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Erich von Stroheim,
Mary Beth Hughes,
Paul, a young man whose father was once lieutenant Governor of California before his untimely death, has a strange, recurring dream in which his mother falls in love with a dangerous man (Brett Curtis), a dream which also contains the image of his father's death in an automobile accident under mysterious circumstances. Through the help of his friend, a psychiatrist, Paul realizes that his dream is coming true, and that his mother is falling under Curtis's influence. Curtis, in fact, is a homicidal maniac who lives as an out-patient at the sanitarium of the unscrupulous Dr. Muhlbach. When Curtis makes an attempt to marry Paul's mother, Paul intervenes, and after a series of events discovers the truth behind his dreams. Written by
Wheeler Winston Dixon
"Sure we know, we're just nuts looking for a padded cell."
The plot of "Strange Illusion" can be summed up by main character Paul Cartwright (Jimmy Lydon) in conversation with his friend Dr. Vincent (Regis Toomey) - "This may sound kinda crazy Doc but, that dream is beginning to happen". The story finds college student Paul, who's overly protective of his mother Virginia (Sally Eilers), conflicted over her romance with Brett Curtis (Warren William). Curtis' manner is just a little too smooth, hiding the fact that his mission is to exact revenge on Paul and his family. It was Paul's deceased father, a former judge, who sent Curtis to jail years ago, but under his real name of Claude Barrington.
Curtis becomes suspicious that Paul is on to him, and together with psychiatrist friend Professor Muhlbach (Charles Arnt), they intend to take him out of the picture one way or another. Paul uncharacteristically agrees to be a 'guest' at Muhlbach's Restview Sanitarium, where his own detective skills are put to the test. With cool self assurance and with the help of Doc Vincent, the pair begin to unravel the mystery behind the death of Paul's father and the sinister alliance between Muhlbach and Curtis/Barrington.
Lydon's portrayal of young Cartwright is decidedly angst driven, though he manages to slip out of character every once in a while when conversing with friends. He caught me off guard with that phone call to would be girlfriend Lydia (Mary McLeod) - "Hello vixen, what's mixin'?"; and he really went into Henry Aldrich mode when he learned his sister might be in danger with Curtis.
It was after the film doing some research that I learned of an interesting fact about Lydon. In the movie, his sister Dorothy (Jayne Hazard) is talking with Curtis about moonlight and poetry, and they share a thought about Omar Khayyam. Dorothy remarks that most people her age wouldn't know who the Persian poet was, surmising that to them he could just as well be a Turkish wrestler. That remark seemed to come out of left field, but it turns out that Lydon's grandfather was professional wrestling champion Jim Londos!
When the opening credits of this film rolled declaring itself a PRC release, my guard immediately went up for poor production values and a disjointed story, however I was pleasantly surprised by the intelligent presentation of Paul's dilemma and it's resolution. It might have been more fitting if Paul's dream sequence to end the movie had him talking with his dead father. Other than that, I only found one other story element to be annoying. Why, one asks, would a grown woman allow her own kids to call her 'The Princess'?
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