THE MAGICIAN – During Halloween Season a few years back Balladeer’s Blog reviewed the 1926 silent movie adaptation of The Magician. This time around I’ll review the original Somerset Maugham novel from 1908. It’s no secret at this late date that the malevolent sorceror of the title, Oliver Haddo, was based on the real-life Aleister Crowley. In fact, Crowley would accuse Maugham of plagiarism when he reviewed The Magician under the name Oliver Haddo, his fictional counterpart.
At any rate the 1926 film is an under-appreciated classic of the Silent Era and the novel is of an even higher quality. In Paris – where Maugham first met Crowley in real life – Dr Arthur Burdon, a prominent young British surgeon, has come to visit his fiancee, artist Margaret Dauncey.
Burdon also visits his elderly former mentor, Dr Porhoet, who has turned from medicine to the study of Magick and the occult arts. It is through Porhoet that Dr Burdon and Margaret – plus Margaret’s friend Susie Boyd – first encounter the elegant yet repellant Oliver Haddo. The cadre of friends make the mistake of ridiculing the boastful Haddo’s claims of being a sorceror in the young 20th Century. Continue reading