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CLAIRVOYANT, THE (aka: THE EVIL MIND)(director: Maurice Elvey; screenwriters: Charles Bennett/Bryan Edgar Wallace/from the novel by Ernst Lothar; cinematographer: Glen MacWilliams; editor: Paul Capon; music: Arthur Benjamin; cast: Claude Rains (Maximus), Fay Wray (Rene), Mary Clare (Mother), Ben Field (Simon), Jane Baxter (Christine Shawn), Athole Stewart (Lord Southwood); Runtime: 73; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Michael Balcon; Samuel Goldwyn Home Entertainment; 1934-UK)
“It’s effective mainly because Rains gives his usual smashing performance.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Prolific British director Maurice Elvey (“You Lucky People”/”The Gay Dog”/”What Every Woman Wants”) bases it on Ernst Lothar’s novel of the Austrian peasant who discovered he possessed the gift of prophecy and found it to be a curse, but that story is revised for the film. The screenplay of this B-film thriller, produced by Gaumont, is written by Charles Bennett and Bryan Edgar Wallace.

Charlatan American mind-reader Maximus (Claude Rains) travels the music-hall circuit across England with a small entourage consisting of his wife Rene (Fay Wray), mother (Mary Clare) and stepfather Simon (Ben Field) and is struggling to eke out a living. If you can believe (and you better, because the plot hinges on it), during one performance he suddenly develops real powers of clairvoyance due to the presence of newspaper heiress Christine Shawn (Jane Baxter) in the audience. Christine’s close proximity, for some inexplicable reason, sets off in Maximus the skill he once only pretended to have through trickery and it enables him to not only predict a disastrous train wreck but also pick winners at the race track. This leads to him being hired as the resident seer for Christine’s publisher dad’s newspaper. Things get dicey when Max envisages a tunnel disaster at a mining site and fails to convince the miners not to descend. Hundreds are killed in the explosion and the seer is brought to trial to prove his predictions are authentic, as he’s accused of being a phony publicity seeker who might have been the indirect cause of the tragedy by scaring the workers so much that an accident resulted. The relationship with the other woman and the highly publicized trial causes friction in his marriage, as Rene doesn’t want hubby to be a real clairvoyant. But both matters are dealt with in a way the viewer doesn’t have to be a mind-reader to figure out how it will all end.

The overlooked and rarely seen minor low-budget film is not a particularly good one as it fails to hold up by the climax, but it’s effective mainly because Rains gives his usual smashing performance. The film might also be noteworthy because Fay Wray never screams.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”