Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Amazing Mr. X -- Turhan Bey as a spiritualist

By Doug Gibson

"The Amazing Mr. X," a 78-minute 1948 release from Eagle-Lion films, is likely the best chance to fully observe the talents of Turhan Bey, a charismatic contract actor of the late 1930s early 1940s who found his major-studio work had dried up after World War II. "The Amazing Mr. X" was a fortunate opportunity for Bey.

The plot involves two sisters who live in comfort by the sea. The elder sister, played by Lynn Bari, is obsessed with her late husband (Donald Curtis) and thinks she hears him calling. The younger sister, played by Cathy O'Donnell, is worried about her sister. Eventually, they meet up with a smooth, charismatic psychic (Bey) who promises to help Bari make communication with her late husband. Eventually, the younger O'Donnell becomes more obsessed with Bey than her older sister. Character actor Richard Carlson plays the good guy, Bari's fiance, in this flick, working to expose Bey as a fraud. Although the B-movie's longer-than-needed running time causes the action at times to drag, it moves toward an effective climax.

One interesting facet of Bey's spiritualist is that although he's obviously a phony, he's a sympathetic character. That was a smart move from director William Wyler. Bey's charisma has also preserved the film's iconic cult status. It is occasionally shown at revival film festivals. The scenes of Bari being "haunted" by her "dead husband" are spooky. The Austrian-born Bey enjoyed a long life, dying last Sept. 30 at age 90. Watch the film above.

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