Christopher Maclaine Biography


Not much is know about the life of Christopher Maclaine. "Born in Oklahoma in 1923, Maclaine graduated from the University of California at Berkeley in 1946 and soon founded a small literary magazine; he also published his poetry in other small magazines and in several small-press books, the last in 1960" (Camper: The Chicago Reader Movie Review).

Maclaine was part of the Beat movement in San Francisco during the 1940's and 50's and earned the reputation of being a type of madman. He was poet in San Francisco area and led a mysterious life. Brakhage writes, "What Maclaine did for money, God only knows--begged on the streets, mooched, finally robbed and stole . . . he was always desperate" (Brakhage 116).

Brakhage recounts a story when he had to track down Maclaine for his first interview. Brakhage tells us that Maclaine was on the drug, speed, at the time. "I knew that Maclaine was about 35 to 38 years old, but the man in that room with me looked more like 55" (Brakhage 121). Maclaine was living in a small apartment in the back of a reality company building. The only entrance to his home was through a window says Brakhage.

Maclaine's drug addiction throughout his life was a problem and may be the reason for his somewhat tragic lifestyle. "He became a drug casualty when Methedrine was introduced into the Bay Area in the late 50s; much stronger than the amphetamines he'd previously taken, it caused permanent brain damage. When Brakhage describes visiting him in the early 60s, Maclaine sounds like the classic speed freak; at about that time he also made at least one suicide attempt. By the mid-60s he no longer recognized his friends, and in 1969, unable to care for himself, he was placed in a state institution, where he died in 1975" (Camper: The Chicago Reader Movie Review).

Maclaine produced only four films in his career. His first and most famous is entitled The End. This film speaks of atomic destruction on earth. It follows 6 characters on their last day alive. However, these characters as well as the rest of world do not know that Armageddon is about to strike.

The title, The End, is also fitting because, "The End (1953) terminated the highly productive period of film-making in San Francisco that had begun with The Potted Psalm. When it was made, the avant-garde movement was already on the way to its first temporary dissolution" (Sitney 294).

--Will Michael, 2004

Christopher Maclaine