It’s time to look at a retro Lon Chaney film. I’ve seen quite a few of his films and still have a bunch of others to see someday. This one is a classic tale of hypnosis and whether it is real or not. There are certainly quite a few antagonists in this film and their plans are so risky that they can even prove fatal. It’s a pretty interesting film, even if it can get a tad convoluted at times.
Alex is a skilled master of mental abilities and has been working in this trade for a long time. One day a drunk individual shows up declaring that Alex is a fraud. Alex decides to prove him wrong by hypnotizing the guy, but then he also ends up wishing that the drunk would die. The drunk does abruptly die and Alex is thrown into a state of shock. It can’t be proven that he did it of course and everyone tells him that it was a coincidence, but Alex doesn’t think so. He moves into a wax museum to try and get past this and even breaks up with his fiancee Maura. Unfortunately, he has just entered the Lion’s Den as George, Rudi, and Valerie all want him dead. Nina is the only person in the Wax Museum who doesn’t have any ill will towards him, but it’s rather easy to be fooled when everyone around you is giving you false intel. How will Alex get out of this situation without using his mental abilities to fatally end this?
Alex is a good character as always although he can maybe be a little too low in confidence. He immediately blames himself quite a bit and goes into mourning so fiercely that he just tries to make life as tough for himself as possible. It’s not really necessary and pushing Maura away was also a little too extreme. Dishing out his own punishments was definitely not a great call on his part. Alex did have a good plan at the end though and at least he didn’t totally lose himself in what was happening. Maura was a good heroine and she never stopped trying to help Alex. She was able to persevere and was definitely a trust worthy ally that Alex could depend on. He was lucky to have her around.
Nina was rather naive and didn’t handle any situation too well, but it can’t all be blamed on her. As I mentioned earlier, it’s hard to really get what is happening when there is nobody around to give you even a semi-accurate account of what has transpired. She wasn’t a villain at least so that was someone else that Alex could trust or at least not fear. George and the other villains were rather petty and did all they could to smear Alex’s name and erase whatever confidence he had left. They were decent in their roles, but not nearly as interesting as Ilona from another film that I have a review coming out for soon and other such antagonists.
I did like Inspector Brant and while he kept on doubting Alex and not believing in mind powers, I can’t really blame him for that. At least he was doing his job well and quickly hustled to take down the villains. He even swallowed his pride and asked Alex for help at the end with a particularly difficult case. In a rare moment of selfishness, Alex declined as he claimed that he didn’t have any powers just to mess with Brant. I thought that was a little mean of Alex and his decision could have some real consequences. He could have saved a person or even many depending on what kind of crime he may have been able to stop. The fact of the matter is that he let his personal grudge with Brant interfere with his job to help society. Even if it wasn’t a grudge and Alex just wanted to have some fun, it was certainly at the wrong time and I can only hope that Brant was able to solve the case by himself.
You can draw a lot of similarities between this film and Calling Doctor Death. There was a lot of betrayal and hypnosis going around between the main cast. The climaxes may have been a little different, but overall it felt like two alternate routes to what was essentially the same main plot. This film had less monologue from Alex though. Both films were solid, but I might have to give the ever so slight edge to Calling Doctor Death. Regardless, both are rather short films and you can even see them back to back since they’re both pretty fun and fast paced.
You may just lose track of some of the characters after a while. It’s not so much that the cast is big, but everyone has quite a few motives and since Alex is oblivious to everything around him, it’s sometimes hard to tell exactly what is happening. I still say that the villain’s plans also were a little iffy and they definitely wouldn’t work too well against a different main character. There were a lot of gambles here, but most of them paid off I suppose. Without Maura, the villains probably would have had the last laugh here.
Overall, this is definitely another fun film to add to your collection. It doesn’t take itself too seriously aside from Alex since Chaney always takes himself very seriously and always makes sure to be an upstanding guy. Seriously, it feels like people try to tempt Alex to the dark side in every film or give him chances for revenge, but Alex never cracks. He always stays as an upstanding hero and makes all of the right calls. The plot is pretty good and will keep you guessing the whole way. One villain’s fate is rather sad since the plan backfired a little, but that’s why you shouldn’t lock yourself away in a freezer. I forget if that was purely part of the plan or not, but even if it was an improvisation, it’s a sad way to go out. You’ll probably sympathize with Alex as the film goes on and his strong conscience just makes it all the worse for him. I definitely recommend checking this film out and then you can make your own guesses as to whether or not his powers were actually real. For the record, I’d definitely say that they are based on the very first circumstance. I don’t buy into coincidences and it just makes sense. It’d be cool to see how this version of Chaney would stack up against the Werewolf. I may have to actually give this one the edge although the Man-Made Monster, electric version of himself is probably the most lethal. It’s cool to see how many different monsters he’s become over the years.