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FIREWORKS (director/writer: Kenneth Anger; cinematographer: Chester Kessler; music: Ottorino Respighi; cast: Kenneth Anger (The Dreamer), Gordon Gray (First Sailor), Bill Seltzer (Second Sailor); Runtime: 14; MPAA Rating: NR; Mystic Fire Video; 1947)
How much you enjoy this film depends on how much you can stomach its bloody violence.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This landmark violent gay fantasy film was brilliantly shot in his parents’ home by underground filmmaker Kenneth Anger (“Scorpio Rising”/”Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome”/”Lucifer Rising”) when he was only 17. The legendary Anger, who died in 1981, was best known as the author of the shocking best-selling Hollywood Babylon. His idol was black occult magician Aleister Crowley.

The tinted short is a surreal poem about a dreamer (Kenneth Anger) lusting after a hunky sailor and in the dream awakening to go outside for a smoke. There the dreamer is confronted by a menacing group of sailors wielding chains, who kick the living snot out of him and rape him. It ends with the dreamer cleansing himself by pouring milk over his body while back in his apartment, that has a Christmas tree in the background. In conclusion, the dreamer lights a Roman candle in his crotch that explodes.

How much you enjoy this film depends on how much you can stomach its bloody violence, its homoerotic images that mix beefcake glamor with visions of monsters, and on how much you pick up on what it means to be different in the America of the 1940s. But there’s no question of the craftsmanship and the artistic inspiration–it’s first-rate.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”