Kenneth Anger is a near-daily part of my life. He’s a nexus point who has opened my mind to older film, to the power of gossip, to Crowley and to the art that film can be. His first words in the seminal Hollywood Babylon, quoting Crowley, inspires me: “Every man and every woman is a star.”
At once one of America’s first openly gay filmmakers and also one that ran to instead of from homosexual content within his film, he’s also — despite being born into a middle-class Christian Presbyterian family — one of the foremost occult figures of the 20th century.
Anger may or may not have been a child actor, but what is true is that his films were incendiary from the beginning, with Fireworks finding him facing obscenity charges. Yet over the next few years, his work would inspire editing techniques and music videos before they even existed.
It’s astounding that Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome was made in 1954. It could be 2022 or any time or any dimension, as it exists in nearly another universe. Anger was inspired to make the film after attending a Halloween party called “Come as your Madness” and Crowley’s ritual masquerade concept — where party guests dress as gods and goddesses — is shown within this short.
Samson De Brier plays the roles of Shiva, Osiris, Nero, Alessandro Cagliostro and Crowley. De Brier was rumored to be the bastard son of the King of Romania or the son of an Atlantic City politician who was murdered by a jealous woman. He modeled for Picasso, he hosted a radio show in New York City, he rescued old silent movie costumes from the trash. He also had a regular salon that discussed the occult at his Barton Avenue home which was made up of minds like Anger, Curtis Harrington, Anaïs Nin, Jack Nicholson, Dennis Hopper, Jack Parsons, Marjorie Cameron and Anton LaVey. This movie was filmed in his home, a place that was a refuge for a retired Anger in the 80s.
That guest list stars in this film. Joan Whitney is Aphrodite, with Katy Kadell as Isis, Nin as Astarte, Harrington as Cesare, Anger as Hecate, Renate Druks as Lilith, Paul Mathison as Pan and Peter Loomer as Ganymede. Perhaps the most important 20th century occult figure outside of Crowley, Marjorie Cameron, appears as The Scarlet Woman and Kali. There is no irony here, as Cameron may be the actual Scarlet Woman who ushers in the end of all things.
The imagery of this movie — even if you don’t comprehend the symbols — can unlock many feelings within a viewer. I’ve often stared at the still image of Cameron from this movie, but seeing her moving shape is a revelation. I wish that these colors always existed in our world and not for this short moment in time, which we may endlessly rewind.
How strange is it that an occult movie has the same look and feel of believer Ron Ormond’s The Burning Hell? They both exist in their own universes, but the wall between them is so thin that you can feel the fingers on each side.