DNDF: Ancient Evil Books

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Friday, April 11, 2014

DNDF: Ancient Evil Books


Books can educate, inform or entertain.  They can inspire masses or rally mobs with hate speech.  They have been used to justify brutal atrocities and battle the forces of darkness.  They have also been used for the purpose of stitching together fragments of plot into terribly bad, wonderful films.  Here are two.

The Magician is a novel by British author W. Somerset Maugham, originally published in 1908.  In this tale, the magician Oliver Haddo, a caricature of Aleister Crowley1, attempts to create life.  Crowley wrote a critique of this book under the pen name Oliver Haddo, where he accused Maugham of plagiarism.  Maugham wrote The Magician in London, after he had spent some time living in Paris, where he met Aleister Crowley.  The novel was later republished with a foreword by Maugham entitled A Fragment of Autobiography.  The novel inspired a film of the same name directed in 1926 by Rex Ingram.

Arthur Burdon, a renowned English surgeon, is visiting Paris to see his fiancée, Margaret Dauncey.  Margaret is studying art in Parisian school, along with her friend Susie Boyd.  On his first evening in Paris, Burdon meets Oliver Haddo, who claims to be a magician and is an acquaintance of Burdon's mentor, the retired doctor and occult scholar Dr. Porhoët.  While none of the company initially believe Haddo's claims, Haddo performs several feats of magic for them over the following days.  Arthur eventually fights with Haddo, after the magician kicks Margaret's dog.

In revenge, Haddo uses both his personality and his magic to seduce Margaret, despite her initial revulsion towards him.  They get married and run away from Paris, leaving merely a note to inform Arthur, Susie and Porhoët.  Arthur is distraught at the abandonment and promptly returns to England to immerse himself in his work.  By this time Susie has fallen in love with Arthur, although she realizes that this love will never be returned, and she goes away to Italy with a friend.

During her travels, Susie hears much about the new Mr. and Mrs. Haddo, including a rumor that their marriage has not been consummated.  When she eventually returns to England, she meets up with Arthur and they go to a dinner party held by a mutual acquaintance.  To their horror, the Haddos are at this dinner party, and Oliver takes great delight in gloating at Arthur's distress.

The next day, Arthur goes to the hotel at which Margaret is staying, and whisks her away to a house in the country.  Although she files for divorce from Haddo, his influence on her proves too strong, and she ends up returning to him.  Feeling that this influence must be supernatural, Susie returns to France to consult with Dr. Porhoët on a possible solution.

Several weeks later, Arthur joins them in Paris and reveals that he visited Margaret at Haddo's home and that she suggested her life was threatened by her new husband.  She implies that Haddo is only waiting for the right time to perform a magical ritual, which will involve the sacrifice of her life.  Arthur travels to Paris to ask for Dr. Porhoët's advice.  A week later, Arthur has an overwhelming feeling that Margaret's life is in danger, and all three rush back to England.

When they arrive at Skene, Haddo's ancestral home in the village of Venning, they are told by the local innkeeper that Margaret has died of a heart attack.  Believing that Haddo has murdered her, Arthur confronts first the local doctor and then Haddo himself with his suspicions.  Searching for proof of foul play, Arthur persuades Dr. Porhoët to raise Margaret's ghost from the dead, which proves to them that she was murdered.  Eventually, Haddo uses his magic to appear in their room at the local inn, where Arthur kills him.  However, when the light is turned on Haddo's body has disappeared.

The trio visit Haddo's abandoned home to find that he has used his magic to create life – hideous creatures living in tubes – and that this is the purpose for which he sacrificed Margaret's life.  After finding the magician's dead body in his attic, Arthur sets fire to the manor to destroy all evidence of Haddo's occult experiments.

The Magician is a 1926 horror film directed by Rex Ingram about a magician's efforts to acquire the blood of a maiden for his experiments to create life.  It was adapted by Ingram from the novel The Magician by W. Somerset Maugham.

The Magician (1926)

  • Genre: Drama – Fantasy – Horror
  • Directed: Rex Ingram
  • Produced: Rex Ingram
  • Written:
    • W. Somerset Maugham (Novel) 
    • Rex Ingram (Screenplay)
  • Starring: Alice Terry, Paul Wegener, Iván Petrovich, Firmin Gémier, Gladys Hamer, Henry Wilson, Hubert I. Stowitts, Claude Fielding, Gerald Fielding, Michael Powell
  • Music: Robert Israel (2009 New Score)
  • Cinematography: John F. Seitz
  • Editing: Grant Whytock
  • Studio: Metro-Goldwyn Pictures Corporation
  • Distributed:
    • Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer  
    • Jury Metro-Goldwyn  
    • Fright Video 
    • Warner Home Video
  • Rated: NR
  • Release Date: 24 October 1926 (USA)
  • Running Time: 83 minutes
  • Country: United States
  • Language: English

In the Latin Quarter of Paris, sculptor Margaret Dauncey is injured when the top of the huge statue of a faun2 (see poster) she is working on breaks off and falls on her. After successful surgery by brilliant Dr. Arthur Burdon saves her from paralysis, she and Burdon fall in love.

The surgery is watched by various doctors and others, including Oliver Haddo, a hypnotist, magician and student of medicine.  Later, in the Library of the Arsenal (one of the branches of the Bibliothèque nationale de France), Haddo finds what he has been searching for: a magic formula for the creation of human life.  One of the ingredients is the "heart blood of a Maiden".  He rips out the page and presents the old book to Dr. Porhoet, Margaret's uncle and guardian, who has also been looking for it.

