Christopher Maclaine (1923-1975)

The End (1970)

Not much is known about the short, apparently unhappy life of Christopher Maclaine. He was born in Oklahoma and graduated from University of California at Berkeley, where he subsequently cofounded Contour, an important literary journal of the day. He was a published poet, in a recognizably Beat style, before he began to make films. He seems to have cultivated the image of a mad genius, and his personal relationships were reportedly stormy. Those who worked with or knew him describe both a speed freak careless about his surroundings, and a thunderous creative force, doing whatever it took to complete his films. Stan Brakhage, who saw Maclaine’s first film at its premiere, returned to San Francisco a decade later to seek him out and found him destitute, squatting in a room in the back of an office building. Brakhage befriended Maclaine and got his work screened on the East Coast, and it is largely through his efforts that Maclaine’s work is known to us today. Sadly, by the time Maclaine’s films became respected enough to gain distribution, the filmmaker himself was incapacitated body and mind by his long-term methedrine addiction. He spent the last six years of his life in an asylum, unable to care for himself, and died in 1975 age 51.

Fred Camper Mad Genius: The Films of Christopher Maclaine (The Chicago Reader)