The Miracle Man (1932) Poster

User Reviews

Review this title
7 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
Offbeat Casting That Works !
GManfred10 August 2009
The Miracle Man is a hokey, overdone Paramount remake of a 1919 hit Starring Lon Chaney that is somehow oddly compelling. It is about a gang of crooks who think they have stumbled onto the mother lode of con games in the persona of a faith healer who is oblivious to their scheme. The movie picks up steam as it goes along and becomes absorbing and hypnotic,and the gang members outdo themselves in the acting department.

I have not seen the original 1919 version of this film but John Wray, who plays the deformed 'Frog',gives what has to be the performance of his career. He was mostly a character actor and bit player but here generates what ought to have been at least a Supporting Actor award nomination (there were no supporting awards until 1936). And deadpan comic Ned Sparks? here he plays it straight and is very convincing - I can't recall him in a more prominent role. Usually he could be seen in snatches of one picture or another. Sylvia Sidney carries the load in the acting department with a performance that is both sympathetic and heartfelt. Hobart Bosworth plays the Patriarch and has little to do but to gaze heavenward and look enrapt.

I would imagine this film is not for all tastes but if you have a chance it is well worth your while even if you are not religious. I saw this film at a film festival in Rome, N.Y. in 35MM, in a print restored by the UCLA Film Dept. It reinforces my opinion that the only way to see most films is in this format, in which the figures are bigger than life. That is the way movies were meant to be seen.
6 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
A sweet little film ...
AlsExGal7 August 2010
Warning: Spoilers
...that makes a sharp turn in the first 30 minutes or so that takes it in a completely different direction from where it was headed when it started.

The film starts with four con artists played by Chester Morris, Sylvia Sydney, Ned Sparks, and John Wray, on the make for some extra money in the big city with some well choreographed scams. What causes all of the trouble is that a tavern owner, Nikko, who is in on one of the scams - played by Boris Karloff of all people - has eyes for the girl in the group, Helen. Rather than send flowers, Nikko shows his affection by looking through a keyhole when Helen undresses. This naturally upsets her boyfriend and fellow grifter, Doc Madison (Chester Morris). Doc is given to extreme reactions and shows his displeasure with Nikko by dropping him several stories from the banister of the boarding house where the grifters live.

Doc beats it out of town to avoid the police until the heat is off, and while he is on the lam in a rural town he discovers that the town has a faith healer known only as "the Patriarch" (Hobart Bosworth). The Patriarch is so reliable at healing that the town doesn't even have a doctor. Doc, always the entrepreneur, sees in this set up an opportunity for a profitable scam. Doc summons his gang to the small seaside town to help him. Just to make sure that the Patriarch is known far and wide as a faith healer, Doc decides to stage a miracle with the most visual of results - someone being healed of tuberculosis won't do. He decides to have fellow grifter "The Frog" (John Wray) "unwind" as a result of the Patriarch's power. The Frog has the ability to contort his body such that he looks like a hopeless cripple, which was a useful part of the group's scams back in the city. Likewise at the end of a hard day of scamming, he does the process in reverse by "unwinding". This trick is what made Lon Chaney famous in the lost 1919 film.

Everything works out as Doc planned up to a point, but an extra miracle occurs at the time the Frog unwinds - one that rivals the Frog's unwinding in visual strength - that makes it clear to the grifters that the Patriarch indeed has real power. How will this effect the grifters' plan to cash in? Watch and find out.

This film has some beautful seascape scenes, particularly those of the Patriarch as he goes off to meditate. It also has some interesting things to say about the ability of people to change, although I thought the transitions in some of the characters was somewhat abrupt. Hobart Bosworth is very good as the Patriarch and he is very effective at conveying deep faith and tranquility although he has few lines. Bosworth was probably quite good at this role because he had been a star of the silent screen and thus knew how to convey emotion without dialogue. Of course, Morris is always good as the angry bad guy and Ned Sparks is always good with the smart remarks.

