(director/writer: Rex Ingram; screenwriter: based on the novel by W. Somerset Maugham; cinematographer: John F. Seitz; editor: Grant Whytock; music: Robert Israel-2010; cast: Paul Wegener (Oliver Haddo), Alice Terry (Margaret Dauncey), Ivan Petrovich (Dr. Arthur Burdon), Firmin Gemier (Dr. Porhoet), Henry Wilson (Haddo’s dwarf servant), Gladys Hamer (Susie Boud); Runtime: 83; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Rex Ingram; Metro-Goldwyn Pictures; 1926-silent)
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
“This finely filmed and acted obscure horror film, exploiting great imagery, was loosely based on the 1908 novel by the young Somerset Maugham.”
This finely filmed and acted obscure horror film, exploiting great imagery, was loosely based on the 1908 novel by the young Somerset Maugham. The author was inspired by the infamous black magician from England Aleister Crowley. As one would expect from such bizarre source material, this is a strange story. Rex Ingram(“The Arab”/”The Garden of Allah”/”Turn to the Right”) is writer, director and producer. It’s a precursor to the mad scientist Frankenstein film that followed 6 years later and made horror films an important genre.
The film opens in Paris, where the sculptress, Margaret Dauncey (Alice Terry, wife of Ingram), has a studio in the Latin Quarter. When her giant sculpture falls on her, it crushes her spine. Her uncle guardian, Dr. Porhoet (Firmin Gemier), gets the brilliant young American surgeon Dr. Arthur Burdon (Ivan Petrovich) to operate. The radical operation is a success and she’s not crippled. The two fall in love and plan to marry. But the sinister magician /hypnotist/charlatan, Dr Haddo (Paul Wegener, German actor), a former inmate of an insane asylum, who observed the operation, has other plans and kidnaps her by hypnotizing her and making her obey his commands. He takes her to the French Riviera and marries her. In his lab, located in a forbidden ancient sorcerer’s tower in the remote part of Monte Carlo, he holds her captive with the help of his perverted dwarf satyr (Henry Wilson), leaving her strapped to an operating table as he plans to create life through an ancient magic alchemist formula that requires the blood from a virgin’s heart to complete the formula for a homunculus. To the rescue of the possessed woman come Burdon and her uncle. The suspense builds if they can reach her in time, which leads to an explosive climax.
Michael Powell was one of Ingram’s assistant directors, who was eventually to become one of cinema’s great directors.
REVIEWED ON 2/3/2016 GRADE: B+ https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/