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THE CLAIRVOYANT
DVD region 0. Odeon.

The ClairvoyantThis 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 publisher.
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.

The ClairvoyantWhile 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..

DAVID FLINT

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