The Medium

09/23/2021 06:43

Film: The Medium

Year: 1951

Director: Gian Carlo Menotti

Writer: Gian Caro Menotti

Starring: Marie Powers, Leopoldo Savona and Anna Maria Alberghetti



This is another movie that I didn’t know existed until I was working my way through the horror genre for 1951 on Letterboxd. This one I found cheap on eBay since it wasn’t streaming anywhere. The only things that I knew going in was the title and that this is based on a play. I figured this movie and what it was paired up with for my Odyssey through the Ones made for an interesting double feature. The synopsis is Madame Flora (Marie Powers) is terrified when she perceives a supernatural presence during one of her fraudulent séances.

We begin this movie with Madame Flora sitting on steps. She looks a bit disheveled. Someone pops out of a building, tossing her money and a necklace. Despite looking a bit rough, she doesn’t look homeless or that poor. She gets up and sells the necklace at a nearby shop for more money.

As she approaches home, she hears the beautiful singing of Monica (Anna Maria Alberghetti). This young woman is her daughter. Together they live with Toby (Leopoldo Savona). From something we learn later in the movie, he doesn’t have a tongue. He is a beggar that Madame Flora took in. He is best friends with Monica as they live a sheltered life.

Madame Flora is a psychic. Coming over is Mrs. Nolan (Belva Kibler) who wants to speak with her deceased daughter. Joining her is Mrs. Gobineau (Beverly Dame) and Mr. Gobineau (Donald Morgan). They’ve been coming here for years to speak with their dead son. This is Mrs. Nolan’s first time here.

The séance begins and Mrs. Nolan believes she sees her daughter. She is mystified. The specter tells her to give away her daughter's things and to find a locket. The Gobineaus also believe they hear their son’s voice. It all comes to an end though when Madame Flora believes something grabs her neck. She returns money to her customers and goes into a panic. It is here we learn that she is a fraud. She has been lying about her abilities to make money. She now has to decide to reveal the truth, but more importantly, did something supernatural happen to her and is she at risk for it happen again?

I think that is where I’ll leave my recap and shift over to say that this movie doesn’t have the deepest story to it. It is more of a look at this family, which I am going to include Toby into this. Something that I haven’t relayed yet is that this is a musical. There is no normal dialogue. Everyone is singing every word that is said. I’ll be honest, I think that the singing from Powers and Alberghetti is good, but it was hard to figure out some of the things that they were saying. It is impressive to be honest. The rest of the music is fine and fit for what was needed.

Where I want to delve into next is the story itself. Madame Flora is ripping these people off with the help of Monica and Toby. For the former, she is pretending to be a baby or somebody else’s daughter. I think it is a bit crazy that Mrs. Nolan doesn’t recognize this, but I could see being so entranced and wanting to believe that she could be fooled. Toby is doing the physical aspects like shaking the table as needed. There is the blurring of lines here. What Madame Flora  is doing is bad, but she is giving solace to these greiving people. I’m more forgiving for Mrs. Nolan, but she has been messing with the Gobineaus for years. She is robbing them, so I like to see her panicking and needing to re-evaluate her life.

At the core of this movie, it is Madame Flora from that point descending into madness. I think that Powers does a solid job here. She looks like she is losing it. There is the question of did something supernatural happen or did she imagine it? As she descends into madness, she blames Toby and thinks he did something. The movie is a tragedy, I will say that. She promises him that she won’t punish him if he admits to it. When he doesn’t he is beaten and cast out of the house. I feel bad for him as he doesn’t have anywhere to go. He also is close to Monica and loves her. Madame Flora is our villain here and I think the performance from Powers fits what was needed.

Aside from that, I think that Savona was good as Toby. He has to do a lot with his body and facial expressions which he does. Alberghetti is also good as the daughter. What is interesting there is that she only has Toby. Her mother is there, but she is more wrapped up in her business and providing. The two of them have a good time together. Kibler, Dame and Morgan are all solid as well to round this movie out for what was needed.

Then the last thing to go into would be the cinematography and the effects. For the former, I think it is fine. They don’t do much with moving the camera. I think the apartment where most of this is set is interesting. We don’t get a lot in the way of effects here aside from the séance scene. I think they do some good stuff with lighting there.  Overall I’d say that these were fine aspects for the movie.

So then in conclusion here, this is an interesting movie. We are getting an adaptation of an opera or a play. The story is something we’ve seen after this. I’m not sure if this is borrowed from elsewhere or not historically. I like the concept. Being that this is a musical where they sing their lines makes it hard to understand at times, but I have to give credit that they’re talented. The acting though is solid. I’d say the rest of the aspects of the movie are fine. For me this movie is over average. It is lacking some things for me to go higher than that though.


My Rating: 6 out of 10