Scorpio Rising (film)

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Scorpio Rising
Theatrical release poster
Directed byKenneth Anger
StarringBruce Byron
Release date
  • 1963 (1963)
Running time
28 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States

Scorpio Rising is a 1963 American experimental short film directed by Kenneth Anger and starring Bruce Byron as Scorpio. Themes central to the film include the occult, biker subculture, homosexuality, Christianity, and Nazism. Scorpio Rising also explores the worship of rebel icons of the era, such as James Dean and Marlon Brando (referred to by Anger as Byron's "heroes").[2] Like many of Anger's films, Scorpio Rising does not contain any dialogue, but features a prominent soundtrack consisting of 1960s pop, including songs by Ricky Nelson, the Angels, the Crystals, Bobby Vinton, Elvis Presley, and Ray Charles.


The film premiered in October 1963 at the Gramercy Arts Theater in New York City.[3]

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.[4] The police were ultimately called to the site and arrested the theater manager for public obscenity and canceled the film's run.[5] The case went to the California Supreme Court, where the case was settled in Anger's favor.[6] 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."[6]


Scorpio Rising is considered by some to be the first drama film to feature a rock & roll soundtrack.[5] Another of Anger's films which utilizes a rock & roll soundtrack (Rabbit's Moon), though filmed fourteen years before Scorpio 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]

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 Yorker, Variety, and Newsweek.[5]

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."[7]

Directors Gaspar Noé and Nicolas Winding Refn cited the film as an influence on their filmmaking.

In popular culture[edit]

  • "Scorpio Rising" is the title of the fifth track on Adam Ant's third album, Vive Le Rock. The lyrics reference "four young men" similar to Scorpio, with "leather jackets" and "big packets".
  • 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.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Scorpio Rising". 10 October 1969.
  2. ^ "Kenneth Anger Interview – On Magick and Film Commentary". Retrieved 17 December 2012.
  3. ^ Dixon, Wheeler Winston; Foster, Gwendolyn Audrey, eds. (2002). Experimental Cinema: The Film Reader. Psychology Press. p. 115. ISBN 0415277868.
  4. ^ Moats, David (2 June 2009). "Scorpio Rising: Kenneth Anger Interviewed". The Quietus. Retrieved 17 December 2012.
  5. ^ a b c Denisoff, R. Serge; Romanowski, William D. (1991). Risky Business: Rock in Film. Transaction Publishers. p. 168. ISBN 0-88738-843-4.
  6. ^ a b Interview with Kenneth Anger by Pam Grady from Archived September 17, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Sayre, Nora (21 February 1975). "Scorpio Rising (1964) – Screen: Three Experiments of 1960's". The New York Times. Retrieved 17 December 2012.

External links[edit]