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|Index||34 reviews in total|
Claude Rains gives one of his finest performances ever -- and that's saying a lot. The rest of the cast is also first-rate in this story of a fake fortune-teller who suddenly starts seeing visions of the future for real. I really liked the small touches that director Elvey put in to make you feel as if Claude and his family really were a family -- little things like the way wife Fay Wray will touch his shoulder, the way the family talks on top of one another -- it's all carefully and perfectly done. Congratulations also to Glen MacWilliams' photography -- his footage of the mine shaft rivals Fritz Lang's METROPOLIS. Good work all around.
"The Clairvoyant", also known as "The Evil Mind", is a far-fetched but
interesting story, which works primarily because of Claude Rains' excellent
acting in his role as a phony music-hall psychic who suddenly discovers
he has genuine psychic powers whenever a particular woman is
Rains was one of the finest actors of his era, and was at his best in playing complex, multi-faceted characters. In "The Clairvoyant", his character must struggle both to understand the nature of the unexpected ability that he has discovered, and also to handle the complications that it produces in his life and marriage, since the woman whose presence grants him real extra-sensory ability is not his wife.
The concept itself is an interesting premise, although quite implausible. It preserves some believability that no convoluted attempt is ever made to explain just why the psychic gift worked as it did - the film concentrates instead on the gift's consequences. The rest of the film works as well as it does because of Rains and also because of good work by Fay Wray and Jane Baxter as the women in his life.
There is a good suspense climax and an amusing final scene.
The writing is also good. The screen version was written by Charles Bennett, who is better known for writing the screen adaptations for several of Alfred Hitchcock's finest movies, including "The 39 Steps", "Foreign Correspondent", and both versions of "The Man Who Knew Too Much".
"The Clairvoyant" will definitely appeal to any fan of Rains, and it is a short, fast-moving picture that should also provide good light entertainment to who anyone who enjoys vintage cinema.
Seems very strange to see two famed Hollywood actors, Rains and Wray paired together in this early British low-budget film, but there they are...and a marvellous job they make of it. Rains plays Maximus, a charlatan "clairvoyant", and Wray plays his wife and act sidekick. The act is dying on it's feet when Rains pulls of an act of genuine clairvoyance, with a little help from Jane Baxter. All good fun from there...a nice little twist at the end. Well worth a look at.
Claude Rains plays the psychic Maximus, a man with no discernable talent until his mind connects with a newspaperman's heiress daughter. This little film directed with some panache and skill by Maurice Elvey chronicles the abrupt rise and fall of a vaudevillian-like music hall act. Rains is, as always, very good. A good performance with some moments of genuine ham - just watch him do the things with his eyes. Fay Wray is also a nice asset as his wife. She seems to be very bubbly and brings some gentle humor and emotion to the film. The story has some nice twists and turns and has a surprise ending of sorts. The film is obviously somewhat old and has some creaky qualities to it as well. All in all, however; I found The Clairvoyant to be a nice way to spend a cold evening.
'The Clairvoyant' is an obscure British thriller that fans of Claude Rains ('The Invisible Man') and Fay Wray ('King Kong') should try and hunt down. While slightly flawed it's still extremely entertaining, and Rains and the beautiful Wray make a great team. Watching it I sometimes wondered what Alfred Hitchcock could have done with the material (incidentally Charles Bennett who scripted Hitch's classic 'The 39 Steps' co-wrote it), but that's not to say it isn't interesting as it stands. Rains plays Maximus, a fake psychic who has a music hall act with his wife Rene(Wray). He unexpectedly finds himself getting genuine premonitions when he is near Christine Shawn (Jane Baxter). This leads to many complications, a strain on his marriage, and his eventual prosecution. The movie mixes light comedy, romance and darker moments into a nice blend that should be appreciated by anybody who enjoys Hitchcock's 1930s movies. I don't think 'The Clairvoyant' is anywhere near as good as Hitchcock's best from this period, but it's still above average, and Rains in particular is wonderful. This talented and charismatic actor is always a joy to watch.
Maurice Elvey was the David Lean of the WW1 period but his status and
declined over the years.
