Scorpio Rising (1964)
Praised as one of the masterpieces of underground cinema, "Scorpio Rising" is ahead of its contemporaries, simply in its story telling ability. Kenneth Anger's bizarre film deals heavily with bikers, leather, sexual violence, and music—it doesn't sound too good when you put it like that, but don't let that dissuade you.
The movie begins with a man assembling a motorcycle. He is very kind to his bike and treats it lovingly as he sets it up. We are given a barrage of images as different bikers strap on their leather in a very sexual charged lighting. To be fair, the film is so fast and so random that it leaves you thinking, "Did I really see that?" In this way, it's easy to see how films like this inspired the movies of the later decades—namely David Fincher's "Fight Club".
We focus on one biker, named Scorpio, who seems to think that he's Jesus Christ. The film explores a damaged mind as his night of violence and havoc changes him (in the viewer's eyes) from Jesus to Hitler. He's delusional, perverted, and addicted to adrenaline.
The drug trance-like nature that the film is shot accentuated all of its themes.
Being an underground film, one would expect to see certain things—the random edits, the bad acting (thankfully not present), the odd combination of homoeroticism and violence, and all characteristics not present in budgeted films.
The film makers associated with the underground were mostly gay, broke, and high. And let me tell you: most of the movies from this sub-genre are crap! The movies are so drugged up and nonsensical that it's not enjoyable to watch at all.
"Scorpio Rising" is an exception, a notable one. The entire film is dialogue free, relying on pop and rock songs from different decades to provide a soundtrack for the film. There's Elvis, Ray Charles, and Martha & the Vandellas. It's great music, which is impossible not to like. It's almost like cheating—okay, it is cheating...but I'm okay with that.
Slow to begin, the film takes a nasty turn as it throws unexpected sexual and violent images at the viewer, though quickly, as previous mentioned. Kenneth Anger seems like he knew exactly what he wanted to do when he started filming, which is a feeling that most of these films lack.
The images speed up, motorcycles burn rubber, and Scorpio changes into a villain.
The film isn't a social commentary, nor does it chastise the works of its main character—"Scorpio Rising" is sheer and utter madness.
It's the predecessor to Stanley Kubrick's "A Clockwork Orange" and any of Scorsese's movies. The music is mainly what the film is remembered for, it was one of the first movies to try such a technique—all music, no dialogue. At this, the film is incredibly successful.
Although the film does tell a story, it's a weak one—one that comes apart near the end. "Scorpio Rising" can be boring, tedious, and shocking...at the same time it can also be fascinating, entertaining, and goofy.
It's one of the better underground films, but I still stick with my thoughts: it's better just to avoid this genre altogether
Score: 2 and a half stars out of 4
Posted by Micah Jones