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H D - S E N S E I

A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

The Mad Magician 2D + 3D [Blu-ray]

 

(John Brahm, 1954)

 

3-D Blu-rays Reviewed at DVDBeaver:

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Columbia Pictures Corporation

Video: Twilight Time / Indicator (US)

 

Disc:

Region: FREE (both) (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:12:47.821 / 1:12:51.241

Disc Size: 37,028,837,637 bytes / 49,356,204,006 bytes

Feature Size: 23,149,314,048 bytes / 23,027,827,392 bytes

Video Bitrate: 21.99 Mbps / 28.78 Mbps

Chapters: 12 / 10

Case: Standard Blu-ray case / Transparent Blu-ray Case

Release date: January, 2017 / March 30th, 2020

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.78:1 / 1.85:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

DTS-HD Master Audio English 1965 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1965 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Isolated Score:

DTS-HD Master Audio English 1721 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1721 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Commentary:

DTS-HD Master Audio English 2049 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2049 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)

 

DTS-HD Master Audio English 854 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 854 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 1.0 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 16-bit)
Commentary:

Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps

 

Subtitles (both):

English (SDH), None

 

Extras:

Audio Commentary by Film Historians David Del Valle and Steven Peros
Isolated Music Track
Two 3D/2D 1953 Comedy Shorts Starring The Three Stooges, Pardon My Backfire (15:57) and Spooks! (15:45)!
Master of Fright!: Conjuring The Mad Magician (19:49)
Original Theatrical Trailer (2:09)

Liner notes by Julie Kirgo

Limited to 3,000 Copies!

 

• Audio commentary with film historians Kevin Lyons and Jonathan Rigby (2020)
• Three-Dimensional Magic (2020): appreciation of The Mad Magician and the 3D filmmaking boom of the 1950s by cinematographer Frank Passingham (Kubo and the Two Strings) and archivist Tom Vincent, presented in 3D and 2D (15:02)
• Super 8 version: cut-down home cinema presentation in anaglyphic 3D (#1 - 8:31 / #2 - 16:22)
• Two short films starring the Three Stooges and produced by Columbia Pictures: Pardon My Backfire (1953 - 15:59) and Spooks! (1953 - 15:47), presented in 3D and 2D
• Image gallery: on-set and promotional photography (32 images)
• Original theatrical trailer (2:09)
• New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
• Limited edition exclusive booklet with a new essay by Kat Ellinger, a look at the career of producer Bryan Foy, an archival interview with director John Brahm by David Del Valle, a guide to the promotional campaign of The Mad Magician, an overview of contemporary critical responses, Jeff Billington on the Three Stooges’ 3D shorts, and film credits
• UK premiere on Blu-ray
• Limited edition of 3,000 copies

 

Bitrates:

1) Twilight Time - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP

2) Indicator - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Description: Columbia Pictures’ last entry in the 1950s 3D craze, The Mad Magician (1954) stars Vincent Price in a trademark role as a round-the-bend illusionist bent on revenge. Delightfully tongue-in-cheek, the film also offers some genuinely frightfest-style moments, courtesy of director John Brahm (The Lodger, The Undying Monster), one of Hollywood’s foremost stylists of the macabre.

 

 

The Film:

For their final entry in the 1950s 3-D craze, Columbia decided to have producer Bryan Foy attempt to duplicate the success of the movie that started it all, House of Wax- Foy employed the star (Price) and the scriptwriter (Crane Wilbur) from that picture and created a very similar story of gruesome revenge tinged with tongue-in-cheek humor. The result, The Mad Magician (1954), was filmed in sparkling black-and-white and 3-D.

Turn-of-the-century illusion expert Don Gallico (Vincent Price) creates elaborate tricks for well-known magicians. He plans to open a show of his own using an elaborate buzz-saw trick which will appear to cut off the head of his assistant, Karen Lee (Mary Murphy). Gallico's employer at Illusion, Inc., Ross Ormond (Donald Randolph), shuts down the show before it begins. Gallico protests that he developed the new trick on his own time, but Ormond says that according to their contract of employment, he owns anything Gallico creates. At Gallico's workshop, Ormond shows the buzz-saw trick to magician The Great Rinaldi (John Emery), and Rinaldi is only too happy to take his rival's creation. After Rinaldi exits, Gallico confronts Ormond not only about his unfair business practices, but about stealing his wife Claire (Eva Gabor) away from him years before. Enraged, Gallico decapitates Ormond with the buzz-saw, and later disguises himself as Ormond to dispose of the body. Karen's boyfriend just happens to be police detective Lt. Alan Bruce (Patrick O'Neal), who sets about investigating Ormond's disappearance.

Excerpt from TCM located HERE

 

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

Firstly, this Twilight Time Blu-ray package offers both the 3D and 2D version of the film, The Mad Magician. We will only review the 2D version here.

