THE MAGICIAN (1926) – This early MGM movie was adapted from Somerset Maugham’s novel based on the notorious Aleister Crowley. Paul Wegener of The Golem fame portrays Oliver Haddo, the sinister title figure who discovers the secret of creating life through Black Magic. He and his dwarf assistant need to use blood from the hearts of female virgins as one of the ingredients, setting up the expected macabre goings-on.
WHY ISN’T THE MAGICIAN BETTER KNOWN?! This is a magnificent movie that modern audiences would probably embrace more than they do films like The Phantom of the Opera, Nosferatu and other classics beloved by me and my fellow silent film geeks. There is virtually no overacting or outrageous melodrama in The Magician, just VERY nicely handled horror and suspense.
Haddo is an elegant, well-dressed, worldly sorceror who employs his powers in subtle ways that eventually become more blatant as he targets a young female sculptor to be his sacrificial virgin. The scene of a gigantic Pan and his disciples celebrating an orgy is very daring for the time.
Other nice touches include the way the sculptress’ fascination with the dark side is established early on by her fixation with occult subjects in her artwork. Haddo’s spiritual seduction of her makes sense in that context. The magnificent but monstrous creature that the Magician plans to bring to life is more impressive than the monsters in the Universal horror films of a decade later.
This could almost count as Gothic horror if not for the 1926 setting. The sculptress’ fiancee and uncle pursue her and Haddo from England to the French Riviera to Monte Carlo in the exciting finale at Haddo’s remote castle. The footage of 1920’s Monte Carlo alone makes this worth watching.
FOR MORE SILENT HORROR SHORTS CLICK HERE: https://glitternight.com/2012/10/19/the-best-silent-horror-film-shorts-1896-1909/
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