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Monday, May 21, 2018

The Mad Magician (1954)

I haven’t covered nearly enough Vincent Price movies for the Horror Dude Blog. That is surprising since he is one of my favorite actors and did a lot of flicks that I grew up watching over and over again. That said I’ve never seen The Mad Magician. Time to rectify that.

Gallico, Price’s character, is tired of making tricks for other magicians and decides to strike out and perform his own show. It is during the rehearsals that we are introduced to him and his lovely assistant Karen. Opening night goes really well until the big finale, where the man who employs him to make the tricks shows up and shuts the show down. He has a contract and owns everything that Gallico has made and will ever make! His hopes dashed Gallico goes back to his workshop.

Things only get worse later as the Great Rinaldi, an arrogant man who takes Gallico’s tricks as his own, shows up to gloat. We also find out that Gallico’s wife left him for Ormond, the man who holds his contract and ruined his show. The guy just can’t catch a break and finally snaps. Ormond is the first to go losing his head to a saw blade! But he is soon followed by Gallico’s duplicitous ex-wife and eventually the Great Rinaldi. They really shouldn’t have crossed him!

The movie is shot beautifully in black and white. Pacing and story are solid. The sets and costumes are about what you would expect from a studio movie (Columbia Pictures). Special effects are up to par for the early to mid-fifties so no complaints there either. Basically, you have a decent movie that is kicked up a “notch” by the presence of Vincent Price in the cast.

No one does the nice guy turned monster when he is wronged better than Vincent Price. Obviously, the Dr. Phibes movies come to mind first, but this was also repeated in movies like House on Haunted Hill, Last Man on Earth, Madhouse, and many others. He was such a likeable guy that even when he went full on homicidal you could still kind of root for him. I can’t honestly say that about many other actors. In The Mad Magician this especially true and it is the primary drive for the story.

Okay Vincent Price was awesome!
The characters surrounding him hammer away at his gentle personality by treating him terribly. Ormond knew Gallico was putting on his own show but waits until he is at the big finale on opening night before shutting him down. Why? He comes right out and tells him he wanted to teach him a lesson. The Great Rinaldi insults him at every turn all while stealing his tricks. It is implied that Rinaldi can’t create his own illusions but can only steal them from others. Then you have Gallico’s ex-wife, Claire, who is all about the money. She dumped him and ran off with Ormond because she wanted the lifestyle that came with being rich. Hell, when she discovers that Gallico killed him she laughs and tells him he did her a favor. Is he really the “bad” guy for killing them? Probably but the audience gets the pleasure of seeing them get what is coming to them. Revenge is a very simple trick that filmmakers can use to get an audience to feel sympathetic towards a character that would otherwise be considered a “monster”.

I really liked this movie. It isn’t as good as House on Haunted Hill or The Phibes movies but that is a pretty high standard. I’m so glad that I finally got around to watching The Mad Magician. I recommend it.

© Copyright 2018 John Shatzer

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