Its all here in embryo: the paradigm for Frankenstein. The mad scientist, trying to create life in his laboratory located in a forbidden tower on the top of a rocky mountain, while thunder and lightning terrify the superstitious villagers. Supposedly adapted from a W. Somerset Maugham novel, the possibility exists that it was Maugham (a qualified physician) who, still very much on the make for an overwhelming success in his third book, might have cribbed more than a little bit from Mary Shelly. However, instead of the Romantic Prometheus, driven mad by hubris and symbolic of mankind's desire to harness newfangled science to dominate and conquer nature, despite the warnings of terrible consequences, all taking place on the edge of the Industrial revolution, we have the elements shaped into a Victorian melodrama of the villain-continued-to-pursue-her variety complete with virgin's blood and a heroine tied in artful knots, and a villain motivated by nothing more than criminal insanity.
On the other hand the artful visual qualities of the storytelling is something that has been lost in today's film vocabulary. A zippy 80 minutes or so, today the coarse need for thrills from this type of film would have necessitated a number anatomically gruesome murders before the final heroine jeopardy and heroic rescue. Here a little horror goes a very long way (all the way to the French Riviera, in fact). THE MAGICIAN is everything that made the silent film, at the same time, so great and so very silly. By the way, shots of Paris, virtually traffic free are a revelation, as are shots of a cobblestone village high up in the mountains (the Alps Maritimes) behind the Riviera. And yes, that's the same Paul Wegener who directed and starred in two versions of The Golom as well as playing Svengali in a 1927 version of the Du Maurier story.
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