucifer Rising. Possibly for publicity and/or funding, he tolerated them as a necessary evil, up to a point. He clearly hated the director’s dry, earnest interrogation of his motivation, while resenting exposing his film making process.
Anger recreated his role of Magus conjuring the same named deities from a magic circle as he had previously done at the Straight Theater in 1967 (albeit on a less spectacular scale). Conveniently Fraser’s flat was already decorated with mashrabiya screens (presumably c/o Christopher Gibbs, who also set dressed Performance). While the rich, red lacquer corridors suited the project perfectly, the scene that always jars is when Lucifer, covered in blood, gets into a roll top bath beside a large Victorian Bass Ale mirror from a pub! Jimmy Page also appears, glazing lovingly at a portrait of Crowley. They’d met at a Sotheby’s auction in London containing Crowley lots. Supposedly Anger was instrumental in convincing Page to purchase Boleskine, Crowley’s former residence, on the shores of Loch Ness in Scotland. The remote building was acquired solely to perform the Abra-Melin, a gruelling six-month ritual, which Crowley inadvisedly broke off to appear in Paris to defend his position in the Golden Dawn. Crowley’s time at Boleskine has led to many myths, including that he invented the Loch Ness monster to frighten people away while he conducted the ritual and that a curse remained over the property (and Crowley) for not completing the magick. While Led Zeppelin fans imaginations run wild as to what Page did in the house, he gave a very down to earth explanation when I asked him, it was just a get-away, where he could write new material – no satanic worship… nothing creepy going on.
When Anger & the documentary crew arrived on location in Avebury Stone circle (which Anger claimed was the earliest known Sun Temple) his interaction with film unit became outright hostile and filming halted on both projects.
Although Huggins disappeared, Anger had enough footage to present Lucifer Rising, Part I, to the National Film Finance Corporation. Although he was granted £15,000 in completion funds, the evil and conservative Sunday Telegraph newspaper ran a headline “Devil Film to Get State Aid” in March 1971.
Despite her previous misgivings, Marianne Faithfull, (who according to her autobiography – now post Jagger, homeless & hopelessly addicted to heroin) agreed to portray the ancient goddess Lilith. Anger also recruited Donald Cammell and his partner Myriam Gibril, to represent Osiris & Isis. Filming took place in both Egypt & Germany. In order to film at the ancient monuments in Giza, Karnak and Luxor Anger had to lie to the Egyptian authorities and pretend he was filming cutaway shots of actors in costume for a historical documentary.
Faithfull once again claimed Anger hadn’t a clue what he was doing as either a director or magician, but seriously addicted to heroin, neither did she. At the final location in Germany, the Neolithic site, Horn-Bad Meinberg, she was so out of it that she rolled down a sheer drop and landed on her feet, unharmed.
Anger’s films are art house, full of implied or allegorical meaning- NOT linear narratives. There seem to have been plenty of participants and collaborators who clearly didn’t understand his filming methods, especially when on Lucifer Rising, not only Faithfull but Beausoleil, Huggins and Chris Jagger …
With enough footage shot, Anger approached Jimmy Page for a soundtrack. He agreed, and allowed Anger to use his basement as a cutting room. Although a version was supposedly screened using Page’s soundtrack in 1973, in 1976 the project still wasn’t deemed complete. Anger blamed Page for only providing 20 mins of music, when he needed 40+. What was he supposed to do – repeat it?
Page’s wife Charlotte, fed up with Anger’s constant presence threw him out. Various quotes can be found on other websites, declaring Page as drug user, a miser, with no new melodies to offer, presumably he also received one of Anger’s many curses.
Whatever the issue, Page’s score was amazing and a complete departure from any expected guitar heroics. It’s been bootlegged on numerous occasions but eventually in 2012, he revisited, remixed and reedited the soundtrack for release- via his website.
When Beausoleil learned of the new Lucifer Rising Mark II, he contacted Anger from prison and offered to compose a second Lucifer Rising soundtrack. So, while still incarcerated for his role in the Manson murder a decade earlier, Beausoleil formed the Freedom Orchestra and recorded a new soundtrack, which was first issued in 1980.
The version of Lucifer Rising, that is now widely in circulation uses his soundtrack and finally in 1981 the project ended.
Tags: Aleister Crowley, Anita Pallenberg, Bobby Beausoleil, Cult Films, Jann Haworth, Jimmy Page, Kenneth Anger, Lucifer Rising, Manson Family, Marrianne Faithfull, Mick Jagger, Robert Fraser, The Beatles, Undedrground Cinema, Underground Film