During the 1930’s and early forties, Universal Studios rode the crest of a horror film craze that made them rich and famously established them as the home of Frankenstein, Dracula, the Wolf Man, the Mummy and other screen monsters. But the fear factor was lost over time as their signature creatures were paraded through a series of inferior B-movie sequels. And in the minds of some horror film fans, the genre hit rock bottom with the release of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein in 1948. Once capable of terrifying their audiences, the Universal monsters were now reduced to playing “straight men” to Abbott and Costello’s slapstick antics. Who could ever take them seriously again? Yet, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein is both a first-rate horror-comedy that ranks as one of the comedy team’s finest efforts (and most profitable) and an affectionate homage to the screen horrors who gave us nightmares as kids.
The gift of clairvoyance and the ability to predict the future is a plot device that has been well mined in the cinema from It Happened Tomorrow (1944) to Nightmare Alley (1947) to The Night My Number Came Up (1955). But one of the earliest and most intriguing presentations of this phenomenon can be found in the rarely seen 1934 release, The Clairvoyant (aka The Evil Mind). Made at an early stage in Claude Rains’ career when he was still accepting film work in both Hollywood and England and was not yet a contract player at Warner Bros., The Clairvoyant provides an excellent showcase for the actor as Maximus, the mind reader.