The Mad Magician – USA, 1954 – reviews

 

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‘Absolutely!!! The most sensational thrills you have seen in’

The Mad Magician is a 1954 American 3-D horror film directed by John Brahm (The Undying Monster; The Lodger; Hangover Square) from a screenplay by Crane Wilbur (The Amazing Mr. X; The Bat; House of Wax).

Main cast:

Vincent Price, Mary Murphy (The Outer LimitsGhost Story aka Circle of Fear), Eva Gabor (Tales of Tomorrow), John Emery (Kronos; Boris Karloff’s Thriller), Donald Randolph (The Deadly Mantis).

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Plot:

The late 1880s: Don Gallico (Vincent Price) is a magician, master of disguise, and inventor of stage-magic effects. aspiring to become a star magician under the stage name Gallico the Great.

Disguised as The Great Rinaldi, a headlining rival magician, Gallico performs a number of magic tricks successfully, building up to the reveal of his latest invention, the buzzsaw, an illusion that “severs” the head of the magician’s assistant Karen Lee (Mary Murphy). Before Gallico can perform the buzzsaw illusion, the curtains come down to stop the performance…

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Reviews:

“There is an entertainingly nasty scene early on where Price beheads one victim with a buzzsaw and a good climax with a victim about to be fed into a furnace. However, the whole film is too cheap, its melodramatic plot too dull and contrived for such occasional Grand Guignol moments to add up to a worthy film.” Richard Scheib, Moria

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“Perhaps it’s that obvious quality of cashing in that renders Brahm’s directing less dynamic here than it was in, say, Hangover Square or The Lodger. But just because Mad Magician isn’t a classic, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have its charms. Vincent Price is great, as always, playing opposite the lovely Mary Murphy, as well as Eva Gabor as his gold-digging ex-wife.”Orrin Grey, Innsmouth Free Press

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” … this is just your basic killer-maniac-on-the-loose flick, the sort of movie that would gradually evolve into the slasher film over the next 25 years. And as if you couldn’t tell that already, the role of the maniac is played by Price.” Scott Ashlin, 1000 Misspent Hours and Counting

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“Despite some contrived Hollywood-style dialogue and music, director Brahm is still able to produce vigour and tension … More humour and gore would have been welcome but it’s still good for Price fans.” David Elroy Goldweber, Claws & Saucers

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“The horror angle is minimal, with most of the murders barely being witnessed on screen or rushed to get to the next bit of business, and there’s a bit of comic relief (which is what you’d expect with supporting actor Novello playing his usual timid character). The supporting characters are at least given some depth…” George R. Reis, DVD Drive-In

“… this remained an appreciated thriller in which Vincent Price hams it up … Not as good as House of Wax but still compelling.” John Stanley, Creature Features

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“The illusions in the film, including the buzz saw, the cremation, and the water fountains, are based on noted stage illusions made famous by such magicians as Horace Goldin and Harry Blackstone Sr.–though Ricciardi threw in the innards and blood for the buzz saw, and the Great Rameses performed a version of the cremation illusion.” Zombo’s Closet

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“A great little horror film from Columbia Pictures with nary a monster in sight except for the master of the macabre himself, Vincent Price. He usually makes any film he is in and The Mad Magician is no exception. Fun, entertaining and a nice little movie for a Sunday morning – or really, anytime you need a good film to watch.” The Telltale Heart

“The film devolves into a series of contrivances that echo the themes in House of Wax, but end up looking like one-reel prospectuses for any number of alternative versions.”  Denis Meikle, Vincent Price: The Art of Fear

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“Though very much at home with the 1880s atmosphere, Brahms careful direction misses out on the necessary ghoulish zest.” The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror

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Cast and characters:

Actor Role
Vincent Price Don Gallico / Gallico the Great
Mary Murphy Karen Lee
Eva Gabor Claire Ormond
John Emery The Great Rinaldi
Donald Randolph Ross Ormond
Lenita Lane Alice Prentiss
Patrick O’Neal Police Detective Lt. Alan Bruce
Jay Novello Frank Prentiss
Corey Allen Gus the Stagehand (uncredited)

Choice dialogue:

Don Gallico: “That’s his way. To say nothing and then stab you in the back!”

Ross Ormond: “You stupid fool. She’s always been a trollop. She double-crossed you from the first, just as she double-crossed me.”

Alice Prentiss: “I hope they hiss him off the stage!”

Wikipedia | IMDb | Image credits: Wrong Side of the Art!

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