Saturday, September 08, 2007


Modest B-thriller from Monogram, though in acting and looks, it's a cut above their usual low-budget fare. Edmund Lowe, the Mr. Gregory of the title, is a mystic; we first see him with his assistant (Frank Reicher) as he is brought out of the Kalamudra Death Trance, a state of suspended animation which he can stay in for days. He's a magician by trade and one night, he meets Jean Rogers backstage and becomes smitten. At a party, he shows her husband (Don Douglas), as a parlor trick, how to tie a rope into a deadly garrote for easy strangling. Later in the evening, Lowe tries to lay a love trance on Rogers. Douglas punches him, though it has no effect on Lowe, who has become more or less invulnerable (except, as he says to Reicher, to "the hangman's noose or an assassin's bullet"). The next day, Lowe sends a dozen roses to Rogers with a note that he will send one less rose each day he has to wait for her. Understandably, this freaks her out a bit and soon Douglas goes to Lowe's place to tell him to lay off. However, after Douglas leaves, Reicher finds Lowe dead, garroted with a rope. *We* know all about that goofy Death Trance, so it's no surprise when, after Douglas is arrested, Lowe shows up again as Gregory's twin brother, Lane Talbot (why the different last name, I never figured out). In that guise, he gets Douglas off the hook by telling the court that his brother was a dangerously insane man, which also gets him in Rogers' good graces until she begins to suspect a rat. With some help from her friend (Marjorie Hoshelle) and a lawyer, Lowe eventually gets his comeuppance. The sets are much better than in the typical Monogram programmer, and it undoubtedly helped that this print, shown on TCM, is in remarkable shape, much cleaner than any other Poverty Row film of the era that I've seen. I haven't particularly liked Lowe before--I especially didn’t like him as the lead in CHANDU THE MAGICIAN--but he's fine here, nicely slimy and creepy. There are plot holes, and scenes that fade out about 10 seconds later than they should, but as an hour-long diversion, it does its job nicely. (IMDb says the film is also known as THE GREAT MYSTIC.) [TCM]

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