Sunday, January 29, 2017

Review: 'The Mad Magician' Blu-ray

Poor Vincent Price. All he wants to do is chop off Mary Murphy’s head with a buzz saw in front of an audience of slack jaws, but the prop company for which he designed the trick just won’t let him use it! No wonder he goes from being just another amateur magician to a mad magician.

1954’s The Mad Magician is another in Vincent Price’s homicidally tortured artist pictures that kicked off with House of Wax the previous year. A bit slight in comparison to other such movies like Wax or Theatre of Blood, The Mad Magician is almost singlehandedly distinguished by Price, though Lenita Lane certainly deserves credit for adding quite a bit of supporting color as the amateur sleuth who suspects there’s something fishy about our magician (she’d be even more wonderful playing alongside Price in 1959’s The Bat).

Despite his own rep for making moody murder mysteries such as The Lodger and Hangover Square, director John Brahm basically stays out of Price’s way to allow the star to chew the scenery in his delightfully inimitable way. Price also gets to play it more subtly with some impressive vocal disguises (George Bau and Gustaf Norin’s makeup disguises are equally impressive). Presumably, even the film’s 3D is unostentatious. There’s certainly no excess of magic wands or fingers poking at the camera.

Nevertheless, Twilight Time still presents its new Blu-ray edition of The Mad Magician in 3D. Since I’m not equipped for that, I could only watch it in two measly dimensions. Fortunately, I never missed the poking fingers since it is still a handsome, widescreen presentation with organic texture and no trace of scratches, squiggles, or blemishes (which might have been pretty psychedelic in 3D!).

A 20-minute, making-of doc leads a neat selection of extras. Two 3-D Three Stooges shorts maintain the multi-dimensional theme and deliver on the poking things missing from the main feature. There’s also an audio commentary between film historian Steve Peros and Price historian/master raconteur David Del Valle that is almost as amusing as the feature.
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