Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Magician (1926)

"The Magician" is a rare silent horror film that is famous for being a heavy influence on one of my favorite films: "Frankenstein".  

A young woman is paralyzed when her own sculpture collapses on her.  A doctor performs a risky surgery and gives all of her functions back.  Another Doctor (The Magician) discovers text in a book of black magic on how to create life.  He needs the blood of a young blond woman with blue eyes.  He finds our girl, who was once paralyzed, and he has plans to use every drop of her blood to create life.

There is one scene that is incredibly memorable for me.  The Magician puts the young woman under hypnosis while staring at her own sculpture of a fawn.  In her hypnotic state, she enters a hell dimension where fawns and devils run free.  It was incredibly surreal and eerie.  It was kind of like a very scary version of "Fantasia".

The ending of the film is where "The Magician" really shines and this is where the influences for "Frankenstein" are evident.  The Magician is performing his experiment in his laboratory tower on the top of a great mountain, he has a small hunchbacked assistant, and the Magician is a mad scientist himself.  All of this was remembered by Universal and/or James Whale for their work in "Frankenstein" and "Bride of Frankenstein".

Paul Wegener plays the Magician and he is very intimidating and convincing as a psychopathic mad scientist.  If this film was done a few years later, it would have been perfect for Bela Lugosi.  Wegener and Lugosi seem to have very similar acting styles.  The use of their eyes and hands are incredible.

Unfortunately, "The Magician" was a bit of a let down.  The horror of the film didn't come until the last 10 minutes, except for that hell dimension sequence.  I had expected a great tale of Gothic terror since it inspired the incredible version of Universal's "Frankenstein", but instead it is an average movie with a few really good scenes.

B-  I recommend it.

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