Sunday, 7 July 2013

MOVIE: The Mad Magician (1954)

You can't beat a bit of Vincent Price in revenge mode. This is actually a fairly early example, made the year after House Of Wax had firmly placed him in the mind of cinemagoers as a horror star, for better or worse.

Here, Vincent is Don Gallico, a creator of magical illusions. As we meet him for the first time, he has tired of others taking the limelight with his creations and is about to make his debut in his own right as "Gallico the Great". However, his performance is cut short when his employer Ross Ormond (Donald Randolph) serves a writ on him - it seems that all of Gallico's creations are Ormond's property due to a stifling and watertight contract, and Gallico has no option but to return to the day job with his tail between his legs.

To add insult to injury, Ormond takes one of Gallico's most prized creations (which utilises a mini crematorium), and hands it to rival magician The Great Rinaldi (John Emery). When you consider that Ormond also stole Gallico's wife Claire (Eva Gabor), it's a surprise that he hasn't snapped already, but this is indeed the final straw and he takes it upon himself to dispatch with Ormond.

Trouble is, it doesn't go as smoothly as anticipated. Claire starts to twig something is up, Gallico then has to decide whether to bump her off as well, and as things progress more murders become necessary to cover his tracks.

I'm not sure it was the studio's intention, but you can't help rooting for Vincent as he tries to tie up all the loose ends and keep his backside out of jail, whilst his whole plan unravels further and further. As the police close in, the climax brings the previously mentioned mini crematorium back into play...

A pleasing way to spend 72 minutes (oh for the days when films were a sensible length), good for a Sunday matinee. Director John Brahm keeps things cracking along (he would later direct some classic episodes of The Twilight Zone). Price would of course perfect his revenge persona in the Dr. Phibes movies and Theatre Of Blood, but this is an enjoyable prototype.

Unlike the original release, sadly the DVD is not in 3-D...

Purple Rating 6.5/10

US 1954 - Columbia Pictures
Certificate X (UK original release)
72 mins
DVD from Sony Choice Collection (US only, made to order)

Original trailer for The Mad Magician.

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