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Scorpio Rising is a 1964 experimental short film by Kenneth Anger, starring Bruce Byron (who Anger asserts was "half-crazy")[1] as Scorpio. Themes central to the film include the occultbiker subcultureCatholicism and Nazism; the film also explores the worship of rebel icons of the era, namely James Dean and Marlon Brando (referred to by Anger as Byron's "heroes").[1] As with many of Anger's films, Scorpio Rising contains no dialogue – it instead features a prominent soundtrack consisting of 60s pop, including songs by Ricky NelsonThe AngelsThe CrystalsBobby VintonElvis Presley & Ray Charles.

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 [hide*1 Release

Release[edit]Edit

The film premiered in January 1964 at the Gramercy Arts Theater in New York City.[2]

When the film was screened at an art theater in Los Angeles, it was protested by the American Nazi Party on the basis that it insulted their flag.[3] The police were ultimately called to the site and arrested the theater manager for public obscenity and canceled the film's run.[4] The case went to the California Supreme Court, where the case was settled in Anger's favor.[5] 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."[5]

Soundtrack[edit]Edit

Scorpio Rising is considered by some to be the first drama film to feature a rock & roll soundtrack.[4] Another of Anger's films which utilizes a rock & roll soundtrack (Rabbit's Moon), though filmed fourteen years beforeScorpio Rising, was not completed until 1972.

  1. Ricky Nelson – "Fools Rush In (Where Angels Fear to Tread)"
  2. Little Peggy March – "Wind-Up Doll"
  3. The Angels – "My Boyfriend's Back"
  4. Bobby Vinton – "Blue Velvet"
  5. Elvis Presley – "(You're the) Devil in Disguise"
  6. Ray Charles – "Hit the Road Jack"
  7. Martha and the Vandellas – "(Love Is Like a) Heat Wave"
  8. The Crystals – "He's a Rebel"
  9. Claudine Clark – "Party Lights"
  10. Kris Jensen – "Torture"
  11. Gene McDaniels – "Point of No Return"
  12. Little Peggy March – "I Will Follow Him"
  13. Surfaris – "Wipe Out"

Critical response[edit]Edit

Scorpio Rising was praised by West Coast critics upon its initial release. When it was screened in New York City in 1964, Scorpio Rising garnered additional positive reviews from The New YorkerVariety andNewsweek.[4]

Nora Sayre of The New York Times reviewed the film in 1975 stating, "Oddly enough, the references to the nineteen-fifties, which seemed dated and rather ponderous in 1965, don't make the film appear old-fashioned now. Admittedly, one then saw it in an unfortunate context – draped in the mystique of the underground, when a number of inferior films employed some similar imagery, such as the juxtaposition of Christ and hipsters, or close-ups of all-purpose skulls. But after a decade's education in put-ons, one can savor the impudent freshness of "Scorpio" today."[6]

In popular culture[edit]Edit

  • "Scorpio Rising" is the title of the 5th track on Adam Ant's 3rd album, Vive Le Rock. The lyrics revolve around "Scorpio", with his "leather jacket and big package".
  • The third album by British electronica band Death in Vegas takes its name from the film.
  • The video for Matthew Dear's "Her Fantasy", directed by Tommy O'Haver is an homage to "Scorpio Rising".
  • In 2012, the band Peggy Sue released a cover album of 12 of 14 songs from the film's soundtrack.
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