NOTE: The menu offers an option for both 3-D and 2-D playback but will only function in 3D when viewed on a compatible 3-D monitor and 3-D Blu-ray player set-up. When this disc is viewed on a regular 2-D monitor and 2-D Blu-ray player, the 3-D version is inaccessible -- regardless of the choice the "Play Movie" option defaults solely to the 2-D version.

This is dual-layered and looks fairly modest but acceptable - it has some softness but pleasing grain. I recently watched the 3D version on a friends' compatible system and it exported the usual effects (ex. a Yo-Yo performer on stage as found in House of Wax) that sometimes looked quite effective. The overall image is a bit 'light' but contrast seems adeptly layered. Not much damage or speckles are visible. I noticed no compression-style artifacts and it seemed a relatively consistent presentation. The Blu-ray 1080P isn't stellar but does an acceptable job in the, bastardized, 1.78:1 aspect ratio.

 

The new Indicator also offers both 3D and 2D presentations, if applicable to the machine/system utilized. I don't have a 3-D system but assume the 'Play' function automatically recognizes that and plays the 2-D version by default or if 3-D asks.

The Indicator is in the correct 1.85:1 aspect ratio (not opened-up to 1.78:1 like the Twilight Time.) Aside from that there isn't much difference in the HD presentations, excepting that the Indicator is more robustly transferred and looks slightly superior in-motion with richer, deeper black levels. There is consistent textures and solid contrast exported by the high bitrate. It is cited as a "2K restoration".         

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

1) Twilight Time - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP

2) Indicator - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Twilight Time - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP

2) Indicator - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Twilight Time - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP

2) Indicator - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Twilight Time - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP

2) Indicator - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

More Twilight Time - Region FREE - Blu-ray Captures

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

The DTS-HD mono track at 1066 kbps sounds clean with a few more impressive moments in pushing the film's modest depth through. Arthur Lange (The Undying Monster, Cry Danger, 99 River Street) and Emil Newman (Hondo) Twilight Time offer an isolated score in a slightly more robust lossless track. There are optional English subtitles (sample above) and my Oppo has identified it as being a region FREE.

 

Indicator go linear PCM mono - in the original English but via 16-bit (as opposed to Twilight Time's 24-bit.) Arthur Lange's score still sounds pleasing and the Indicator is, likewise, Region FREE - playable worldwide.      

 

 

Extras :

Twilight Time give us another fine audio commentary by film historians David Del Valle and Steven Peros who deconstruct features of the production - educating listeners in the process. There is the usual isolated music track plus included are two 1953, 3D-made, comedy shorts Starring The Three Stooges, Pardon My Backfire and Spooks! running over 1/2 hour in total with the optional of viewing in 2D or 3D. Master of Fright!: Conjuring The Mad Magician is a 20-minute piece with C. Courtney Joyner and others delving into the film's technical aspects and production foibles. Lastly are an original theatrical trailer and a liner notes leaflet with an essay by Julie Kirgo. The package is limited to 3,000 copies.

 

Indicator add a new audio commentary by film historians Kevin Lyons editor of The Encyclopedia of Fantastic Film and Television, and Jonathan Rigby, author of English Gothic: Classic Horror Cinema 1897–2015. They immediately identify and discuss the similarities to House of Wax. It's at the predictably high levels of research and detail. A pleasure to indulge in. Indicator also add the two short films starring the Three Stooges and produced by Columbia Pictures: Pardon My Backfire (1953 - 15:59) and Spooks! (1953 - 15:47), presented in 3D and 2D. There is also a trailer. New from Indicator is the 1/4 hour Three-Dimensional Magic appreciation of The Mad Magician and the 3D filmmaking boom of the 1950s by cinematographer Frank Passingham (Kubo and the Two Strings) and archivist Tom Vincent, presented in 3D and 2D. It is excellent and very educational. Also added are two Super 8 versions of The Mad Magician. Thee are cut-down home cinema presentations with the second, running 16-minutes, being in anaglyphic 3D. There is al image gallery of 32 on-set and promotional photography and this package has a limited edition exclusive booklet with a new essay by Kat Ellinger, a look at the career of producer Bryan Foy, an archival interview with director John Brahm by David Del Valle, a guide to the promotional campaign of The Mad Magician, an overview of contemporary critical responses, Jeff Billington on the Three Stooges’ 3D shorts, and film credits. This package ios limited to 3,000 copies.      

 

Twilight Time - Region FREE - Blu-ray

 

 

Indicator - Region FREE - Blu-ray

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
The Mad Magician has a pretty good concept going for it - and classy Price is about as hammy as I can recall seeing with some dramatic facial expressions. It has the 3D appeal but the story is a bit lifeless the conflict building at a measured pace. I did enjoy many aspects of this horror but it is a notch below similar era work  in the genre. Unless you are really drawn to it and are keen on viewing the 3-D capabilities - I'd say pass - kudos for the great cover though! 

 

The Indicator, predictably, advances upon the Twilight Time, more robust video, more extras - great commentary. Fans of this format should probably indulge - so few of these 3-D vintage films on Blu-ray.

Gary Tooze

January 17th, 2017

March 11th, 2020

 

About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze

 

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