19 July 2004

Magick smackdown: The motion picture

Via my extensive contacts in the world of the occult, I learn that there's a film in the works, Revolt of the Magicians, telling a fictionalized version of the young Aleister Crowley's break from the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.

If you think about it, it's pretty astonishing that Uncle Al has apparently never been portrayed on film, with the possible exception of turning up in a movie of sketch comedy with his name misspelled in the credits, or in the form of the character "Oliver Haddo" in a nearly-forgotten silent film adaptation of Somerset Maugham's The Magician.

Even if you don't believe in magic, Crowley's biography boggles the mind. He was one of these larger-than-life Brits like Sir Richard Francis Burton or Lord Byron. He was a childhood chess prodigy. He was one of the great mountaineers of his time. He wrote poetry. He traveled the world. He had lovers of both genders --- during the Victorian era. He was in an occult secret society together with heavy hitters like William Butler Yeats. And then there's the actual occult stuff: even if you stick to the historically verifiable events, you have all this great secret society / mysterious manuscript / declaration of a New Aeon stuff. We now have two good biographies on the shelves: Kaczynski's and Sutin's. How could you not make a movie?

One wonders if Revolt will be the treatment that one would hope for. There's a fly-by-night scent in the air. The film has an impressively lame website. I'm talking 1994 lame. It's not bad in the "I hired an incompetent graphic designer with delusions of grandeur" way, or the "I hired a teenager who put in a lot of gratuitous spinning icons" way --- it's bad in the "I just built my first website typing HTML into Notepad, but I was in a hurry" kind of way. And the producers apparently make reality TV shows. Or try to: everything they list on their website is in pre-production. A web search reveals only that they have published a direct-to-video Corey Haim slasher movie. Not inspiring.

On the other hand, and this is a big other hand, Lon Milo Duquette is credited as one of the two screenwriters. Duquette is a good writer and a serious occultist. His The Chicken Qabalah of Rabbi Lamed ben Clifford is the best (and funniest) concise introduction to qabalah I have read, his My Life with the Spirits is likewise a wry autobiography of occult practice, and he's written a bushel basket of very serious occult books. He's heavily involved in the OTO, Crowley's initiatory organization, so knows about as much about Crowley as anyone and understands that the man was an egocentric shmuck but hardly the sinister figure of legend. So who knows?


Erik said...

Didn't Messr. Levinson poke some fun at AC in Young Sherlock Holmes? Or perhaps I just assumed that an Aegypt-obsessed secret society would almost certainly be headed up by AC himself.

Anyway, I'm certainly looking forward to the film. Any biographies you care to recommend in the meantime?

Jonathan Korman said...

I don't think I buy Young Sherlock Holmes as having a reference to Crowley --- I don't remember it that way (thought it's been a while) and Google returns a whole lot of nothing on the subject.

I'd recommend both Kaczynski's Perdurabo and Sutin's Do What Thou Wilt as good biographies. Kaczynski is a magickian, while Sutin's previous book was a bio of Philip K. Dick. That right there should point you at the one that will serve you best.