Kenneth Anger (b. 1927)
Scorpio Rising (1963)
Scorpio Rising is a 1963 experimental film by Kenneth Anger, author of the Hollywood Babylon books, starring Bruce Byron as the biker Scorpio. It features themes of leather-clad bikers, the occult, Jesus and Nazis. Its camp appropriation of popular culture included an innovative use of pop music, the erotic cult of James Dean, and Sunday comics. The film was initially shown on the underground film circuit. The film features no lines of dialogue, accompanied instead by music from popular 1950s and 1960s artists including Ricky Nelson, The Angels, The Crystals, Bobby Vinton, Elvis Presley, Ray Charles and Martha Reeves & the Vandellas. It is considered to be one of the first post-modern films and an influence to future directors such as Martin Scorsese and David Lynch.
The film was censored for indecency, and the case went to the Supreme Court, where it was decided in Anger's favor. Anger explained in an interview:
"When Scorpio Rising was -- we've forgotten, in a sense, that it was a groundbreaker, legally. Because there are only a few flashes of nudity, genitalia, whatever in the film, I mean, they're very, very short and, if you blink, you won't even see them. At any rate, when it was shown, at the Cinema -- it was called the Cinema on Western Avenue in Hollywood -- the premiere run, someone denounced it to the Hollywood vice squad and they raided the theater and took the print. And the case had to go to the California Supreme Court to be freed and then it became, like, a landmark case of redeeming social merit. That was the phrase that was used to justify that it wasn't pornography. And, indeed, there's nothing pornographic about it. Somebody had to break the ice and have that kind of case at that time to establish the freedom, because, before then, the police could seize anything they wanted to. What I was doing on the West Coast, Jack Smith was doing on the East Coast with Flaming Creatures. The two films happened at about the same time."