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The Mad Magician

USA 1954
produced by
Bryan Foy for Columbia
directed by John Brahm
starring Vincent Price, Mary Murphy, Eva Gabor, John Emery, Donald Randolph, Lenita Lane, Patrick O'Neal, Jay Novello, Lyle Talbot, Corey Allen, George Eldredge
written by Crane Wilbur, music by Arthur Lange, Emil Newman, magic tricks by Bob Haskell

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Gallico (Vincent Price) is an inventor who has dedicated his life to inventing elaborate devices of one kind or another for stage magicians - and he's darn good at it, too, so good in fact that he at one point decides to take the stage himself instead of letting others steal his limelight.

Gallico's show starts out great, but just before the finale (involving a buzzsaw guillotine) it is shut down by Gallico's business partner Ormond (Donald Randolph), who reminds him that all of Gallico's inventions are actually his, and who is very quick to sell the buzzsaw guillotine to one of the magicians who is especially good at stealing Gallico's limelight, the Great Rinaldi (John Emery). This makes Gallico snap, and he is quick to plan his revenge, which starts with him decapitating Ormond using his buzzsaw guillotine, then impersonating Ormond and renting a room from Mrs Prentiss (Lenita Lane), who's a mystery writer in her spare time. Somehow, Gallico manages to lure Ormond's wife (Eva Gabor), who's also his own ex, to Mrs Prentiss's place to kill her as well - which is great inasmuch as now he has had his revenge on his ex but also has Ormond as his scapegoat and created the illusion that Ormond is still alive. Just too bad that Mrs Prentiss is a mystery writer who's quick to become suspicious and eventually she hooks up with the police ...

Gallico catches the Great Rinaldi in his lab where he is developing his latest invention, the Crematory, something that Rinaldi claims as his - but Gallico simply burns Rinaldi in said Crematory, then even goes so far as to impersonate him on stage, without anybody noticing - after all, he is a great impersonator and has developed a new brand of facial mask that goes far beyond anything ever developed.

Mrs Prentiss though is convinced that Gallico, the Ormond who killed his wife, and the Rinaldi who is presently on stage are one and the same person, so she persuades Lt Bruce (Patrick O'Neal) of the police to break into Gallico's lab with her to find evidence against him - and finding evidence they do, in form of his facial masks. But as fate (and genre formula) has it, Gallico returns to interrupt them, a fight ensues, and in the finale, Gallico is burnt in his own Crematory.

 

This little 3D movie was shot hot on the heels of the success of the Vincent Price-3D-vehicle House of Wax, and judging from pure technical terms, this is the inferior film: It was show in black and white compared to the earlier film's lush colours, its 3D effects are much more in-your-face than the subtle effects of House of Wax, and its budget also was much tighter, which shows painfully in sets, costumes and effects. Of course, its script was also a rehash of House of Wax, but considering that movie was already a remake of 1933's Mystery of the Wax Museum, the point is somewhat moot.

However, this point-for-point comparison does not take into account one question: Which film is more fun? And here, I have to admit, The Mad Magician is the winner, basically because it scores higher on the camp scale, doesn't take itself as seriously as House of Wax, and does pay more attention to macabre detail.

All of this doesn't make The Mad Magician a genre classic of any sort of course, and besides everything I have stated here I'm sure you will find plenty wrong with this movie - but it's still good genre fun, and Vincent Price gives his usual best on top of that.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
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shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
-
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner

 

Out now from
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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD