As far as Crowleyite/Thelemite films are concerned, Kenneth Anger’s perennially unfinished work Lucifer Rising (1972) is the greatest celluloid expression of the hedonistic English Occultist’s prophecy of the Aeon of Horus as depicted in his central sacred text The Book of the Law (aka Liber AL vel Legis). Crowley described the third Aeon as a time of self-realization and self-actualization controlled by a child god (as symbolized by the solar god Horus) where, ". . .the crowned and conquering child, who dieth not, nor is reborn, but goeth radiant ever upon His Way. Even so goeth the Sun: for as it is now known that night is but the shadow of the Earth, so Death is but the shadow of the Body, that veileth his Light from its bearer" (Heart of the Master). The version of Lucifer Rising that exists today is Anger’s second attempt at directing the film. After having a dubious falling out with his innately heterosexual Luciferian Don Juan Bobby "Cupid" Beausoleil that resulted in the disappearance of most of the footage (which Beausoleil denies was ever stolen/ever existed) of his initial attempt at directing Lucifer Rising that began production sometime around 1966, Anger abandoned the project and would not reattempt to direct the film until a number of years later. In one pompous drama-queen scheme inspired by his severed relationship with boy Cupid, Anger even went so far as putting out a full-age ad in The Village Voice newspaper with the text, "In Memoriam Kenneth Anger 1947–1967" inscribed over the image over a gravestone, henceforth setting sail to Europa. As indicated by Anger’s brilliant short Invocation of My Demon Brother (1969) – a work assembled from the surviving footage of Anger’s first attempt at Lucifer Rising with Beausoleil playing the leading role (described as “A fragment made in fury… the last blast of Haight consciousness” in a 1975 interview with Anger) – the Crowleyite auteur filmmaker’s ideas and aesthetic developed quite drastically from his original attempt at the film. Although Beausoleil would only go on to play himself in the mediocre mondo flick Mondo Hollywood (1967) and as an Injun in the C-grade/X-rated western Ramrodder (1969) and never get to star as Lucifer in the released version of Lucifer Rising due to his imprisonment for murdering hippie drug dealer Gary Hinman while hanging out with Charles Manson and the family, he would go on to replace a rock star as famous as Jimmy Page (Anger was quite dissatisfied with his opium-inspired melodies) and compose a potent psychedelic score for the film while in prison, thus still lending his suave Svengali metaphysical influences in a most hypnotic, memorable, and enduring way. Anger stated of the entire melodramatic incident with Beausoleil, "but the fallen angel and I had a falling out. Well, it almost worked out." While missing the irreplaceable carnal and charismatic Cupid in the starring role, Lucifer Rising turned out much better than expected under the circumstances. Featuring vivacious special effects created by Wally Veevers (Lawrence of Arabia, 2001: A Space Odyssey) and extrinsic transmundane footage from an erupting volcano in Iceland, the iconic ruins of Luxor, Egypt, Stonehenge, England and the Externsteine rock formation of Ostwestfalen-Lippe, Germany – a spot some argue is an ancient Teutonic solar temple – among various other famous/infamous occult hotspots, Lucifer Rising is a true work of awe-inspiring world cinema with nil contemporaries.
Kenneth Anger’s Lucifer (largely inspired by Crowley’s poem Hymn to Lucifer) is not the devil portrayed by Christianity, but a rebellious god of beauty and light similar to the one depicted by the tragic German medievalist-writer-turned-disloyal-SS-Obersturmführer Otto Rahn (Crusade Against the Grail, Lucifer's Court). In a totally fitting manner, Anger casted Scottish cult auteur Donald Cammell (Performance, White of the Eye) as Osiris – the lord of death – which is no surprise considering the morbid, death-obsessed filmmaker grew up with Aleister Crowley as a neighbor and would later take his own life in a manner not unlike that of the lead character in his legendary debut feature-length film. Apparently, Cammell was so preoccupied with quietus that he asked for a mirror to watch his worldly demise shortly after fatally wounding himself, thus making his performance in Lucifer Rising seem all the more pertinent and penetrating. Osiris is summoned in the beginning of Lucifer Rising by Isis – the ancient Egyptian Goddess that was worshipped as the ideal mother/wife and the patron of nature and magic – played by Myriam Gibril; a topless tanned beauty who perfectly personifies the role. In ancient Egyptian cosmology, unlike within Christianity, there are no false dichotomies (e.g. good vs. evil), but a balance between life and death as the characters of Osiris and Isis ultimately symbolize. Junky singer Marianne Faithfull played the role of Lilith; a powerful demoness that emblematizes female discontent, as expressed so vividly by the grayish/bluish tones of her costumes and make-up, due to her emotionally-crippling rejection by Lucifer. Throughout the production of Lucifer Rising, Ms. Faithfull faithfully snorted heroin that was conveniently located inside her make-up compact; an act that according to Anger, could have gotten the whole crew of the film executed by way of firing squad in Egypt had she been caught. Anger felt she was unerring for the role due to her overwhelming melancholy at the time, as expressed by various botched suicide attempts that even occurred during the production of Lucifer Rising, thus bestowing an ensured psychodramatic authenticity to her performance. Considering blonde-haired Marianne Faithfull, a spoiled lady of Jewish ancestry, walks through the Externsteine – a SS holy site that the National Socialists built a bridge for (as seen in the film) and the spot where the Hitler-Jugend leader Baldur von Schirach gave the Hitler Youth boys their first daggers – Lucifer Rising often has a certain depraved irony that Aleister Crowley would have undoubtedly appreciated. Due to their torn relationship and Beausoleil's imprisonment, Anger casted Leslie Huggins – a relatively unknown English-steel-mill-worker-turned-French-farmer who the auteur described as, “a real Lucifer” and “an authentic demon in human form” due to his mysterious disappearances throughout the production of Lucifer Rising – for the iconic role of Lucifer. Chris Jagger, brother of Mick, was originally casted as the high priest in the film but only one scene of the inquisitive young lad was used in the final cut of Lucifer Rising due to his constant pestering of Kenneth Anger in regard to the meaning of the Thelemite symbols and archetypes featured throughout the work. As a non-initiate and someone that previously had little interest in Thelema, I can honestly say that like Mick’s lesser known brother, Lucifer Rising has inspired me to want to dig a little deeper into The Great Beast 666’s hyper-hedonistic pseudo-religion.
