Friday, December 04, 2009

The Magician

It's hard for me to give a proper blurb on this 1926 adaptation of W. Somerset Maugham's novel as the copy I had was a bootleg of a bootleg....maybe 8th or 9th generation. I gather it came from a broadcast in France or Belgium and who knows how many times it was copied before being converted from PAL format only to have the same thing happen here in North America. It seems I'm missing 10 minutes or so but at least enough is there to show how it may very well have had a serious influence on James Whale when he made Frankenstein and why the "possible" journey to Hell scene is so famous in serious film circles. The dance with pan, be it real or a dream is a wonderful example of early fantasy in the cinema and Rex Ingram does some great pioneer work here. Still not sure about the claim he converted Maugham's hypnotist with Alastair Crowley as the template and this may be of import as being an early example of the whole "based on a true story" gaff. Hard for me to comment on the lighting and use of shadows as the quality of my copy was too poor but many have praised it over the years. Paul Wegener, perhaps most famous for his title role in THE GOLEM (1915) does a great job of conveying the menace of our would be Crowley but this would unfortunately be one of director Ingram's last films.


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