Claude Rains ironically came into the public view with Universal Pictures excellent ‘The Invisible Man’ back in 1933. A year later he returned with Gainsborough Studios in a rare gem, The Clairvoyant.

The tale begins with Maximus (Rains) and his wife Rene (the gorgeous Fay Wray) doing the English music hall circuit with mock mind reading stage show. With Maximis blindfolded, Rene would hold a ‘personal item’ from the audience and through a secret code reveal what it is. (ie RENE: "What am I holding this TIME?" , MAX: "Erm... why it’s a watch!" Bravo! While the show is not perfect it earns them a living.

One evening though, the show is attended by Christine Shawn (Jane Baxter) who actually does appear to possess a telepathic gift. Shawn’s presence seems to project REAL mind reading powers to the bewildered Maximus. The stage performer unwittingly predicts a couple of events while unknowingly in the company of Christine. He predicts a train crash but his popularity rockets when he correctly forecasts the winner of the Derby – a 100 / 1 outsider!

The charismatic artist seems to have the world at his feet, especially when Miss Shawn introduces him to her father, the owner of the Daily Sun newspaper. However, a regular column as the papers ‘seer’ soon brings complications. It seems Miss Shawn’s intentions are not entirely wholesome as she vies to edge Rene out of the equation.

Maximus’s dilemma starts to build and the situation soon spirals out of control when the seemingly virtuous act of warning some labourers, who work down the soon to be doomed Humber shaft, backfires.

Maximus finds himself in court with his marriage in tatters and the public baying for his blood. Now craving the simple life he once had, is there any way back for the great mind reader?

I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed this enthralling vintage effort from the Islington studio. 77 years old it maybe but it still remains a fine piece of entertainment.

Raines is very convincing as the entrepreneur performer on and off the stage. As for Fay Wray – her natural beauty and vulnerability in her performance not only illuminated the screen, but had me firmly placed in her corner when Maximus was dazzled by the temptations of stardom!

The dialogue was very amusing at times and did coax the odd chuckle out of me. eg. "Ortalicus win the Derby? It wouldn’t win if it had 10 legs and you fed it on dynamite!!" To be fair, it probably wouldn’t!

The relatively generous budget allowed for some realistic sequences, especially with the music hall scenes and, in particular, the Humber shaft explosion which looked very convincing.

The cinematography is notably in soft focus and the light does fluctuate at times, but this did redeem itself with the climatic sequence. The striking combination of stark lighting and shadows really brought Raines enigmatic stare to life as the actors face satiated the screen. Although there also appeared to be a slight crackle in the mono soundtrack, these minor imperfections did little to detract from a thoroughly entertaining movie.

A modest run time of 77 minutes ensures the pace never dawdles as the marriage of the ‘conman’ and the ‘supernatural’ are woven together brilliantly.

All in all, The Clairvoyant is a movie that would be delightful viewing on a Sunday afternoon when it’s cold and wet outside. Put on that favourite fluffy jumper of yours, make a cup of hot chocolate and settle in for some comforting vintage viewing. That, followed by the A SERBIAN FILM – aaah the perfect cosy afternoon!

Review by Marc Lissenburg

Released by Odeon Entertainment
Region 2 - PAL
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review