Thursday, December 26, 2013
The Amazing Mr. X (1948)
Hell o Prisoners
Time for Disc #2, Movie #4, 50 Horror Classics
"I live by feeding people's desires to escape the present." Alexis--The Amazing Mr. X
Eagle Lion Films, Inc.
Director Bernard Vorhaus'
The Amazing Mr. X
Christine (Lynn Bari), wealthy widow and socialite, lives with her younger sister, Janet, (Cathy O'Donnell) in a coastal mansion on cliff, but she just can’t seem to get over her husband, Paul, (Donald Curtis) who’s been "dead" for two years. It doesn't help that she hears him calling to her in the waves (and from the hidden electronic equipment he’s set up in the basement below).
As she walks along the beach, she meets a mysterious man in suit and tie, Alexis (Turhan Bey), leaning against the rocks. He seems to know all about her, and may be in a position to help her reach her dead husband. He disappears as suddenly as he appeared, and she can't shake the feeling that she should seek him out just in case he can help her. It seems he's the only one who understands.
Her would-be suitor, Martin (Richard Carlson), an all to logical attorney, certainly doesn't. In fact he believes she should stop pining away over Paul, whether it be with him or someone else. But with that said, he's still determined to help console her grieving and delusions.
Alexis, The Amazing Mr. X, turns out to be a seer, but not a very good one. His talents consist of nothing more than props and gadgets and simple magic tricks. He's all about conning Christine, a wealthy mixed up widow who lives in a mansion on the beach, and better yet, he has a bonus in the form of her naive little sister who along with Martin want to get to the bottom of Christine's odd behavior and her belief that Alexis can indeed raise Paul from the dead.
But his plan soon backfires when Janet, who visits Alexis undercover as "Mrs. Charles Harper", soon falls under the charms of The Amazing Mr. X, when he plays to her vulnerabilities, the vulnerabilities of all young women, that she is indeed far more mature than most her age, or the older boys, and even her sister, of whom she has always been a tad jealous. However, Paul isn't dead at all, and really does show up at one of Alexis' seances, much to his surprise.
You see, Alexis isn't the only con man on the bill. Paul isn't dead at all. He is merely "technically dead". The body found in his car, was none other than his first wife, who tried to pull her inheritance from ever reaching his bank account, once she saw through his scheme. He recognizes an opportunity when he sees it, so he blackmails Alexis to continue with his scam but on a higher level. The Amazing Mr. X must marry Janet. Paul will have easier access to the fortune through the young woman, and after all, she is too young and naive to be of any threat. If Alexis wants to stay out of jail, he'll have to go along with it. but he is not in the murdering business. He's a simple charlatan, not a murderer. He doesn't want to hurt these women. He just wants to rip them off.
Now he must watch as Paul gaslights Christine with the intent of eventually offing her, which he almost succeeds in doing in the best scene of the movie. He has Emily (Virginia Gregg), his accomplice who is posing as the resident maid, drug her warm milk before Christine retires. And then through a microphone and speakers hidden in the chimney in her bedroom, Paul coaxes her to the balcony and down the stairs to the cliffs, upon which they used to race. "Last one there is a coward" she mumbles. And through warped vision she makes her way down, fully seeing Paul in the lead, but she's high, and she trips and falls and rolls head over heals down this massive cliff. I have to say, the stunt was awesome. Alexis, wooing Janet on the beach, turns out to be more of a man than we thought, and saves her.
Through drugs and The Amazing Mr. X, Paul speaks from the shadows, on the piano, and through seance. But Janet isn't as stupid as he thinks, in fact he's the stupid one. He should be more careful when he is speaking through his microphone filling Christine's room with his words and recorded music.
Don't you just hate it when you're trying to gaslight someone with an LP recording and the darn thing skips? This alerts Janet who is holding vigil next to Christine's bed after her fall, and she makes her way towards the sound, towards the chimney, and once she looks inside and up, she spies the speakers.
Down to the basement she goes and finds Alexis. While confronting him, Paul walks in. But when Paul aims a gun at Janet, Alexis tunes into his "kinder side" once more, and they grapple. The gun goes off. The Amazing Mr. X has been shot. Janet runs for the phone, but before Paul has a chance to cut the wires, Martin hears a scream. All the commotion brings Christine downstairs as well, but when Paul tries to kill both women, Alexis uses his last bit of strength to take him down. The sirens approach, and Martin and the police arrive in time to see Janet saying her good byes to her beloved, Alexis, who was indeed falling for the lovely young lady. He whispers to her, "Do not dwell on the past."
Although the ending was a pretty good segway to a sequel, thank God they spared us.
What begins with the makings for a pretty decent horror film: a raven's caw, a mansion on a cliff, whispers heard in the crashing waves, a gnarled tree on the sand, a man who appears out of nowhere to a vulnerable widow who wishes her dead husband will return, and a dark and mystifying tone, turns out to nothing more than a charlatan who feeds on people’s desires to escape the present by seemingly raising the dead and in turn gets caught up in the life of an egotistical murderous wretch who marries women for their money. Excuse me for saying...A Classic Horror Film should have real seers or real dead raising...or both.
I hesitate to give this film even one flame on the flame scale. I don’t think it’s much of a horror film. Let alone a Classic horror film. Granted their was an ominous mansion on a cliff, and Christine's gowns flowed in the marine breeze no less so than the Bride of Frankenstein’s in her castle, but it wasn't scary. Not even the apparition. I did like one thing about it, though, well, besides the cliff fall, the mansion, and the tresses and dresses, it was the tracers during the seance. They were cool. When the hands appeared over the girls' heads and moved from side to side, they left tracers. Kind of reminded me of one night in high school when the leaves in the trees had tracers as well. But that's enough about that. Yes. The tracers the hands left were truly a sight to behold, albeit, maybe not enough to watch the film. Unless, of course, you are particularly in need of tracers or find seeing them nostalgic, as I do.
So since there were some scary elements, even if they were sketchy scary elements, The Amazing Mr. X., (released as The Spiritualist in the United Kingdom), I believe, warrants at least one flame. I certainly wouldn’t consider this a “Horror Classic”, by any means, but at least it wasn't a Crime/Adventure like The World Gone Mad and Swamp Women.
Next time it’s Dead Man Walk (1943), and I sure I hope they do! Even though I’m not a Zombie gal, as I've said before, at least I could call it Horror! Until Next time…Keep those fires stoked!