Wednesday, November 18, 2009

One of the finest thrillers ever made

The Amazing Mr. X (aka "The Spiritualist") (1948)
Starring: Turhan Bey, Lynn Bari, and Cathy O'Donnell
Director: Bernard Verhaus
Rating: Eight of Ten Stars

Greiving widow Christine Faber (Bari) finds herself haunted by her husband's ghost. In a fortuitous coincidence, Christine meets Alexis (Bey), a psychic who offers to help her contact her husband's spirit put it to rest. But Christine's younger sister (Cathy O'Donnell) and Christine's would-be new paramour thinks that the meeting with Alexis was too fortuitous, and they suspect that perhaps he is part of a scam to defraud the emotionally frail Christine of her inheritance. Meanwhile, the haunting grows more intense, and the ghost seems to want to drag Christine to a watery grave....

A scene from The Spiritualist
This 1948 B-movie is an excellently made thriller. It is well acted, well filmed, moves briskly, and keeps the viewer engaged with clever plot-twists and a couple of nicely done double-reversals of expectations. There are films with perhaps twenty times the budget of "The Amazing Mr. X" that aren't half as successful at telling the kind of story that this film features--which, I admit, was pretty well-worn even in 1948. Modern filmmakers trying their hands at thrillers with supernatural overtones would do well to study this film, as it shows exactly how that kind of film is made.

Don't let the cheesy title fool you. This is a top-notch thriller that's well worth a look by any lover of the genre.