Thursday, 16 July 2015

The Amazing Mr X (1948)

Two years after her husband's death, Christine still misses him deeply ... to the point that she thinks she can hear his voice in the sound of the waves near her beachfront home.  Those who care for her are worried about her state of mind, and become even more concerned when she meets a psychic named Alexis.  She is soon regularly visiting him for seances, attempting to contact her husband's spirit, and despite their efforts her friends cannot seem to catch Alexis out.  It sees he has all the answers.

But as Alexis will discover, he might not even know the right questions ...

Fake haunting stories are a pretty common trope of cheapie 30s and 40s films, generally following a pretty similar formula: someone fakes supernatural phenomena in order to get money somehow (usually by getting their victim declared mentally incompetent), but their scheme ultimately backfires in some way - quite often by a real supernatural force coming along to kill them just as their machinations are exposed.

In the defence of The Amazing Mr X (a.k.a The Spiritualist) I will allow that it avoids a couple of the more common flaws of the type.  It never asks the audience to believe the supernatural shenanigans are real - in fact it shows us exactly how Alexis is performing them - and it does a better than average job of justifying how he is able to keep ahead of those who try to prove his perfidy.  It even mixes up the endgame in a relatively novel way (though not one that makes a whole lot of sense, to my mind).

On the other hand, it's rather too slow-paced to be very engaging, especially in the first forty minutes or so.  And then there's the acting, which is decidedly so-so.  Finally, as already noted, the later developments in the story might be out of the ordinary but they aren't any more plausibly explained than the more typical "and then real ghosts turn up and eat the baddie".

Check this one out only if you're desperate to find out how Alexis's scheme comes undone (because of course it does).

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