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The Charlatan (1929)

 |  Thriller  |  14 April 1929 (USA)
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A woman goes to a sideshow fortune-teller to have her fortune told, and is astonished when the man looks into his crystal ball and goes into great detail about events in her past that few ... See full summary »


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Title: The Charlatan (1929)

The Charlatan (1929) on IMDb 7.1/10

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Cast overview:
Holmes Herbert ...
Florence Talbot
Rockliffe Fellowes ...
Richard Talbot (as Rockcliffe Fellowes)
Philo McCullough ...
Dr. Walter Paynter
Anita Garvin ...
Mrs. Paynter
Crauford Kent ...
District Attorney Frank Deering (as Craufurd Kent)
Rose Tapley ...
Mrs. Deering
Fred MacKaye ...
Jerry Starke
Dorothy Gould ...
Ann Talbot


A woman goes to a sideshow fortune-teller to have her fortune told, and is astonished when the man looks into his crystal ball and goes into great detail about events in her past that few people ever knew about. Shaken, she leaves and later tells her girlfriend about the incident. The girlfriend insists that she invite the fortune-teller to a party they're having at her house. What the woman doesn't realize is that the "fortune-teller" is actually the ex-husband she abandoned years ago, when she took their daughter and ran off with her lover. When the "charlatan" is invited to the party, he sees an opportunity to take his revenge on his faithless ex-wife. Written by

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Release Date:

14 April 1929 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Arte Diabólica  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

(MovieTone) (talking sequences)|

Aspect Ratio:

1.20 : 1
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Did You Know?


A Jewel Production. Lacking a theater network, Universal devised a 3-tiered branding system to market their product to independent operators: Red Feather (low budget programmers), Bluebird (mainstream releases) and Jewel (prestige releases designed to command higher roadshow ticket prices). This branding system faded away by late 1929. See more »

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User Reviews

Universal Mysterioso film
20 January 2003 | by See all my reviews

The Charlatan is a forgotten film. It was well-chronicled in the book "of Gods and Monsters". Its' plot is extremely dated, but looking from 2003, this is a good thing as it very much seems like an important relic of its' time. The Charlatan is a great example of what passed for pulp in the 1910s and 1920s.

The best part about the film is that it was made by Universal right before they started their classic horror cycle. The plot concerns a mysterious sideshow charlatan named Count Merlin. He reads the palm of a woman and tells her of how she once had cheated on her husband and stole his child away. She is stunned by his seeing that, and leaves. Count Merlin is in fact, her long-estranged husband in disguise. Her friend encourages her to have a party at her house and to invite Count Merlin to perform his magic act. When he is invited, murder ensues and it is his ex-wife who is the victim.

The plot is even more complicated than that, but what makes the film work is the terrific direction and lighting of George Melford and George Robinson, the pair who shot the stylish, but not as interesting "Spanish Dracula" two years later. There is a wonderful thunderstorm that lights up the evening at the house and a really good performance in the lead by Holmes Herbert who would later play supporting parts in many great horror films such as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and The Invisible Man.

It is really a shame that a film like this is so hard to see. Universal won't even release their other late silent horror/mystery classic The Last Warning, directed by Paul Leni and these films are quite superior to a lot of the hack horror films they released in the 1940s.

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