Sunday, October 05, 2008


Vincent Price is a maker of magician's illusions who works for overbearing boss Donald Randolph. When he tries to break out and become a stage magician himself using a new buzz saw trick he invented, Randolph stops the show with a legal injunction claiming that anything Price makes is Randolph's property, and Randolph wants to give the trick to established magician John Emery. If that isn't enough to royally piss off Price, his ex-wife (Eva Gabor) ran off with Randolph some time ago. Price goes bonkers and buzzes off Randolph's head, then uses his gift for mimicry and makeup to disguise himself as Randolph. Price gets rid of Randolph's body by tossing it on a college bonfire, but Gabor shows up looking for Randolph; when she realizes he's really Price, he kills her and runs away, leaving the police to assume that Randolph is now a killer hiding from justice. Price soon comes up with another grand illusion, a glass crematorium, and when Emery comes around to take it from him, Price kills again. Eventually, Price is hunted down, thanks in part to the new science of fingerprints.

This movie, originally shown in 3-D, was made a year after Price's first big 3-D hit, HOUSE OF WAX. Both films share a producer (Bryan Foy) and a screenwriter (Crane Wilbur), though they were done at different studios by different directors, this one from Columbia and John Brahm. Though this plays out much like WAX (including some gratuitous 3-D gimmick shots), it also has elements from Brahm's earlier classics THE LODGER (the landlady) and HANGOVER SQUARE (the bonfire). Price is good and his disguises look fine, though his mimicked voices are too clearly dubbed in. A vague romance plot is thrown in courtesy Price's assistant (Mary Murphy) and her boyfriend (Patrick O'Neal in his first film role); it neither adds nor subtracts anything from the film. Lyle Talbot has a cameo as a man selling programs which he thrusts at the camera in a 3-D moment. Though not made in color, and lacking the spectacular set pieces of HOUSE OF WAX, this is still good October viewing. [TCM]

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