Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Mystic Circle Murder|
Actors: Robert Fiske, Helene LeBerthon, Arthur Gardner, Betty Compson, David Kerman
Director: Frank O'Connor
Genres: Drama, Mystery & Suspense
Studio: Gotham (dba Alpha) Release Date: 06/02/2006
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Member Movie Reviews
Matt B. from GETZVILLE, NY
Reviewed on 7/25/2011...
Magician Harry Houdini campaigned against spiritualists who scammed gullible people. His widow Beatrice carried on this work. She appears near the beginning of this movie to warn about charlatans. Skeptics who are interested in fraudulent mediums and their gullible clients may enjoy this odd period piece. The general public, not so much.
The purpose of this movie is support Mrs. Houdini in her efforts to educate the public about spirit fakers. A wealthy steel heiress is prime pickings for a phony medium because she’s dogged with guilt that she was not with her mother when she passed. Helene LeBerthron was one of those blue-eyed brunettes with pale skin. She looks young, vulnerable, and hopeful enough to make a con man lick his chops and make us in the audience yell, “Would you listen to your skeptical journalist boyfriend, already?”
The medium, The Great La Gagge, explains to his greedy partner how to reel in suckers. He says that people want to believe and that they have to be gently prodded to persuade themselves that communication with the dead in indeed possible. The henchman works the sound board and the strings that produce the spirit manifestations. Doing so, he always has a coffin nail hanging from his mouth. The constant smoking somehow underlines that exploiting guilt and grief is all in a day’s work for these heartless cheats.
The movie also examines the psychological manipulation that fakers employ to awe the mark. Like drill sergeants instilling obedience, they have the mark repeat simple phrases of affirmation. Like cult masters, they take marks out of familiar environments and surround them with strange new sights and sounds. They replace the belief systems of marks with mumbo-jumbo. They cynically use loneliness and sexual attraction against the mark.
As I hinted above, this is best for movie fans that have a prior interest in the psychology of persuasion, such as why people believe weird things and how the distorted thinking makes people vulnerable to bunco artists. Although the actors do the best they can, some dialogue involves the characters telling each other information they already know in order to bring the audience up to speed. The writing and acting, then, are so-so but, at only 68 minutes in the Alpha Video version, the pace is brisk and everybody keeps their dignity intact.
A lost film that should have stayed lost
P. N. Kerner | cleveland, ohio | 10/11/2008
(1 out of 5 stars)
"A good plot wasted in this film. Madame Houdini was a laugh, the cast was awful, the plot meandered, and I wasted a Saturday night watching this this film. DON'T BUY THIS FILM EVEN AS A CURIOURSITY. YOU'LL BE SORRY."