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3.5 out of 5 stars28
3.5 out of 5 stars
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on 12 September 2008
I watched this film on the big screen at Cannes, and have to say loved it. It breaks all the tired old fomulaic films that one regularly gets to see and is a lot of fun. Very Monty Python meets Iron Maiden, and not at all boring.

The end has a wonderful twist, and it delightfully crosses genres. A brave film which will not be appreciated by Hollywood execs.

One point is that it is uncompromising, so viewers will either get it, or not - so some will love, some will hate, none will forget. I suspect thats what the filmmakers wanted. So dont expect a pretty nice picture, and enjoy the ride
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on 4 November 2009
Iron Maiden's Bruce Dickinson has been interested in the life and work of notorious occultist Aleister Crowley for a long time. Despite some subtleties in the story concerning the "Great Beast"'s rocket scientist follower Jack Parsons (which would probably only be noticed by those already knowledgeable on the subject)he has nonetheless helped perpetuate the legend of infamy surrounding Crowley by creating a movie that portrays him as a relentlessly evil murdering maniac in a manner that is actually entirely at odds with his real biography. In those terms,Chemical Wedding is an atrocity.

Remarkably enough it is nonetheless also a total OTT hoot, primarly through the magnificent robust performance by Simon Callow, clearly revelling in his role as the professor who becomes effectively possessed by Crowley after a futuristic experiment. There is plenty of intentional humour, irony, sex, scatology, bodily fluids, and a definite body count. Chuck in some virtual reality, brain machine, quantum physics gubbins and you have a plot that manages to convey a pacey ripping yarn rather well for a modest budget.

DVD special features provide interesting written material, including more on Jack Parsons, that do enhance understanding and appreciation of certain elements of the story for those inclined to want to look deeper.

Real shame Crowley has to be a multiple murderer though.
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on 9 March 2009
Callow is magnificent as Crowley and whoever scripted this movie did his homework: there are endless subtle references to the Great Beast's life and works. The occult aspects worked well (within the context of a thriller movie) but the 'scientific' elements were frankly confusing.
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on 23 October 2010
This movie is pure awesome actually!
As a hardcore Maiden fan I had to see it, and since it was never released in Sweden either on cinema or dvd/bluray, I had to order it from amazon, where the service is great and delivery is fast, even over seas.
As for the movie, it stars Simon Callow who's no less than a genius and is really convincing as the reincarnated Crowley. The movie isn't scary, for those who're wondering. It's more of a mystic thriller dealing with the occult and things that are actually taboo even today in our civilized society. Also, the man himself, Bruce Dickinson, has the coolest part in the history of movies.
Awesome, awesome, awesome. Five stars.
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on 15 December 2011

