The violent forces of nature create volcanic eruptions as letters of flame, spelling out the title and the intent, rise from the ocean. The Ancient Egyptian Goddess Isis (Myriam Gibril) contacts her deity counterpart Osiris (Donald Cammell) and they harness those forces to create something simultaneously new and old: Lucifer (Kenneth Anger).
There's not really much point in trying to write a synopsis of Lucifer Rising, as it, more than many other films, remains an experience better left to the reactions of the subconscious. While not as influential as writer and director Kenneth Anger's Scorpio Rising (although Lucifer does have his name extravagantly written on the back of his jacket perhaps in reference to the earlier short), this film has all the implications of mysticism that make it essentially a religious work, but one which fetishises its beliefs. Taking the view that Lucifer was an ancient God himself, Anger places him among the pantheon of Egyptian and pagan deities rather than the clichéd devil of modern Christianity, or even pop culture.
However, what made the film notorious wasn't so much its visual content, but its soundtrack. Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin was enlisted to create appropriate music for it, but after a falling out with Anger when Anger felt Page's efforts weren't up to snuff, a new composer was hired: a certain Bobby Beausoleil, who was serving time in prison for being one of the murderous Manson Family. Beausoleil had worked on a previous Anger project, and wrote the moody score from jail; all this was one of the reasons the film took so long to complete from initial filming to actually being released.
But the controversy aside, it's the images Anger finds that lend it that hypnotic quality. Always threatening to look like dressing up and wandering around tourist attractions (Marianne Faithfull does quite a lot of rambling about), the sinister side manages to keep a straight face on the audience, as if the immersion in the arcane was conjuring up some authority from far back in time. Anger doesn't only film his friends in such picturesque locations, but uses stock footage as well, including volcanoes, bubbling mud pits (always a strangely fascinating sight) and animals (a swimming tiger, a snake being stomped by an elephant's foot) to weave his esoteric tapestry. And to top it all, a bunch of flying saucers show up for the finale. Although Lucifer Rising is only as meaningful as the amount you are willing to read into it, its dreamlike sleepwalk though ancient Gods and tenets does captivate for the admittedly brief duration.