Margaret Chauncey (Alice Terry) is a sculptor who is seriously injured when part of a sculpture she’s working on breaks off and falls on her. Since her spine is injured, the surgery necessary to treat her is very sensitive. Luckily, Doctor Arthur Burdon (Ivan Petrovich) is the one who performs the operation on Margaret and he’s well-known for being one of the best surgeons around. As he performs the operation on Margaret, the procedure is observed by several medical students, including Oliver Haddo (Paul Wegener), who has an interest in hypnotism and magic, in addition to medicine. Haddo is on the search for finding a way to create human life.
Margaret’s operation is a big success and Arthur and Margaret fall in love afterward. It isn’t long before they’re engaged. Meanwhile, Haddo uncovers the secret to creating life in a book and it requires a maiden’s blood. Haddo decides that Margaret is the one whose blood he wants to use to conduct his experiments with. He tries following Margaret and Arthur around, trying to get close to her. Even though she doesn’t like him at all, he uses hypnotism to put her under his spell. One day, he comes to see her at home and makes it seem like a statue has come to life. He asks her to come see him the following morning and even though she doesn’t want to go, she isn’t able to stop herself from going.
Just before Margaret and Arthur are to be married, Haddo uses his control over her to force her to marry him instead. He and Margaret’s uncle know she would not go with him on her own, so Arthur tracks them down in Monte Carlo, where Margaret is now quite the gambler under Haddo’s control. She gets in touch with Arthur to let him know she’s not there on her own accord and he helps her escape. But just when they think she is safe, Margaret suddenly disappears one day. Haddo has tracked her down and kidnaps her so he can continue with his experiments.
I wouldn’t call The Magician one of my favorite movies, but it’s another movie I’m surprised I don’t hear mentioned very often. Rex Ingram’s direction is great and John F. Seitz’s cinematography is fantastic. The scene where Haddo makes it appear as if Margaret’s statue has come to life is particularly effective, thanks to both Ingram’s direction and Seitz’s cinematography. Story-wise, The Magician is something of a cross between Frankenstein and I’m going to say The Barbarian, just because it’s the first movie that comes to mind for me when I think of movies about a man going to horrifying lengths to control a woman. Fortunately, The Magician isn’t offensive like The Barbarian and is actually a pretty good movie that deserves to get more credit for being a great example of silent horror. If you see this one on TCM, be sure to set your DVR for it because it’s absolutely worth seeing at least once.