Freemasonry in Film
Masonic references in "The Man Who Would Be King"
Freemasonry on Film
In most cases, masonic themes don't normally play a major role in most high-profile, big budget summer releases. At the same time, there's no denying the fact that masonic references have had a higher profile and been included in a growing number of mainstream films over the past ten years. Apart from the routine documentaries and "investigative reports" on the Craft which make their regular appearances on second tier networks and the ocasional 20/20 special, it appears that Hollywood has identified the established audience of over 250,000 North American Freemasons (and their families) and has shown a growing fondness for tapping this market. Of course it works both ways. It's become more common in recent years to hear the brethren argue the strengths and weaknesses of the latest depiction of silver screen Freemasonry post-Lodge.
For better or for worse, there's no denying that a large part of the growth in Freemasonry film references has been brought on by Dan Brown. With the sequel to "The Da Vinci Code" - "The Widow's Son" (tentative title) squarely rooted in Freemasonry and its publication date fast approaching, there seems little doubt that the film version will be in theatres by 2011. So, while we wait for Ron Howard and Tom Hanks to delve behind the square and compass, here's a list of Hollywood's top 10 "masonic movies" of the past half century.
10.True Grit (1969) While it's true that the plot is far removed from organized Freemasonry, the Duke himself was a mason and the movie has one of my favorite lines, "When you get home, you put him in a better coffin and you bury him in a mason's apron."
9.League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003) Not exactly heavy theatrical fare, but a decent popcorn romp. This marks the first appearance of Sean Connery on our list. Viewers will spot the masonic ring worn by the "phantom" and a few square and compasses featured on a large closing door.
8.The Affair of the Necklace (2001) While you won't find Knights Templar or references to concordant bodies in this list (that would take us into the hundreds) Christopher Walken's performance as Cagliostro, leader of the Illuminati, merits a viewing. In addition, viewers will see masonic symbols on a desk owned by Jonathan Pryce's character.
8.Magnolia (1999) Another great film with biblical overtones raining down like frogs and a small but significant masonic reference. Philip Baker Hall and Ricky Jay (sporting a masonic ring) exchange the following: "We met upon the level and we're parting on the square."
7.Godfather Part 3 (1990) In the early 1980s, the Vatican Bank, was involved with the $3.5 billion dollar collapse of Banco Ambrosio, in which it held significant shares. The chairman of the bank at the time was a man named Licio Gelli who is also infamous for acting as chair of an illegal masonic lodge -Propaganda Due or P2. The lodge had its charter revoked by the Grand Lodge of italy in 1976. The Catholic Church, Italian Government and Italian Freemasons were rocked by what became christened the P2 scandal. The plot of Francis Ford Coppola's Godfather Part III bears a number of strong similiarties to the events of the scandal.
5.From Hell (2001) Jack the Ripper makes his first appearance at number five. A longtime fixation of conspiracy theroists and some masons, the Ripper is rumoured to have left a number of masonic clues at the scene of his crimes in London's Whitechapel district. Johnny Depp and Robbie Coltrane march from one masonic reference to the next as they bring Alan Moore's graphic novel to life. A very good looking film, it remains very similar in tone to a better treatment of the Ripper case which makes our list at #2.
4.The Da Vinci Code (2006) What more can be said about Ron Howard's version of Dan Brown's trillion selling novel? Tom Hanks, miscast as Robert Langdon (calling Harrison Ford, Daniel Craig, Clive Owen), races to encapsulate every theory of "Holy Blood, Holy Grail" in two hours. Connections are drawn from Priory of Sion to the Templars, Knights of St.John and just about anything else in Scotland. Sprinkle liberally with square and compasses and masonic imagery and you're on your way to tracking down the great Merovingian secret. At the same time, it must be noted that the film has generated tremendous curiosity regarding the Craft and spurred membership.
3.National Treasure (2004) National Treasure Two: Book of Secrets (2007) Another couple of popcorn romps starring Nicholas Cage as Benjamin Franklin Gates, who hunts for a chest hidden by the American founding fathers in the first installment and a sequel which delves into the search for a book which uncovers the relationship between Albert Pike and Queen Victoria as well as links to the Statue of Liberty, the assassination of President Lincoln and secret knowledge of virtually every significant event in the history of the US. Masonic references are too many to list. Like it or not, with a total gross of over $348.9 billion in 38 days, it's outgrossed the original ($347.5 million), and the third installment can't be far behind. It might be an interesting scenario to watch the Da Vinci Code sequel go head to head with the third National Treasure installment.
2.Murder By Decree (1979) The talents of Christopher Plummer and James Mason bring Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Holmes and Watson alive for this brilliant thriller dealing with the detective's chase to capture Jack the Ripper. Credit for the script cannot go to Doyle (himself a mason) but instead to Stephen Knight's "Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution," on which director Bob Clark based the film. Kinight had also published the tell-all examination of Freemasonry in England titled,"The Brotherhood." Alongside Plummer and Mason were Sir John Geilgud, Donald Sutherland and Genieveve Bujold. Without revealing the details of the plot, it can be said that the relationship between English Royalty and Freemasonry was alive and well.
1.The Man Who Would Be King (1975) In the pantheon of Masonic films, there can only be one king-and this is it. John Huston's tale of two former British soldiers in 19th century British India was injected with Masonic references from start to finish. The stellar performances of Sean Connery (arguably his finest) Michael Caine (who's been quoted as saying this is most likely the one film that he will be remembered for after his death) and Christopher Plummer as brother Rudyard Kipling, influential writer and noted Mason. A classic plot, this adventure tale relates the rise and fall of the Connery and Caine characters in the village of Khafiristan. Apart from the Masonic distress signal given by Caine in the early minutes of the film, the Masonic imagery continues...
For example, the first meeting between Carnehan (Caine) and Kipling (Plummer) occurs after Carnehan steals Kipling's watch--which he returns after he realizes it is decorated with masonic symbols. Later in the film, the two soldiers arrive in the holy city where the natives recognize the Masonic medal given to Dravot (Connery) by Kipling as a symbol of Alexander the Great. Terrific performances, direction and cinematography. Hopefully, this will be remastered and reissued with new bells and whistles. I've recently lost my copy but I'd lose my head if it wasn't well-fastened ;)