In a 1995 interview with Austrian ‘neofolk’ musician Gerhard Hallstatt aka Kadmon (Allerseelen), Kenneth Anger revealed regarding Lucifer Rising, “I have filmed another part – the two parts together are one hour long. But I only have the work print for the second part and I need some additional money for the special effects after the printing.” Considering it has been nearly two decades since the interview and the aged auteur is well into his mid-80s, one can only wonder whether or not Anger will release the definitive cut of Lucifer Rising. By itself, the 29-minute short is a masterpiece of cine-magick and arguably the homophile auteur filmmaker’s celluloid magnum opus, so the prospective of an extended version of Lucifer Rising sounds like it could either be a beautiful blessing or a cinematic travesty as testified by Francis Ford Coppola’s butchered 2001 Redux of Apocalypse Now (1979), but then again, Kenneth Anger is not one known for making artistic compromises, hence the relatively small number of films that make up his masterly Magick Lantern Cycle. Not unsurprisingly, Lucifer Rising has gone on to inspire a number of artists and musicians from generations both old and new. In 1971, Donald Cammell began the production of the short film The Argument (1999); a once-lost work that was released posthumously nearly 30 years later starring his Lucifer Rising costar/lover Myriam Gibril in a mystical performance (as ‘Aisha, the witch’) very similar (and also topless), if more comical, to her role in Anger’s film. Lucifer Rising has also been very influential on various musicians, especially among the European neofolk/martial industrial/post-industrial movement. On their classic album Swastikas for Noddy (1988), neofolk group Current 93 featured a song entitled “Beausoleil” featuring various references to the films of Kenneth Anger, Thelema, and Aleister Crowley. In 1999, the French record label Athanor released a Lucifer Rising tribute album featuring songs composed by Allerseelen, Ain Soph, Blood Axis, Changes, Der Blutharsch, and even Bobby Beausoleil himself. Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page also released an album featuring his unused musical score for Lucifer Rising entitled Lucifer Rising and Other Sound Tracks in 2012. In 1999, Church of Satan priest Gavin Baddely released a book titled Lucifer Rising: A Book of Sin, Devil Worship and Rock 'n' Roll about the influence of Satanism on modern culture/counter-culture featuring interviews with everyone from Kenneth Anger himself to New Zealand-based 'far-right' writer Kerry Bolton (Artists of the Right: Resisting Decadence, Revolution from Above). Needless to say, Lucifer Rising’s influence has been quite wide and vast and of a sonorously quasi-sacerdotal nature; and I don’t see it desisting anytime soon with sociocultural tools like the internet making Kenneth Anger's work all the more accessible.
Undoubtedly, even before the release of Lucifer Rising, the Aeon of Horus had already been in full swing via Crowley's semi-thaumaturgic influence on popular British musicians ranging from The Beatles to Led Zeppelin. In an era where ‘free love’ is pretty much the norm, homosexuality is vogue, mass drug consumption is a rite of passage for many western youths, and where Christianity is assuredly on its last gasp, a film like Lucifer Rising has even more socio-political and spiritual relevance today than when it was first released. Some fans of the film have even argued that the surprise explosion of the Lucifer Mark IV cake (which actually turns out to be a bomb) towards the conclusion of Lucifer Rising is a symbolic prediction of the September 11 attacks; a claim which Anger himself gaudily replied, “and perhaps it is.” Socio-political significance or not, Lucifer Rising is very much Kenneth Anger’s most singularized, intrepid and unprecedented work. Shedding the iconic pop music and Murnau-esque mise-en-scènes that originally gained him a prestigious reputation among both cinephiles and avant-garde filmmakers alike, Lucifer Rising is a monolithic metaphysical masterpiece of cine-magick that literally goes as far as being ‘out of this world.’ In fact, Kenneth Anger still insists to this day that he saw real-life flying-saucers at the ancient Egyptians ruins, stating in a 1995 interview, “I saw such a saucer when I was in the temple of Luxor – a real one!...Traces of the saucers go back to ancient myths.” Combining eternal spiritual wisdom with puissant aesthetic ingredients; both old and new, Lucifer Rising transcends the mere typical cinematic experience and thus can be best described as a devilishly divine work of high-class Elysian decadence that better reflects our age than Mel Gibson’s anachronistic The Passion of the Christ (2004) ever could.