Horror Film Review: The Amazing Mr. X (dir by Bernard Vorhaus)


A woman named Christine (Lyn Bari) walks along the beach when she thinks that she hears the voice of her husband calling out her name.  The only problem is that her husband has been dead for two years.  Christine’s sister, Janet (Cathy O’Donnell), says that Christine is just hearing things and that she needs to move on from mourning.  After all, her boyfriend, Martin (Richard Carlson), is on the verge of asking Christine to marry him….

And yet, Christine can’t escape the feeling that her husband is trying to contact her from beyond the grave.  During another walk along the beach, she runs into a handsome man who introduces himself as being Alexis (Turhan Bey).  Alexis says that he’s a medium and that he has the power to speak to the dead.  Furthermore, he tells Christine that he can speak to her dead husband for her.

Despite the fact that Alexis owns a really impressive crystal ball, Martin is skeptical of his claims.  Martin even goes so far as to hire a private investigator (Harry Mendoza) to investigate Alexis’s past.  Meanwhile, though she has her suspicions, Janet finds herself falling in love with the charming Alexis….

Released in 1948, The Amazing Mr. X is an unjustly obscure little mystery film.  Though I guess it’s open to debate whether it should be considered a horror film or just a noirish thriller, The Amazing Mr. X is full of creepy atmosphere and eerie moments.  Employing expressionistic camera angles and dark lighting, director Bernard Vorhaus turns The Amazing Mr. X into a dream of dark and forbidden things.  Some of the black-and-white shots are simply stunning and the seance sequence is brilliantly done.

The film is also well-acted by a cast of actors who deserve to be better remembered.  Lynn Bari is perfectly fragile and sympathetic as the haunted Christine while Cathy O’Donnell turns the potentially boring Janet into a compelling character.  The film even makes good use of Richard Carlson’s reliable dullness by casting him as the one character who is meant to be a force of stability in Christine’s otherwise neurotic life.

That said, the entire film is stolen by Turhan Bey.  Born in Austria and of Turkish descent, Turhan Bey was nicknamed the “Turkish Delight” during his film career and, watching The Amazing Mr. X, you can see why.  Bey is so charming and so handsome that you can understand why even those who should know better would want to believe that Alexis could talk to the dead.  The Amazing Mr. X was one of the last films that Bey filmed in the United States.  He retired a few years later and returned to his native Austria, where he ran a cafe.  (40 years later, the now elderly Bey did come out of retirement and made a few appearance of television before passing away, at the age of 90, in 2012.)

Like all good mysteries, The Amazing Mr. X has a third act twist that you probably won’t see coming and it ends with the proper combination of tragedy and redemption.  The Amazing Mr. X is currently in the public domain and can be viewed on YouTube so check it out!  You won’t be sorry!

30 Days of Noir #27: Parole, Inc. (dir by Alfred Zeisler)


The 1948 film noir, Parole, Inc., begins with a lengthy opening crawl, informing the viewer that this film — though fictional — deals with a real-world problem.

Apparently, too many people are getting out of prison!

That’s right!  The opening crawl informs us that half of all crimes are committed by people who have already served time in prison.  Apparently, there would be less crime if we just never released people from prison but, unfortunately, state parole boards are way too quick to let some criminals out early.  Is it because the members of the board truly believe that these offenders have been rehabilitated in prison?  Or is it because they’ve been bribed?

That’s what FBI Agent Richard Hendricks (Michael O’Shea) is going to find out!

Now, we already kind of know what he’s going to discover and what’s going to happen to him as a result because, for some reason, the film opens with Hendricks in a hospital bed, dictating the events of his latest case.  The rest of the film is largely an extended flashback, occasionally interrupted by a shot of Hendricks recovering from his injuries.  I’m not sure why the filmmakers decided that this would be a good format to go with.  It basically robs the story of any suspense.  Whenever a gangster says that he’s going to kill Hendricks, the declaration doesn’t carry any weight because we know that Hendricks is alive and that he managed to solve the case.

Anyway, in the flashback, Richard is working directly for the governor of California.  The governor is worried that the state parole board is accepting bribes so Richard goes undercover as an ex-con who wants to buy a parole for a friend of his who is still in jail.  As a part of his assignment, Richard befriends a recently paroled criminal named Harry Palmer (Charles Bradstreet).  It turns out that, for a criminal, Harry isn’t that bad of a guy.  He may still have underworld connections but, for the most part, Harry seems like he could easily go straight.  Of course, that doesn’t make much difference to the nefarious crows that Harry runs around with and Harry ends up getting gunned down about halfway through the film.  Richard seems to be more annoyed over the inconvenience of Harry dying than anything else.  Now, he’s going to have to do all sorts of extra work!

Though Michael O’Shea has just enough screen presence to be an acceptable hero, the main reason to see the film is for Turhan Bey and Evelyn Ankers.  Bey plays the crooked attorney who is in charge of the parole buying ring.  Evelyn Ankers play the wonderfully named JoJo Dumont, who owns the bar out of which the gangsters operate.  These two actors both throw themselves into their roles, bringing just the right amount of B-movie grit to their characters.  Horror fans may recognize Evelyn Ankers from her performance as Lon Chaney Jr.’s girlfriend in The Wolf Man.  Ankers appeared in several classic Universal horror films and was menaced by everyone from Dracula to Frankenstein’s Monster to the Invisible Man.  Turhan Bey also appeared in his share of horror films, even co-starring with Evelyn Ankers in The Mad Ghoul.

