The Mystic (1925)

  • Year: 1925
  • Released: 27 Sep 1925
  • Country: United States
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  • Available in: 720p, 1080p,
  • Language: None, English
  • MPA Rating: N/A
  • Genre: Drama
  • Runtime: 74 min
  • Writer: Tod Browning, Waldemar Young
  • Director: Tod Browning
  • Cast: Aileen Pringle, Conway Tearle, Mitchell Lewis
  • Keywords: gypsy, scam artist, fortune,
false% – Audience

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The Mystic Movie Reviews

A little melodramatic and a bit hard to believe…but also quite good.

While in Hungary, American crook Michael Nash (Conway Tearle) comes upon an idea for his next caper. He has seen a Gypsy mystic in action and thinks he can being her to the States and use her to dupe rich fools out of their money. And, at first, it goes quite well. The props he designed work great and folks are indeed taken in by the ruse. However, problems develop when Nash finds he cannot close the deal with a young heiress. She’s just too nice and Nash feels compelled to let this fish off the hook. But what about Madame Zara, his medium. She’s in love with Nash. And what about their confederates…they’re not the sort to let this rich lady out of their clutches.

While the story is a big farfetched (such as a career criminal having problems with his conscience), the story is very good. I particularly loved the ending which seemed to tie everything together very well. Well crafted and well worth seeing.

Tod Browning Directs A Priscilla Dean Movie With Aileen Pringle

Aileen Pringle, Mitchell Lewis, Robert Ober and Stanton Heck — have a good racket going, pretending to raise the spirits of the dead. Conway Tearle throws them $15,000 and tells them that they’ve got a future in America with him, so it’s off to New York, intending to take orphaned heiress Gladys Hulette. They convince Miss Huilette that they can raise the spirit of her loving father…. until one day she says she can see him.

This combination of rackets, thieves falling out, and phony mysticism was just director Tod Browning’s meat, and he had been doing very with it at Universal with a series o crime dramas starring Priscilla Dean, often with Lon Chaney. Now Browning was at Metro, and Chaney had just started working for the company, where they would renew their partnership. For the moment, Chaney was starring for Metro’s newest hot director, Swedish import Victor Sjostrom, so Browning had retreated to his comfort zone, substituting the new company hot sex symbol, Miss Pringle, for Miss Dean. Soon, though, she would fade before Seastrom’s protege, Greta Garbo, whom MGM had had to take to get the director.

It’s a good example of the genre, given MGM’s high production values without looking too expensive to make.

Tod Browning IS The Mystic!

…well, not quite, but the main reason to see this film today is for Tod Browning completists. His fingerprints are all over “The Mystic”. He developed the scenario and Waldemar Young wrote the screenplay. These two worked together at MGM throughout the second half of the 1920s, and almost exclusively with Lon Chaney. I say almost because this is one of only two silent MGM films they made without Chaney. For that reason alone, it is interesting to see what Browning does without his ace actor.

The Mystic involves a trio of Hungarian gypsies who travel Europe with little more than a magic sideshow. Aileen Pringle plays the title character, named Zara, who claims to have mystical powers. A man named Michael Nash, played by Conway Tearle, approaches them with an idea to come to the United States to make even more money by holding séances with rich people and tricking them into believing they’re seeing the ghosts of their loved ones. When they arrive, however, the quartet’s plans get a monkey wrench thrown into it, when Nash feels sorry for one of their potential victims.

This is a very typical Browning story in that the crooks have to deal with their moral problems and how that affects others – Very similar to ‘The Unholy Three’ in this fashion. The lead crook, who is often Chaney, has a heart and this is one of Browning’s favorite tricks for getting audience sympathy. Also, Browning loves to show us behind-the-scenes looks of magicians and mystics and the technical ways they execute their “powers”. However, there is no additional gimmick in this film. No one is deformed and there is no gorilla in the mix. In that sense it is rather refreshing and at the same time a bit tame if you are a fan of Browning’s films. It seems he and Young tried to up the ante with every film they collaborated on by coming up with different and more extreme sideshow scenarios, and in “The Mystic”, their second film together, they seem early in their game. Browning’s obsessions, of course, reached its ultimate stage in 1932 with Freaks.

The print I saw of The Mystic had french subtitles below the English inter-titles. It seems to be the most rare of all of Browning’s surviving films from his 1925-1939 MGM period. Most of his earliest films are all but impossible to see. There was no musical score or track, but it is obviously a privilege to view this. It is worth noting that Browning’s last film with Chaney was also his last film with Young. Waldemar Young often gets left out of the discussion of the Chaney-Browning collaborations, but in my view he is an essential part of those teamings and deserves perhaps as much credit as them.