The Magician

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Another CLASSIC silent movie and it stars German actor/director Paul Wegener, who also starred in and directed THE GOLEM. Two classics!

This film is based on the 1908 book of the same name by William Somerset Maugham, who, in turn, based his lead character on an acquaintance of his: noted Magus Aleister Crowley (rhymes with holy). Maugham so thoroughly plagiarized Crowley’s writings for the book that Crowley ripped him a new one in the pages of Vanity Fair magazine, and snidely took for his by-line the name of Maugham’s character, “Oliver Haddo”! The editor of Vanity Fair was himself to become notorious in 1922… Frank Harris.

As Crowley explained in his auto-hagiography:

    The Magician was, in fact, an appreciation of my genius such as I had never dreamed of inspiring. It showed me how sublime were my ambitions and reassured me on a point which sometimes worried me — whether my work was worth while in a worldly sense. I had at times feared lest, superbly as my science had satisfied my own soul, it might yet miss the mark of making mankind master of its destiny.
     Well, Maugham had had his fun with me; I would have mine with him. I wrote an article for Vanity Fair (December 30th, 1908) in which I disclosed the method by which the book had been manufactured and gave parallel passages. Frank Harris would not believe that I was serious. He swore I must be making it up. He could not believe that any man would have the impudence to publish such strings of plagiarism. I had to bring a little library round to the office to prove my proposition, and Harris sat and stared, and gasped like a fish at each fresh outrage. He cut down the article to two and a half pages, but even so it was the most damning exposure of a literary crime that had ever been known. No author of even mediocre repute had ever risked his reputation by such flagrant stupra.
     Maugham took my riposte in good part. We met by chance a few weeks later, and he merely remarked that there were many thefts besides those which I had pointed out. I told him that Harris had cut down my article by two thirds for lack of space. “I almost wish”, I said, “that you were an important writer.”  — The Confessions of Aleister Crowley. 

You can read Crowley’s rebuke of Maugham HERE

Maugham’s bizarre inventions in that book are responsible for the slanders and libels concerning Crowley still circulated to this very day.

This film is undeniably a masterpiece of horror cinema that has stood the test of time. You cineastes, look carefully for an appearance by Michael Powell, maker of some of the best films in all of history.

Directed by Rex Ingram (but not the Rex Ingram who so splendidly played the Genie in The Thief of Bagdad as so many “historians” assume), this film, like The Golem, influenced countless future films. That remote laboratory! How many times have we seen that done? More recently, the scene in which Oliver Haddo rips a page from an occult Grimoire can be seen in 2016’s filming of Dr. Strange (almost makes up for everyone in the film mispronouncing the name Cagliostro – or having Cagliostro writing in Sanskrit).

Here is a bright clean print of… THE MAGICIAN:


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