Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

THE MAD MAGICIAN


THE MAD MAGICIAN (1954). Director: John Brahm.

Don Gallico (Vincent Price), who seeks fame as a world-class magician in the Victorian era, is stymied at every turn by his nasty employer Ross Ormond (Donald Randolph). So he makes the man a victim of his buzz saw device in a zestfully ghoulish sequence. This leads into other murders as he takes on Ormond's identity and has to deal with another magician, Rinaldi (John Emery), who covets his latest device, a working crematorium. With a very clever script by Crane Wilbur, The Mad Magician is very entertaining and features a winningly devilish performance by Price as a man pushed to the end of his rope. His knocking off evil people provides a certain catharsis as only a film can do. Mary Murphy is Gallico's assistant, and Patrick O'Neal plays her boyfriend, a visiting New York City police lieutenant. Eva Gabor is Claire, Ormond's wife, who used to be married to Price. Lenita Lane is Mary Prentiss, a mystery novelist who helps O'Neal get at the truth; five years later she would again appear with Price as Lizzie in The Bat. The versatile Jay Novello plays her husband, Frank, as British in this as he was South American in The Lost World (1960); he also played Mr. Merriweather in the classic "Seance" episode of I Love Lucy. The wildest scene has Price trying to get back a valise accidentally picked up by Karen which, unbeknownst to her, contains the head of Ormond! Originally presented in 3-D.

Verdict: Lots of fun! ***.

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