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The Clairvoyant (1934)


I’ve pretty much thrown my Halloween schedule out the window after several movies were either available at a certain time or unavailable entirely. However, it wasn’t unavailability that’s delayed my review of The Clairvoyant. Unfortunately, this movie is a prime example to never judge a film by its cover. I assumed the ominous poster with a foreboding Claude Rains gazing into a crystal ball implied a horror movie when, truly, The Clairvoyant is more a mystery/drama. I’ll adhere to the schedule and review it anyway, but man I wish I knew in advance.

Maximus (Rains) is a dance hall mind reader who realizes his precognition comes true in the presence of Christine (Jane Baxter). Not only does this put Maximus at odds with his wife, Rene (Fay Wray), but it also leaves him seeing disasters come to pass.

The plotline of a charlatan clairvoyant realizing his powers are real could turn horrific and there are some moments of tension. Claude Rains as the Cassandra-like Maximus can’t get anyone to believe his moments of precognition including a mining disaster and train crash. Rains leads the picture with a steady hand, balancing the serious moments of disaster with the lighter love triangle between him, Baxter, and Wray.

With only 81 minutes of storytelling there’s little depth or resonance to events. Maximus acts as a clairvoyant, but it’s easy to suss out the use of code words between himself and his assistant/wife, Rene. From there the movie briskly introduces Jane before it becomes disaster, disaster, disaster. The third act puts Maximus on trial for possibly committing the accidents to win acclaim, but even then it amounts to about twenty minutes of screentime. The low-budget quality of the movie is also on display to an often painful extent, particularly in how melodramatic and creaky everything feels.

The worst part is The Clairvoyant never truly goes anywhere. Simply struggling to write about it and recall anything memorable is futile. It’s mediocre in every sense of the word with little to recommend it. Essay-length reviews are never expected here, but it’s the mark of a truly underwhelming movie, either good or bad, to leave me struggling to make 500 words. I guess I’ll wrap this up quickly: The Clairvoyant wasn’t the best movie for me to choose this year, mostly because there’s nothing horrific or frightening about it. It is a mediocre mystery/drama led capably by Claude Rains and decent roles for Fay Wray – one that doesn’t require her to scream constantly – and Baxter. It’s available on Netflix Instant if you want to see it.

Ronnie Rating:


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The Clairvoyant

Kristen Lopez View All

A freelance film critic whose work fuels the Rotten Tomatoes meter. I've been published on The Hollywood Reporter, Remezcla, and The Daily Beast. I've been featured in the L.A. Times. I currently run two podcasts, Citizen Dame and Ticklish Business.

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