This eerie thriller is one of his best sound films, playing the spooky material off against the drab British setting - theatrical boarding houses, rail travel and unruly music halls. Claude Rains and Fay Wray did better but make interesting leads here and Elvey manages some ingenious staging, particularly having the family quit the stalled train, in a tunnel. The mob storming a line of London Bobbies in the fog evokes Elvey's most important work, his many years lost Lloyd George biography and the one scene with Donald Calthrop (the blackmailer from "Blackmail") registers.
Neglected by his own industry and ignored by critics, it would be nice to see Maurice Elvey get the credit he deserves.
Always enjoyed the great acting of Claude Rains, who became very famous for his role in "The Invisible Man",'33. It was after this film that Rains went on to become a great dramatic actor as in "Casablanca",42, and many greater starring roles. Rains never needed cue cards, he remembered his many long lines to perfection in great Classics of the 30's, 40's and 60's with many TV appearances. In this picture Rains plays a Clairvoyant, who is really a con-artist and for some unknown reason gains great powers to foretell the future, but is unable to prevent them from happening. There is a train wreck, a horse race and many more fascinating events he predicts. Fay Wray stars as his wife and looks very attractive without her blonde hair as she appeared in "King Kong". Fay Wray also became very famous because of her role in the Kong picture and went on to have a great acting career, without all the screaming. If you have not viewed this film, try to catch it on TV.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
SPOILERS COMING UP
THE CLAIRVOYANT (known in a truncated form as THE EVIL MIND) was a film made in England in 1934, co-starring Claude Rains as Maximus and Fay Wray as his wife and stage assistant Rene. They have a reasonably good music hall mentalist act, in which Wray has to find valuables in the audience that fit a code that Rains knows by heart (he is blindfolded, of course). She picks up a watch and says something that mentions "time" and he knows it is a watch. That sort of thing.
Well one night the act has started going well, but Wray gets lost going into the private boxes, and she gets locked out of the theater. Rains is lost without her feeding him the code. He stumbles on the stage, and the audience jeers and gets rowdy. Then something odd happens - Rains has some kind of actual vision. A man in the audience has jeeringly asked if he can say what is he holding. Rains, says it is a letter from the man's wife. Then he corrects himself and says it is about the wife...and she's getting worse. Rains says to the man he should hurry to her. The man does just that. This was no plant but a genuine incident. Maximus faints at the end of the incident.
Maximus' mother (Mary Clare) realizes what has happened. There is a family tradition going back to her father of sudden visions and such affecting them. In short, although the music hall act is a fake, Maximus actually has the potential of being a genuine clairvoyant (similar to Whoopie Goldberg's character in GHOST, who also has a family history of second sight). Still the incident can be lightly passed by, but while Maximus, Rene, Mother, and their friend Simon (Ben Field) are on a train to Manchester Maximus sees a young woman who was in the audience at the theater. She is (as it turns out) Christine Shawn (Jane Baxter) the daughter of a powerful newspaper owner, Lord Southwood (Athole Stewart). Christine and Maximus exchange looks, and Maximus has another trance. He suddenly foresees a train disaster. He pulls the emergency cord, stopping the train as it goes into a tunnel, and argues with the conductor to allow the passengers to disembark. The conductor refuses, but Maximus and his party, Christine, and another person disembark. They are escorted out of the tunnel by a railway employee, only to learn the train did get into a bad collision.
This incident gets publicity, so that Maximus is suddenly famous - and is able to get a nice billing and contract at a "Palladium" type theater in London. But the producer keeps insisting on him producing prophecies or else. He does produce one at the last moment - the winner of the Derby. In a nicely handled incident Maximus is escorted to the Derby by Christine while an increasingly jealous Rene goes with Mother and Simon. Maximus watches the 100 - 1 shot horse he names run a fantastic, photo-finish race, and win.
Lord Southwood signs Maximus to a contract for his newspapers, although the mind-reader can't explain his power, except to say the power is unexpected when it turns up. It is also a power that leaves him feeling helpless. He sees his mother momentarily after she hangs up a telephone on him, and realizes it bodes no good. Sure enough she dies in a fall shortly afterward.