At the time of its release this film was a failure at the box office, probably because it starts out like a gangster film and turns into something quite different very quickly. I found it rather uplifting with good performances by some of my favorite pre code performers.
3 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
BORIS KARLOFF IS A TAVERN OWNER!
whpratt120 May 2003
This film is a great classic and a play by George M. Cohan(creator of "Yankee Doodle Dandy") Three big city gangsters led by John Madison (Chester Morris)(Played Boston Blackie in the 1940's) has his headquarters in a Chinese tavern owned by Nikko(Boris Karloff) and he receives a percentage. The other members of the gang are The Frog(John Wray),a fake cripple, and Helen Smith(Sylvia Sidney(Fantasy Island '98 TV Series), Madison's girl. Nikko tries to win the heart and affection of Helen, Madison's girl and almost gets killed. The gangsters perform fake Miracle's and causes many problems. The film was a remake of a 1919 silent film. It is very well produced. There is a scene where real handicapped people are really cured which turns this film into a great old time classic, with Karloff playing a different role than the Frankenstein Monster in 1931.
7 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
6/10
John Wray and Boris Karloff
kevinolzak26 November 2013
1932's "The Miracle Man," a remake of the lost 1919 silent that made a star of Lon Chaney, should be better remembered than it is. John Wray admirably fills the role of Chaney's phony cripple 'The Frog,' and Boris Karloff, still a supporting player in the brief six month period after "Frankenstein," adds to its position as a pre-code Hollywood curio (Boris would never return to Paramount, which did very few horror films). Chester Morris, Ned Sparks, and Sylvia Sidney round out the quartet of confidence tricksters who get more than they bargained for when they take on 'The Patriarch' (Hobart Bosworth), alias 'The Miracle Man.' John Wray was enjoying one of his most prominent seasons, with memorable turns in both "Doctor X" and "The Death Kiss." As for Karloff, he only features in the opening reel, playing Chinatown tavern owner Nikko, slight Oriental accent not unlike his Chinese general in 1937's "West of Shanghai," whose lecherous designs on Sylvia Sidney are not reciprocated. Rather than accept his usual cut from Morris, he chooses to spy on the undressing girl through a convenient keyhole, earning him a well deserved fall from grace. Following "Business and Pleasure" and "Night World," Karloff's star status at Universal would be solidified by "The Old Dark House," with genre vehicles thereafter prepared especially for him.
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
6/10
The miracles don't just happen to the deformed or crippled, but the soulless as well.
mark.waltz6 November 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Don't confuse this film with "Freaks" which was released the same year as this. That avant garde cult film combined shock value visuals and elements of horror. While this has alleged disabled characters (one young boy is actually unable to walk without the help of crutches), it is more of a crime drama that combines spiritual elements into it as some of the main characters strive to atone for their attempts to fleece the public. The opening scene has the pretty Sylvia Sidney being confronted in a Chinese shop for pick-pocketing another customer (Chester Morris), and before you know it, other customers are tossing tens and twenties at her because of her sob story. It turns out that Sidney and Morris are part of a gang that goes around fleecing the eternally naive and gullible, and after one of them gets into a fight and becomes wanted by the police, they flee to another area where they become in a scheme to defraud an old man (Hobart Bosworth), known as "the miracle man", who has been known to cure people of their physical ailments just by a touch.

Sidney pretends to be his long lost great niece, and before long, her gang has moved in, with the supposedly badly deformed John Wray (who has the ability to saunter around with twisted legs, torsos and arms, giving him the nickname, "The Frog") and Ned Sparks as another shyster who shows the possibility of reforming under Bosworth's saint like guidance. It is Sidney, however, who reforms the most, already in love with Morris, but suffering great guilt because of how her comforting presence to the dying Bosworth affects him. Films about atonement are always moving to watch, especially when career criminals deal with objections from their cohorts who don't want to lose an important part of their meal ticket. The acting honors go to Sidney, Bosworth and Sparks, while Wray's ability to go from completely twisted like a pretzel to totally standing up straight is mesmerizing to watch. His part is minimal, possibly made secondary, even though the original 1919 version featuring Lon Chaney Sr. in that part focused on his character.

Look quickly for Boris Karloff at the very beginning as the owner of the Chinese shop, once again with his eyes taped up as they were in the same year's "The Mask of Fu Manchu". I expected to see more of him in this film which I had seen years ago and recalled his presence but not much else. This was based upon a play by George M. Cohan that might have dated somewhat but with "miracle preachers" showing up all over (most famously Aimee Semple McPherson, fictionalized in the similarly titled "The Miracle Woman"), it may have seemed a bit more timely for this remake to be done. The film drags here and there, but is beautiful to look at, and satisfying, because it shows amoral characters for the most part straightening up their souls after they had become psychologically deformed, not caring about anything but the next fleece.
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
5/10
Great up until the disappointing ending.
MartinHafer28 January 2019
Warning: Spoilers
"The Miracle Man" is a great film....up until the very disappointing and hard to believe ending. It's a real shame, as it was quite compelling up until then.

When the story begins, you see that John 'Doc' Madison (Chester Morris) is the leader of a gang of grifters who cheat folks by preying on their decency. However, after he gets in a fight with Nikko (Boris Karloff), he nearly kills him...and takes it on the lam. He eventually finds himself in a strange small town. Strange because there is no doctor and folks go to a local faith healer, 'The Patriarch', for healing. John gets the idea to exploit this and use it to make a big score...so he contacts the gang and has them meet him there. However, over time, several gang members come to believe in the power of The Patriarch...and John is having a hard time getting this big score. What's next? Well....it's pretty disappointing!

There are two things I didn't like about the film. The first was minor...Karloff's accent seemed weird. The second one, however, was HUGE....after such a wonderful setup, the ending is a real letdown...and left me very disappointed. It's a shame, as up until then it was great! Terrifically cynical...but the ending undoes all that great cynicism.
1 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
5/10
Terrifically cynical...but the ending undoes all that great cynicism.
MartinHafer27 January 2019
"The Miracle Man" is a great film....up until the very disappointing and hard to believe ending. It's a real shame, as it was quite compelling up until then.

When the story begins, you see that John 'Doc' Madison (Chester Morris) is the leader of a gang of grifters who steal folks blind. However, after he gets in a fight with Nikko (Boris Karloff), he nearly kills him...and takes it on the lam. He eventually finds himself in a strange small town. Strange because there is no doctor and folks go to a local faith healer, 'The Patriarch', for healing. John gets the idea to exploit this and use it to make a big killing...so he contacts the gang and has them meet him there. However, over time, several gang members come to believe in the power of The Patriarch...and John is having a hard time getting this big score. What's next? Well....it's pretty disappointing!

There are two things I didn't like about the film. The first was minor...Karloff's accent seemed weird. The second one, however, was HUGE....after such a wonderful setup, the ending is a real wimp out...and left me very disappointed. It's a shame, as up until then it was great!
1 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews


Recently Viewed