Friday, 24 July 2015

THE MAD MAGICIAN













d. John Brahm (1954)

It's the late 19th century, and curly haired Don Gallico (Vincent Price, one of the patron saints of this blog) wants to be a stage magician but, because he is a humble and rather nervous sort of person, he is stuck making tricks for other less talented and far less pleasant performers. When Don's big chance is ruined by his horrible. grasping employer (a man who also stole Gallico's wife and keeps bragging about it), something pings under the pressure (it might located be in his eye, which keeps twitching) and he becomes a committed maniac, wearing homemade masks and murdering people all over the place: by buzz saw, by strangulation, by cremation. 

Like a lot of murderers, once he solves his first problem by killing someone he soon finds that he becomes extremely busy. As the film progresses he becomes less sympathetic, more ruthless, increasingly unhinged and, because this film was originally made in 3D, he also has to keep throwing stuff at the audience, too - playing cards, water, flames, sawdust - it's just a relief that there are no sex scenes.

The Mad Magician is reminiscent of director John Brahm's earlier film Hangover Square (1939), even down to the scene where Gallico disposes of a corpse using a handily placed bonfire. The great Mr. Price gets to play several roles under a variety of latex disguises but reserves his best characterisation for 'The Great Gallico', a shy guy who is simply too nice for show business, and too crazy to live. 

The film is also worth watching if you have ever wondered what Zsa Zsa Gabor did before she became Zsa Zsa Gabor: she was an actress, apparently, though not so you'd notice. 

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