The final prediction is of another disaster - a tunnel cave-in that Rains tried to prevent from happening. He is blamed for it, because it is believed that his addressing the doomed men caused them to panic while blasting. He is put on trial, and just barely escapes because he predicts that the survivors of the collapse are nearly out of a side tunnel they have been digging out of (he announces this minutes before the news actually arrives at the courthouse).
The film is on par with the Edward G. Robinson masterpiece, THE NIGHT HAS 1,000 EYES, wherein Robinson, a fake mentalist, does develop second sight, and find it never helps anyone. That isn't quite the case here, but Rains finds that he can't direct his power to help people as he would wish. Two hundred men are lost in the tunnel, and people were still injured in the train wreck. But worse, he is blamed for these disasters - and understandably so (his warnings do cause nervousness and panic). But the business with the letter and the horse also show that he is not a fraud.
The film looks cheap because it was made in England in the early 1930s (it's a Gainsborough picture). But for that period it has good standards. The love triangle is not as strong as it should be, because of the writing of Jane Baxter's role - she does not seem to be unscrupulous enough to try to steal Rains from Wray. But the affection between Wray and Rains is real enough. All in all it is a pretty good film for it's time.
The Clairvoyant is directed by Maurice Elvey and adapted to the screen
by Charles Bennett and Bryan Edgar Wallace from the novel written by
Ernst Lothar. It stars Claude Rains, Fay Wray and Jane Baxter.
Maximus: King of the Mind Readers.
Out of Gaumont British and Gainsborough Pictures, The Clairvoyant is a compact 80 minute picture that tells of a bogus clairvoyant played by Rains who suddenly finds he does in fact have the gift. However, it's a gift he can only bring out when he is in the presence of a woman named Christine (Baxter), something which greatly unsettles his marriage to Rene (Wray). Film is structured in two wholesome parts, the first finds Maximus and Rene bluffing their way on the entertainment circuit, with Maximus then finding the gift and predicting events that really occur, both good and bad. Then the film greatly shifts in tone to play out as the gift being a curse, Maximus' private life comes under great strain and a turn of events see him come under snarling scrutiny by his peers. The seamless shifts from moody to jovial and back again is a credit to the makers, with Rains turning in a powerful performance in one of the last British films he made before heading to America and the big studio contract.
It will not surprise with the ending, and the running time means that some interesting themes are not fully born out and expanded upon. But it's very well performed across the board and has genuine moments of tension and horror once the jovial atmosphere dissipates. 7/10
The Clairvoyant (1935)
This is a British movie with the flavor, and look, of Hitchcock's British films, and it's as good in many ways.
And Claude Rains as the title character is sharp, funny, sophisticated, warm, all in that way Rains has of being a little removed, gently above it all without being above his peers. He is way younger (of course) than his famous persona from, say, "Casablanca" or "Notorious" but it's still the same Rains, and in a way if you appreciate him in his American films, you should see this to see where he came from.
The filming and editing feels so much like Hitchcock at times I wondered just what kind of connections there might be between him and the director here, Maurice Elvey, and couldn't find anything obvious (like a shared cinematographer). But Elvey was the most established and famous and therefore the most influential of British filmmakers, making a hundred films before Hitchcock made his first. So the influence is probably one way at first, with Hitch picking up on Elvey's methods.
But by 1932, when Elvey made a talkie remake, "The Phantom Fiend," of an earlier Hitchcock masterpiece, the 1927 "The Lodger," the influence is obviously going the other way. The whole train scene in the first half of this movie is a masterpiece of filming and editing. In all, the plot is so interesting, with some honest twists to accompany what seems at first to be a slightly mystical theme, it deserves an honest remake of its own.
I think it's further worth noting some serious content. The movie deals (at least obliquely) with labor relations in the mines, with the acceptance by the establishment that mediums and clairvoyants are charlatans (or entertainers, as the charlatan says), with greed (in the depression), and with marital fidelity.
The copy you can stream on Netflix is only fair--not especially sharp, and with muddled sound, probably thrown together for television broadcast decades ago. It's good enough to watch anyway, but let's all hope for a remastered version soon.
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