THE MAD MAGICIAN (1954) / CERT: PG / DIRECTOR: JOHN BRAHM / SCREENPLAY: CRANE WILBUR / STARRING: VINCENT PRICE, MARY MURPHY, EVA GABOR, PATRICK O’NEAL / RELEASE DATE: MARCH 30TH
Following House of Wax, the Vincent Price vehicle that was a massive 3D hit, writer Crane Wilbur sought to replicate the success with the actor and the extra dimension with this fun tale of a homicidal magician.
Price plays trick designer Gallico, whose hopes to make a name for himself on the stage rather than creating them for the glory of others. Trapped by his contract, he does away with those in his way and adopts their personas thanks to his remarkable masks.
While not as famous as House of Wax, The Mad Magician has some similar story beats and has some genuine thrills. Price is fantastic as usual, and the methods of dispatch are suitably devious (particularly the buzz saw contraption for handy beheading and a portable cremation device), which adds to the fun. Plot wise, it’s a predictable affair, but Prices’ disguises are ingenious and very effective (well, they certainly fool the characters on screen!).
The new Indicator release thankfully includes both the ‘flat’ and 3D versions, the latter being particularly effective. There’s glorious depth to the image and if the foreground effects don’t pop as well as they should, it doesn’t matter as it’s surely the way it should be seen. Great care was obviously made in setting the shots up and it adds, dare we say, an extra dimension to the fun of the movie. There’s also a wealth of extras on the disc, including a 3D chat about the film and its place in the history of the third dimension. We also get two shorts starring The Three Stooges, also presented in both 2D and 3D. These may feature the Shemp line-up rather than Curly, but are still a lot of slapstick fun for those not adverse to their brand of humour.
Although the home 3D phase may be over, it’s well worth keeping hold of the equipment when gems like this get released, and Indicator should be applauded for offering the film in its original format. Even if you don’t possess 3D capacity, it’s an effective film that deserves its classic status.