When shy, stammering Classics teacher Oliver Haddo(Simon Callow) enters a virtual reality programme at Cambridge University in order to delve into the dark secrets of the occult, programmed into the computer by fellow obsessive Victor Nuberg(Jud Charlton), little does he know that there is a real beast in the machine. The Great Beast in fact, as the spirit of Aleister Crowley is hovering on another astral plane, awaiting the chance to be reincarnated in human form in order to fulfil a devilish prophecy.....
Imagine a cross between Inspector Morse and The Devils and you might start to imagine the feel of this highly enjoyable science fiction/horror hybrid. After a slightly uncertain start, a prologue set in 1947 as Aleister Crowley's life seemingly comes to an end, it soon settles down and transforms into a really ripping yarn set in the present day. It is quite staggering in places, but it is to the director and the screenwriters credit that towards the end, 'Chemical Wedding' actually manages to achieve a real sense of wonder.
Simon Callow is always going to be an acquired taste, but I thought he was perfect in the Jekyll and Hyde roles of Haddo and Crowley. Of the supporting cast, I greatly enjoyed Jud Charlton as occult obsessive and Born Again Crowley acolyte Victor Nuberg, and Paul McDowell delivers a nicely understated turn as Symonds, an old associate of Crowley's. It is in fact the newly free Crowley's inability to resist a boast or two that turns the character of Symonds into a pivotal role.
The climatic scenes are worthy of Hammer at its finest as Crowley attempts to perform an ancient ritual of rebirth. This is merged sucessfully with the age of technology, as computer programmer Joshua Mathers attempts to battle the beast using his own program.
I loved every minute of this, and I hope you will too. Just go into this film with an open and broad mind and enjoy. There are extras galore on this dvd release, the highlight being a highly entertaining 'making of' feaurette. 5 out of 5.
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on 7 September 2013
Yes, the plot is barking mad - part mad Scientist, part Quantum Leap. S. Callow chews scenery and revels in a part in which he can be as bad as he can be in a purple velveteen suit (plus channeling D Jacobi's I Claudus for his alter Ego of Oliver Haddo). The redheaded journalist love interest has little to do and not much bearing on anything, but for those who believe in Love is the Law and Do what thou Wilt, this is a great stab at bringing the spirit of the Great Beast to life. Shrapnel is a pathetic case as Crowley was in later life - an accurate representation missing the filed down teeth, the awful asthma and the fact that he used to sell Dr Crowley's Elixir of life pills to all and sundry (they were equal parts chalk dust and his own 'essence'). The movie plays it tongue placed firmly in cheek and with panache, Grand Guignol and brio (and possibly other French words). Well done Dickinson. Well done Julian Doyle. The reviews of the time put me off this movie, but it's a Tuesday evening delight - or for any other time yo are raising Baphomet.
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on 9 October 2008
I did not know what to expect when i got this film about a lecturer who is possessed by the spirit of occult obsessive aleister crowley after entering a virtual reality machine that has his thoughts and teachings programmed in it. What i got was an amazing viewing experience. Simon Callow is amazing as aleister giving him a multi layered personality, the screen just lights up whenever he is on and he dominates this movie. But acting overall is fantastic in this movie. Some of the scences of sexual occultism are quite shocking but it is never to ott and helps keep the realism the film has created. The only downside is the slighlty crazy last sequance where it almost ruins a perfectly crafted film. A must see for anyone interested in crowley or any one who likes their mystery with a bit of spice.
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on 14 November 2009
I have watched this film twice. First time it did my head in, the second time I enjoyed it much more. The reason being although Simon Callow does an excellent job of presenting Crowleys charismatic personality which is very believeable, the story line is poor science fiction and seems to focus very much upon the darker and negative aspects of his character. I found it quite amusing how various characters in the story had names that were pivotal in his life story such as Leah, Mathers etc. But I found the scientific part of plot baffling and both times I've watched it now I've got the end of the film and thought that the plot did not make much sense, oh actually we are only on day two and Crowley is now pretending to be the professor to fool us and take the world over! (or is he ?). There is some good genuine esoteric references in this book such as Abelard and Masonic lore etc - however, in its presentation of the Rosicrucian 'Chemical wedding' seemed a nonsensical and over dramatised ritualisation demonstration the author of the film has no concept of crowleys magick other than a hack writers occultism. It felt very in the vein of a Dennis Wheatley novel. I did particularly like the elder professor character, the master mason who knew Crowley in his youth. There are some funny and shocking parts to the film.

This appears to be the only mainstream film on Crowley and I think I would have appreciated more a dramatised documentary showing his childhood influences and the golden dawn saga (including the infamous alan bennett) - rather than this mish mash of poor science fiction and misunderstood occultism. Rather than the nonsensical ritual, they could have shown the ritual of his Gnostic mass for example. It also seemed to be a vehicle for Bruce Dickinson/Iron Maiden music who I believe was behind the film.
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on 1 June 2009
Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear! Why is it that rock stars and celebrities get away with such artistic vandalism all the time? Is there nobody near enough to them with the guts to say 'no sorry, that is absolute junk!'?

Bruce Dickinsons' Chemical Wedding is a case in point. The films' storyline is simply too silly and trite to comment upon, the acting is wooden and the plot belies all sense of credability. So then why am I bothering to do so? Well, its because I have to echo the comments from other reviewers for this DVD that the performance Simon Callow gives as Aleister Crowley is nothing short of staggering.

I have studied Crowley for many years and like many other students formulated a personal idea on what he was like - his character, mannerisms and foibles. When the opening shots of Crowley in his Hastings bedsit appeared I had a chill run down my neck. The Callow Crowley is simply the man reincarnate. A wonderful performance that is maintained throughout the film and carries you along in a powerful tide of both fascination and revulsion. One can't help feeling that with a better script Mr Callow would have earned himself a very respected position in Thelemic circles!
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on 24 July 2009
This movie has polarized fairly strongly and it's not hard to see why, though I feel that people might have the wrong expectations when they go to see it. This movie's core audience is those who remember the ridiculous days of the Hammer House of Horror, the silly, gore-filled, brain fart horror movies and TV shows of the 70s and 80s. It's a direct send-up of them and not a serious attempt at drama, and as such it should be approached with the same campy abandonment of serious expectations with which one would approach, say, Repo! or the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

One criticism I've seen fairly frequently of this movie is that it doesn't portray Aleister Crowley in a serious enough or accurate enough light and to those people I say... serious? Crowley? The man was a ridiculous figure, bad poet and eccentric and nothing about his legacy should be taken seriously unless you're suffering from a brain hemorrhage or five.

Finally, one issue I would address with this movie: The editor needed to have his hands cut off, that's the most jarring issue with this film loaded with jump cuts and star wipes giving it the feel of a 1970s infomercial. There's paying homage and then there's just getting annoying, guys.

Still, if you're up for some ridiculous, graphic fun with a kicking soundtrack and campy 1970s feel... you're an odd person but this film is worth seeing.
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