Parole, Inc is a largely forgettable movie but worth seeing if you’re a fan of Universal horror and you’re interested in seeing Turhan Bey and Evelyn Ankers in a change-of-pace film.

Halloween Havoc!: THE MUMMY’S TOMB (Universal 1942)


cracked rear viewer

Universal followed up THE MUMMY’S HAND with 1942’s THE MUMMY’S TOMB, casting their new horror sensation Lon Chaney Jr. in the role of the undead Kharis. But it didn’t really matter who was under all those bandages, Karloff , Chaney, Tom Tyler, or Lou Costello (okay, maybe not Costello), the part is just a non-entity used to further the plot along, and the new film was almost completely scuttled by a bad performance from Turhan Bey as the latest High Priest of Karnak, Mehemet Bey.

THE MUMMY’S TOMB kicks off with Dick Foran under Jack Pierce’s old age makeup relating the tale of finding Princess Ananka’s tomb thirty years ago to his son John (John Hubbard), John’s fiancé Isobel (Elyse Knox, mother of NCIS star Mark Harmon), and sister Aunt Jane (Mary Gordon ). Or rather, stock footage from the previous film tells the tale, which takes up about 15…

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A Movie A Day #266: Possessed by the Night (1994, directed by Fred Olen Ray)


Howard Hansen (Ted Prior) is a best-selling horror writer who is suffering from writer’s block.  With his agent, Murray (Frank Sivero), pressuring him to get something written, Howard decides to seek inspiration in Chinatown.  When he steps into a curio shop and sees a grotesque, one-eyed blob floating in a jar of formaldehyde, Howard buys it.  He hopes that the blob will give him an idea for a great book but instead, it just causes him to have nightmares and violent sex with his wife, Peggy (Sandahl Bergman).

Meanwhile, Murray is in debt with loan shark Scott Lindsey (Henry Silva) and Scott’s number one debt collector, Gus (Chad McQueen).  Murray needs money and he needs it quickly.  Murray sends his “secretary,” Carol (Shannon Tweed), to live with the Hansens and steal an unpublished romance novel that Howard wrote when he was just starting out as a writer.  However, the one-eyed blob possesses Carol and she is soon climbing onto both Howard’s workout equipment and Howard!  Soon everyone is under the influence of the one-eyed blob, Carol is forcing Howard and Peggy to make love while she holds the gun on them, and both Gus and Murray are sneaking around the house, trying to find the manuscript.

A movie that was once very popular on late night Cinemax, Possessed By The Night is a sometimes awkward but frequently entertaining horror/thriller hybrid from B-auteur Fred Olen Ray.  Along with giving Frank Sivero a rare leading role (Sivero is best known for playing Frankie in Goodfellas and providing the inspiration for the Simpsons character of the same name), Possessed By The Night proves that no movie can be that bad when featuring both Sandahl Bergman and Shannon Tweed.  When you watch a Fred Olen Ray/Shannon Tweed collaboration from 1994, you know what you’re getting and Possessed By The Night delivers.

Val’s Movie Roundup #1


I wanted to write about two gems today, but I don’t feel well. Today is as good a day as any to start this series of posts. I watch a lot of movies and I just can’t write full posts about each and every one. Instead, I am going to do little roundups like this from time to time. Here we go.

Talking Skateboard

The Skateboard Kid (1993) – When I was a kid, a piece of wood on wheels could make you cool. Studios knew this, so many stupid skateboarding movies were made. This was one of them. But this one has a twist. Ready for this? The skateboard talks! And it flies! To make matters worse, Dom DeLuise voices the skateboard. Stay away! Watch the Francis movies instead.

Another Talking Skateboard

The Skateboard Kid II (1995) – What do you do when a bad movie about a talking flying skateboard comes out? Make a sequel of course! But this one has two things different about it. One, the skateboard becomes possessed by Turhan Bey. Don’t recognize the name? He actually dated Lana Turner back in the day. Also, the movie was executively produced by Jim Wynorski. He made Chopping Mall back in the 80’s and the softcore porn film Sexually Bugged! in 2014. Haven’t seen the first one yet, but the second one stinks to high heaven. No wonder he directed it under the name Sam Pepperman. This Skateboard Kid is actually better than the first if you can believe that.

Time Barbarians

Time Barbarians (1990) – The movie starts in olden times. There’s a stupid warrior, a stupid amulet, stupid bad guys, and it takes an hour or so for all three to wind up in Los Angeles. It’s like waiting for Godzilla to appear in the 2014 version. Once they get there it gets as dumb as you think. He not only can block bullets with his sword, but bullets fired from an automatic weapon. That’s some fine work! Can you believe this actually came out before The Beastmaster did the same thing with it’s sequel?

Howard The Duck

Howard The Duck (1986) – Yeah, I finally watched this movie. I don’t know why it has the reputation it does. Maybe people were not familiar with what a bad movie truly was at the time or they made the mistake of worshipping a director. I’m leaning more towards the second since you see people spend years trying to find ways to defend bad movies made by otherwise good directors. It’s not good, but it’s stupid campy fun. Harmless. The major issue with the film is that they tried to make it like E.T. in that it’s almost all about getting Howard back home. I think audiences would have preferred more of the wisecracking fun and much less of the child friendly material. Still, I enjoyed it more than Iron Man 2 & 3 so it’s a better Marvel movie than those and they have received praise.