When Margaret, Burdon and Dr. Porhoet go to the Fair at Leon de Belfort, they encounter Haddo, whom Margaret dislikes immediately.  When Dr. Porhoet claims that the snake charmers use harmless snakes, Haddo refutes him and demonstrates his powers by letting a deadly horned viper bite him.  He then magically makes the wound disappear.  Porhoet remains unconvinced until the discarded viper strikes a young woman performer.  Burdon has to rush her to a hospital.

Later, Haddo visits Margaret uninvited.  He hypnotizes her and tells her to concentrate on her statue.  It seems to come to life to preside over an orgy.

Two days before her wedding to Burdon, Margaret receives a note from Haddo, asking her to see him the next morning.  She tries to resist the summons, but fails.  On the day of the wedding, Burdon learns that Margaret has married Haddo instead.  Porhoet is convinced it was against his niece's will, and Burdon tries to track them down.

Burdon eventually encounters the couple at a casino in Monte Carlo.  He and Porhoet free Margaret while Haddo is away.  Porhoet places her in a sanatorium to recover.

Haddo, however, finds her and takes her to his laboratory in a tower.  Burdon and Porhoet employ a guide to take them there.  Just as Haddo is about to stab a bound Margaret, Burdon bursts in.  After a violent struggle, Haddo falls into a huge fire and is killed.  Margaret emerges from her trance and is reunited with her true love.  Porhoet finds the page with the formula.  He burns it and sets the laboratory afire as well.

The Laughing Dead (1989)

  • Genre: Horror
  • Directed: Somtow Sucharitkul
  • Produced: Lex Nakashima
  • Written: Somtow Sucharitkul
  • Starring: Tim Sullivan, Wendy Webb, Premika Eaton, Patrick Roskowick, Larry Kagen, Krista Keim, Gregory Frost, Raymond Ridenour
  • Music: Somtow Sucharitkul
  • Cinematography: David Boyd
  • Editing: Rose Anne Weinstein
  • Studio: Skouras Pictures
  • Distributed:
    • Desert Island Films  
    • Dragon Film Entertainment  
    • Lumina Video  
    • Midnite Movies
  • Rated:
  • Release Date: 1989
  • Running Time: 103 minutes
  • Country: United States
  • Language: English

For an American movie I was forced to find information for this movie on a German website, my German is rusty but I shall Google the crap out of it and see what we get.

The Catholic priest Ezekiel O'Sullivan cares dearly for the needs of his parishioners.  He himself is in a deep crisis of faith that makes him doubt God and his vocation.  In addition, the clergyman, who is plagued by strange nightmares, yearns after his secret lover Tessie, a former nun, as well as their common son Ivan.

Once a year, organized by the church is an archeology field trip to the ancient temple of the Maya in the Mexican province of Oaxaca lead by O'Sullivan.  There will be a strange festival of the dead, the "Festival of Laughing Dead" to be attended.  The illustrious community group closes after several hours' bus ride to and Tessie with the ever bad-tempered Ivan. The priest sees for the first time his young son who does not know, on purpose, who is his biological father.

Once at the destination we meet an acquaintance of O'Sullivan, seedy Dr. To-Tzec, a doctor of religious studies and ominous descendant of a Mayan God.  This abused the Father because of his loss of faith and its illegitimate misstep for an old ritual. As part of the invocation takes the spirit of an ancient god of death, possession of the body of the priest.  From then changed the possessed victim and murdered unintentionally a participant of the tour group. Then there is unrest among travelers. An escape is impossible, since in the meantime the servant To-tzecs sabotage continued driving. Ivan, who now learns that the pastor is his father is kidnapped in this position. He should take as a central sacrifice the recurrence of evil.

Staggered succeeds Cal, an archaeologist present to decipher an ancient inscription, stating that the priest could be possessed. As O'Sullivan is confronted with it, he massacred several parishioners and flees. The audience now realize that they must act. A five-member group Determined follows the clergy and ultimately prevents Ivan's sacrifice. Dr. is exposed to its own primal fears To-Tzec killed.

At the end of O'Sullivan priest is freed from any constraints and the survivors celebrate with the locals, the festival of the dead. Ivan, Tessie and the Father are happily united as a family.

Makes perfect sense to me.

The Laughing Dead (1989)



1.  Aleister Crowley (born Edward Alexander Crowley; 12 October 1875 – 1 December 1947) was an English occultist, ceremonial magician, poet, painter, novelist, and mountaineer.  He was responsible for founding the religion and philosophy of Thelema, in which role he identified himself as the prophet entrusted with guiding humanity into the Aeon of Horus in the early 20th century.

2.  The faun is a half human–half goat (from the head to the waist being human, but with the addition of goat horns) manifestation of forest and animal spirits that would help or hinder humans at whim.  Romans believed fauns inspired fear in men traveling in lonely, remote or wild places.  They were also capable of guiding humans in need, as in the fable of The Satyr and the Traveller, in the title of which Latin authors substituted the word Faunus.  Fauns and satyrs were originally quite different creatures: whereas fauns are half-man and half-goat, satyrs originally were depicted as stocky, hairy, ugly dwarfs or woodwoses (wildman, or "wildman of the woods", archaically woodwose or wodewose) with the ears and tails of horses or asses. Satyrs also were more woman-loving than fauns, and fauns were rather foolish where satyrs had more knowledge.

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