Wednesday, April 21, 2010

If You've Seen One Gay Nazi Biker Film...

Film: Scorpio Rising
Format: Internet video on desktop PC

If you’ve seen on gay Nazi biker film, you’ve seen them all. Or really not, because there really isn’t much like Kenneth Anger’s Scorpio Rising, or at least there wasn’t before Anger made this film. This is a difficult film to follow and even more difficult to understand. I’m honestly not sure that I really get it, but I’m going to try.

Scorpio Rising is more or less a homoerotic short film about bikers. There’s a lot of leather, some religious iconography, some Nazi images, and a lot of homoeroticism. Additionally, there’s no dialogue in the film. Instead, Anger uses popular songs from the '50s and early ‘60s to highlight what is happening on the screen. Guys work on their bikes, get dressed in a lot of leather, smoke, take some drugs, read the Sunday comics, ride on their bikes, and initiate a new member. That’s pretty much it.

But that’s not the reason to watch Scorpio Rising. This is not a film to pay attention to because of the gripping plot or the scintillating dialogue. The real reason to watch this film is because of the tremendous influence it has had on film in general.

Yes, you read that right: a gay Nazi biker film has had a tremendous effect on much of what was made since its debut in 1964. Kenneth Anger is not only one of the first (if not the first) to use actual known songs in his film rather than music created specifically for the movie (at least the first who didn’t use old songs for a musical), and quick cuts, including pieces of other films just to make things interesting.

The cuts get progressively faster and more difficult to follow as the film goes on, and this makes Scorpio Rising progressively more difficult to watch. There’s no question that Anger was intending this to be something like softcore pornography, as that covers the bulk of what he made in his career. The scenes of men getting dressed, the initiation of the new biker involving dumping mustard on his genitalia, all of these are there because, per the legend, Anger used this film as masturbatory fuel.

And yet, whether true or a legend, those scenes of bikers putting on their leathers continue to resonate today. Every time you see a hero or a gang of heroes gearing up to get ready for battle, from Army of Darkness to the campiest of the Joel Schumacher Batman films, the director is paying homage to Kenneth Anger. In their own world, the director may claim to be paying homage to someone else, but ultimately, it goes back to here. Anger, for whatever reason he did so, essentially created the gearing up for war montage.

This is a difficult film to watch, not because of particular images or anything disturbing, but because it’s difficult to follow. I can’t say that I loved the film, but it certainly was a worthy challenge. I’m also certain that there’s a lot here that I’ve missed. Someone much smarter than I am can do it better justice.

Why to watch Scorpio Rising: Influence.
Why not to watch: You have issues with homoeroticism.


  1. I watched this just now on YouTube and, wow! the time just flew by! Fascinating imagery, and great choices for film clips. Brando in "The Wild One" is really obvious but so obvious that he had to use it.

    Also, lots of extra points for Mickey Rooney as Puck from A Midsummer Nights Dream!

    I'm wondering which Jesus movie was being used. The Saviour looks a little like Max von Sydow but The Greatest Story Ever Told didn't come out until the next year. It might be a Mexican Jesus movie that I remember watching on L.A.s Spanish language TV station back in the 1990s, but that's been so long ago that I can't be sure.

    The best thing though, was my pit bull going crazy! I'm watching Scorpio Rising in the air-conditioning with all three dogs laying around and it's 105 degrees outside. The pit bull is on the couch right next to me. And all of a sudden during the scene where the guy is laying on the bed and reading Lil Abner with his Siamese cats, Grace, the 80-pound pit bull, starts growling and she lifts her head and keeps growling and glaring at my computer screen and inching forward like she's about to attack!

    Grace hates Kenneth Anger? Maybe it was the Siamese cats?

    As soon as the music changed (it went to "Hit the Road, Jack!" but I don't remember what was playing during "Angry Dog Mode") Grace backed down and went back to sleep.

  2. According to IMDB, the Jesus movie is 1949's The Pilgrimage Play. I never even heard of it before.

    1. I have no explanation for your dog's behavior. I can tell you that Floyd the deer-headed chihuahua gets very antsy whenever there are wolves in Game of Thrones, though.

      This film really is only important for the imagery in my opinion. There's not really a lot much else going on, but that stuff is pretty informative in a lot of ways.

  3. I will give you that if those tropes originate from this film, well, then its contribution to cinema is significant.
    There is an aestetic it is, quite successfully, aiming at, the nazi-biker-gay, and I suppose that particular fringe would be quite excited about this movie. Personally I get merely confused and combined with the scenes of Christ I mostly get the message that this is about provocation.

    1. I think it is about provocation, about being difficult and suggestive and on the edge. I think it's pretty interesting, though.