Don Gallico (Vincent Price), an inventor of stage magic effects is about to launch his latest invention, the buzz saw, when his ex-boss, Ormond (Donald Randolph), turns up and impounds all of his best tricks, as he holds the copyright for all of Gallico’s ideas. This makes the aspiring illusionist mad… But he gets even madder when The Great Rinaldi (John Emery) dares to steal another of his inventions, one that involves a fiery crematorium…
For his title role in this Grand Guignol chiller (released in 1954 in the US following its New York premiere on 19 May), Vincent Price swotted up on a dozen real magician’s tricks, and became quite accomplished at such things as making a stream of water run out of a sword, producing a girl from a flower pot, and making a man vanish through a wall (so says the publicity machine of the day).
Originally filmed in 3-D (in black and white), which accounts for all those bits and pieces thrown at the camera, it’s not a patch on Price’s big 3-D hit of the previous year, House of Wax, but in its own cheerfully lurid way it does the trick.
It’s director, John Brahm, was also responsible for some genre favourites including 1942’s The Undying Monster and the Laird Cregar classics The Lodger (1944) and Hangover Square (1945), while the screenplay was by Crane Wilbur, who also penned House of Wax and another Vincent Price thriller, The Bat (1959).
Patrick O’Neal, who’d go on to star in the House of Wax-inspired chiller Chamber of Horrors (which boasted the horror horn/fear flasher gimmick), makes his film debut as the detective, Alan Bruce, who uncovers Gallico’s vengeful crimes.
A Blu-ray released by Twilight in the US in January 2017 presented the film in both 3D (for the first time) and in 2D.
You can also watch it in full here…
Here’s a great treat from the film’s original publicity campaign. Print it off and cut it out to make a fab Halloween mask.