Rixflix A to Z: The Amazing Mr. X (1948)

Director: Bernard Vorhaus // Eagle-Lion Films; 1:18; b/w
Crew Notables: John Alton (cinematography), Bud Westmore (makeup), Crane Wilbur (story)
Cast Notables: Turhan Bey (Alexis), Lynn Bari, Cathy O'Donnell, Richard Carlson, Donald Curtis, Virginia Gregg

Cinema 4 Rating: 6

There are going to be numerous films on my "Rixflix A to Z" or "Z to A" DVD Countdown that I have in my collection for no other reason than that they were given to me. Say, for instance, Dude, Where's My Car?, which I received in good spirits as a tongue-in-cheek present from pal Chewy and which remains an in-joke at my residence to this day, unopened and always threatening Jen with its "bad movie" presence. My reviews for the last two Alien films a couple days ago should point out this fact, as well.

But, there are also films that I own simply because I have them as part of a larger collection of cheaply-priced B-movies. One of these is The Amazing Mr. X, a film that I had never seen until yesterday, despite its being widely available on the public domain circuit. Certainly I had read about this low-budget B-quickie over the years, usually in positive terms, but had never taken the time to sit down and let Turhan Bey's smoothie con artist win me over in much the same way he does his potential victims in this film.

Bey is a phony spiritualist (a phrase which reads to me personally as being wholly redundant) named Alexis who is avidly preying on a pair of sisters, one of whom believes she is being haunted by the spirit of her dead husband. Her would-be fiancé enlists her younger sister in a plot to reveal Alexis for the predatory fiend they believe he is, but the kid sis ends up falling for the charming clairvoyant. Things get a little complicated for Alexis and the sisters through some fun plot twists, and the movie leaps about energetically trying to keep up with the various plot strands crammed into its relatively short length. Bey, whom I know mainly from The Mummy's Tomb, is a complete delight here, and the beauty of the film is that we are really kept guessing as to his actual claims of supernatural ability, even when we have been shown all the numerous ways in which he is defrauding people. In fact, some of the best parts are where we see his behind-the-scenes preparations for his sessions with his would-be victims. The entire movie is graced with some eye-popping cinematography by the renowned John Alton, and even if one takes the plot as obvious and beneath notice, one would still have to recognize the photography as top-notch, whether or not in a B-effort.

And that points out the true shame at work here. The film is in the public domain, and the print that I watched is not only scratched and murky at points, but also skips in bits of dialogue, too. As far as I can determine, there has been no effort made in preserving this film for future generations, and it would be good if Criterion, Kino, TCM or some such outfit that specializes in these things would set out and save this film. Again, I don't know how plausible this is, since I don't know of the availability of any decent prints, but it would be nice if someone looked into this situation. While this is not a classic by any means, neither is it a bad film, but merely a decent thriller with some excellent camerawork that should be preserved. I know that I would buy a preserved copy of the film. I'm sure there is a fairly good audience that would, too.

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