Saturday Night Seance

Marvelously photographed, Amazing Mr. X displays beautiful panache through its moody and steamy imagery. Backlit women enter doors as smokey lights surround them. Perspective plays with low-angle voyeurism to elicit discomfort. Locked to barely more than a cliffside beach and mansion, those surroundings convey an uneasy romanticism, along with uncomfortable isolation.

Amazing Mr. X thrives on its look. It’s style to infinity, but not without substance. Blaming the two woman ensnared by Alexis’ (Turhan Bay) sham fortune telling business doesn’t make sense when considering their vulnerability and yes, the persistent natural haze around them. If the dead were to wander anyplace, this is likely it.

Amazing Mr. X’s heartlessness becomes overbearing

The script tells a story of emotional abuse, men preying on women for money. They exploit grief, and a need to believe their husbands are still alive, certainly a potent feeling in the late ’40s, post-war nation. Using light shows and projection, Alexis creates a convincing atmosphere to lure Christine (Lynn Bari) into his clutches.

Unfortunately, Amazing Mr. X is all too confident, holding on to its sagging mystery. More than abusing Christine, the continued mind games turn torturous. That leaves Alexis stranded in a character arc where even redemption can’t undo his actions. Amazing Mr. X’s heartlessness becomes overbearing, and Christine’s descent punishing to watch.

Showing Alexis’ tricks and gags for what they are properly shatters the illusion. Technology of the era means records, crummy electronic equipment, and unlikely light shows, but fair enough – it’s all meant to expose those using despair and depression for their own gain. Bay’s screen presence is enough to sell this idea too, a particularly sinister figure whose deviousness does have limits (even if he realizes so too late).

By the midway point though, Amazing Mr. X loses momentum, struggling to keep relevance, then sauntering into a derivative romance that doesn’t catch as intended. Amazing Mr. X is a mystery, and without a dead body holding clues, the film is stuck in redundancy. While only 78-minutes, the feeling nears that of two hours. Luckily, it’s elegant to look at, and Bay is wonderful.

Video

Existing in public domain for years, Film Detective offers a proper restoration, one long overdue. Given its status, anything is an improvement, but while not perfect, Amazing Mr. X does retain a steamy, evocative look long lost in those shoddy prints.

The encode is where the battle happens, bringing an irritating noise into the frame, losing the film-like appearance for something clearly digital. At times, this looks almost analog in nature, even smearing when the compression can’t keep up.

Lackluster gray scale replication adds blockiness into the lean shadows. Black is rarely – if ever – achieved. Mid-tones fall off entirely in places, only allowing muddy definition and smothered grays to thrive. Detailed this is not, but at least the print shows hardly any damage. A speck here, a scratch there, yet otherwise pristine.

Audio

Rough going from the start, Amazing Mr. X’s bloated treble struggles to keep the highs in check. The score runs wild, blown out and aggressive. Raw, imprecise dialog doesn’t perform any better. Everything is overly harsh.

A regular static and electrical-like hum runs through some of this mix too. It’s as if a Universal horror movie laboratory were running in the background at times. This will catch the subwoofer too and drive a noisy rumble through the low-end.

Extras

Jason Ney provides commentary and a 20-minute look at spiritual/seance films follows. The latter is unique.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

The Amazing Mr. X
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
3

Movie

Tuhan Bay is great and the visual atmosphere never loses its grip, but Amazing Mr. X slogs to a finish.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 37 full resolution, uncompressed HD screen shots grabbed directly from the Blu-ray: