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Joseph H. Lewis
Dame May Whitty,
On the beach one night, Christine Faber, two years a widow, thinks she hears her late husband Paul calling out of the surf...then meets a tall dark man, Alexis, who seems to know all about such things. After more ghostly manifestations, Christine and younger sister Janet become enmeshed in the eerie artifices of Alexis; but he in turn finds himself manipulated into deeper deviltry than he had in mind... Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
When Martin and the detective break up the séance, Martin explains to Christine that he has investigated her previous husband's (Paul) past. Instead of referring to the previous husband as "Paul", he refers to him as "Martin" (his own character's name). See more »
Alexis, do you think I'd make a good celestial companion?
Darling, I think you'd be wonderful!
And we'd love each other through all eternity?
Oh, even longer!
See more »
What a weird film! SPOILERS THROUGHOUT. 'The Amazing Mr X' starts out implying that it's going to be a supernatural story, featuring a medium (Turhan Bey as the sinister Alexis) with genuine psychic powers, which he kindly wields for the benefit of wealthy widow Christine. Then, about a third of the way through the movie, we learn that Alexis is a fraud, using various tricks (including a confederate in his victim's household) to 'mind-read' his mark. When we've convinced ourselves that this is a standard caper movie with spooky trimmings, abruptly Christine's husband comes back from the dead ... and we wonder if this movie is going to be supernatural after all. But then there's ANOTHER twist...
Filmed on a medium-low budget, this movie is quite stylish, with subtle camera movements and moody set dressing. I was impressed by the performance of Cathy O'Donnell as Christine's sister. O'Donnell never got very far in Hollywood: her chief assets were her good looks and the fact that she was related to director William Wyler. Much less impressive is stodgy Richard Carlson as a successful lawyer who doesn't seem to have any respect for the legal principle of probable cause, nor for the laws against breaking and entering.
A major flaw in this film is that I didn't have much sympathy for the heroine. She's allegedly mourning her dead husband, yet she recently bought a new ermine ... and she's got plenty of other furs and dresses. Frankly, it doesn't bother me at all when people with lots of money and free time (and very little sense) get clipped by phony clairvoyants.
Christine's husband Paul, back from the dead after two years, was never dead after all. This is another flaw in the film's credibility: we never learn how this man, accustomed to luxury, has been supporting himself for two years while officially declared dead. The entire film would have been so much more plausible if the script had given Paul a single explanatory line such as "Good thing I had somebody else's Social Security number handy, so I could get a job...".
The stand-out performance in this film is given by Harry Mendoza, a professional magician who demonstrates solid acting ability here as Hoffman, the cynical private eye. In his key dialogue scene, Mendoza keeps performing simple prestidigitation -- palming a cigar, then making the same cigar appear out of nowhere, over and over -- that's quite impressive in its own right, and made more impressive by the way it underlines the cynical tone of his words. Also quite impressive is a trained crow who really deserved to get his (her?) own billing in the cast list. Norma Varden is good in a very brief role as one of Alexis's other victims.
Also impressive are the seance sequences, in which we witness some of the genuine techniques used by phony clairvoyants using the most advanced electronics of the time: 1948. Can you imagine the 'magic' these charlatans are able to produce nowadays, with modern electronics? 'The Amazing Mr X' is wildly implausible but stylishly enjoyable, and I'll rate it 7 out of 10.
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