The Mystic Circle Murder (1938)
aka Religious Racketeers
Article 5941 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Frank O’Connor
Featuring Robert Fiske, Helene LeBerthon, Arthur Gardner
What it is: Phony spiritualism
A rich young woman wants to contact her dead mother, but falls prey to a phony spiritualist who is after her money. But he doesn’t follow his own advice and falls in love with his intended victim…
I’m a little surprised that I haven’t reviewed this one earlier, as I’ve watched plenty of movies for this series in which phony spiritualism is the major fantastic content. This one concentrates on the spiritualist himself, as he uses every means in his power to keep his victim on the hook while evading the law, even to the point of moving his headquarters to other countries and changing his identity (and appearance) at the drop of a hat. Though it does have a bit of novelty the plot, there really isn’t a whole lot in the way of surprises. The most interesting touch to the movie is a segment involving the wife of the late Harry Houdini (played by herself) coming to the conclusion that her husband was right and all spiritualists are phony. Oddly enough, the only murder in the movie takes place near the end despite the title, though we have one person who drops dead and another who is almost killed.