Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Miracles For Sale

(1939, USA, 71m, b/w)
d Tod Browning p J.J. Cohn sc Harry Ruskin, Marion Parsonnet, James Eward Grant ph Charles Lawton Jr ed Frederick Y. Smith ad Cedric Gibbons m Wiliam Axt cast Robert Young, Florence Rice, Frank Craven, Henry Hull, Cliff Clark, Frederick Worlock, Gloria Holden, Harold Minjir, William Demarest, Charles Lane

Young is an ex-magician, purveyor to the profession of the stage illusions of the title, and assistant to the police in exposing phoney occultists and psychics. He assures us that there are indeed preternatural mysteries beyond our ken, but defends the professional line between the magician who openly invites the audience to be confounded and those fakers who defraud gullible widows and suckers through “contact” with the other world. The plot springs from a standard-issue locked-door murder case and ends with the (obvious culprit’s) motive vaguely mentioned in passing; in a happily familiar milieu for his final film Browning is more interested in the colourful stage characters (and Demarest’s dumbbell detective) and a succession of (mostly) neat bits of theatrical trickery, doled out in a relaxed and lighthearted manner. Creaky but fun.

© Time Out Film Guide

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