DVD region 0. Odeon.
1934 movie is a fine example of the sort of lesser known (despite
a starry cast) British film from the Thirties and Forties that
used to play regularly on TV in mid-afternoon slots on Channel
4 – and also a great example of the semi-fantasy films that
British filmmakers used to dabble in before Hammer made it okay
to go for the more full-blooded horror film.
Claude Rains is Maximus, a music hall performer who does a mind-reading
act with his wife Rene (Fay Wray). One night though, his act crosses
over into reality, and later that evening, he predicts that the
train he is travelling on will crash – as it does, after
he has pulled the emergency cord and left the train, alongside
his family and Christine (Jane Baxter), the daughter of a newspaper
After he predicts the winner of the Derby, Maximus is the toast
of London, but his increasing closeness to Christine soon drives
a wedge between him and Rene; worse still, it becomes apparent
that it is Christine’s presence that triggers his premonitions.
In an effort to save his marriage, he vows to give up his gift,
but then sees a mining disaster in the Humber. After the newspaper
refuses to print his warning, he drives up to the mine to plead
with the men not to go down the pit. They are eventually convinced
to go back to work, and the disaster occurs as predicted. But
Maximus is blamed because it was his prediction that made the
men jittery to begin with, causing the accident to occur, and
he finds himself on trial.
overly melodramatic at times, The Clairvoyant
– retitled The Evil Mind for US release
– has a lot of interesting elements to it that take it out
of the ordinary. While the story has been rehashed several times
over the years, there is still much here that is fresh –
the romantic triangle is interesting, but it’s the suggestion
that, even if his gift is real, that the accidents were possibly
the fault of Maximus (it transpires that had he not delayed the
train, the crash would’ve been avoided) is an intriguing
twist. Maximus himself is hardly a sympathetic character, all
too eager to revel in his new-found celebrity and profit as much
as possible from it, while being too blinded by ego and ambition
to see what he’s doing to his marriage.
The ending of the film is a little forced, and modern audiences
might find some of the performances (not from Rains or Wray I
should say) a little wooden. But if you look beyond this, you’ll
find this to be an excellent little thriller..
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