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Rob Perrée: On movies of Kenneth Anger

On movies of Kenneth Anger

How we made: Kenneth Anger on Lucifer Rising

The director of the 1966 occult classic talks about how an anti-British massacre paid for his film, and the debt it owes to Jimmy Page and a bunch of jailed killers
Chris Michael
The Guardian, Monday 22 July 2013 18.55 BST

Lucifer Rising jacket
Technicolor hellcoat … Leslie Huggins as Lucifer in Kenneth Anger’s Lucifer Rising. Photograph: Sprüth Magers Berlin London

This was the first really big film about black magic or white magic or whatever you want to call it. I’m a member of the OTO – Ordo Templi Orientis – an occult order founded by British genius Aleister Crowley, who was maligned by the gutter press. The Express’s rightwing jerk editor Lord Beaverbrook sold a lot of papers calling Crowley a satanist, with headlines like “The man we want to hang”, to provoke people to murder him. Crowley’s like a bogeyman –, which was unfair. He wrote wonderful books and poetry. Lord Beaverbrook loved to call Crowley a cannibal: eating human beings makes good headlines, and Crowley couldn’t countersue.

Lucifer Rising was about Egyptian gods summoning the angel Lucifer – in order to usher in a new occult age, in accordance with the principles of OTO. I used a bit of deception to film it in Egypt. I said I was doing a documentary on ancient Egyptian beliefs and needed to film in the actual settings: in front of the Sphinx, at Karnak, along the Nile where you see beautiful ruined temples. The authorities fell for it.

I’d taken pictures of Black Saturday, the anti-British riots in Cairo in 1952. When they burned down Shepheard Hotel, I filmed people jumping from the windows and being massacred in the street – they had their legs cut off by swords and were left to bleed to death because they were British. I sold those images to Picture Post, which paid for my trip.

Marianne Faithfull [the film’s star, playing the goddess Lilith] says I hypnotised her and forced her to do things against her will. I didn’t. When I took her to Egypt, she was addicted to heroin and had the nerve to carry some in her makeup box under the face powder, so it just looked like just another form of powder. If she had been arrested or discovered, we all would have been shot – that was the penalty then. I think all drugs are crutches – you don’t need them to be creative. Lucifer Rising is not psychedelic, it’s a film by Kenneth Anger. It’s my style. I never said you should take LSD before watching it, that’s a lie – one of the papers invented it.

Bobby [Beausoleil, who acted and wrote the soundtrack] was a good kid who turned bad – he was a Scorpio. He was my protege at 19, which is approaching the legal age but not quite the legal age of 21. In other words, he lived with me in his own apartment at the so-called Russian Embassy, this wonderful listed wooden victorian building near Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco. He was in a band called Love, had shoulder-length hair and very blue eyes, and the girls called him Cupid – he always wore an old top hat, which was part of the act. He managed to make some recordings – before the tragedy.

Bobby lied to me, and then he made a terrible mistake. He told me: “Kenneth, I need $700.” In the 1960s, that was quite a lot of money. He said it was to buy amps for his act. He and came back with a large package wrapped in black plastic, which I assumed was speakers. Then he went out, and I noticed his dog sniffing at it. So I cut open a corner, and lo and behold it was a key [kilogram] of marijuana. When he came back, I picked up his package and said: “Take your fucking marijuana and get the hell out of here.” The next time I saw him, he was on death row for murdering a musician on Charles Manson’s orders. Manson never actually killed anyone himself, he just brainwashed these girls and Bobby, who were like his zombies, to kill. Manson was a funny little freak, a dwarf, very short. The good news about Manson in prison is that he’s terrified of dentists so one by one, one by one, all his teeth have rotted and fallen out. He deserves it, he’s evil and should have been executed. He completely ruined Bobby: Bobby would’ve been OK if he hadn’t met Manson.

But Bobby created his own situation. He didn’t have to accept the invitation to move in with the girls. His van broke down in front of the [Manson family’s] Spahn Ranch, as if predestined by Satan himself, and the girls came out and said, “Well you’re cute, why don’t you move in?“So Jimmy Page did some music instead. He’s a miser, which is a horrible thing. He wouldn’t even pay for lunch. So I said: “Isn’t it preposterous that you’re so cheap?” And that of course insulted him. He was on heroin all the time – I hate all those druggies because their eyes get glazed and what they say is meaningless because they don’t follow through. I said: “OK, Jimmy, I need exactly 40 minutes.” But he only gave me 20. I said: “What am I supposed to do, play it twice? I need 40 minutes! I need a climax! Like, [the film] is the end and the beginning of the world – you’ve gotta give me that big music!”

In the end, I took a tape recorder in to Bobby in prison. He rounded up 12 other murderers who used to be musicians – there’s a lot of musicians in prison who got mixed up with selling drugs, but I mean they still could play music. So I recorded Bobby playing with the “all-killer orchestra”. Bobby said he was going to call his band the Powerhouse of Oz. I said: “You can’t, because Oz means goat in Hebrew, but you’re not violating the L Frank Baum Oz book copyright, because Baum was a secret occultist and the Oz books are full of secret little jokes for people that understand magic.”


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