Chandra (Warren William) and his friend Frank (Allen Jenkins) have tried their hands at just about every carnival scam there is and haven’t had much luck with any of them. But then they realize where the real money is — fortune telling. Chandra becomes Chandra the Great, and while he’s performing, Frank hides under the stage and uses a secret microphone to feed questions from the audience to Chandra. Frank also uses the shows as a chance to steal purses from some of the audience members.
After a show one night, the owner of a stolen purse comes back with her niece Sylvia (Constance Cummings) to look for it. Chandra is very attracted to Sylvia, so he tries to impress her by pretending to have a “vision” of exactly where the purse is. Chandra and Sylvia start seeing each other and he swears up and down that he’s really in it to help other people. Even when he hires her to be his secretary, he manages to keep his real motives hidden from her for a while. Even when she does start to figure it out, he convinces her the act is really just an advertisement for his ability to help people.
Chandra and Sylvia get married, but he isn’t able to keep up his charade for much longer. When a person commits suicide after getting some bad advice from Chandra, Sylvia begs him to give it up and go straight. He becomes a door-t0-door salesman and Frank becomes a chauffeur, but then the two of them come up with a new scheme. Frank has the dirt on all the wealthy men in town and knows exactly when they’re cheating on their wives. Chandra poses as a psychic again, Dr. Munro this time, and sells his services to their wives to tell them when their husbands are with their other women. It doesn’t take long for the unfaithful husbands to start getting angry with Dr. Munro, and when one comes looking for revenge, Chandra shoots the man in self-defense and flees, inadvertently leaving Sylvia to take the fall for him.
The Mind Reader is a pretty enjoyable Warren William vehicle, but not one of his best from the pre-code era. Warren William is very good in it and Chandra is very much the unethical heel he is best known for playing, but Chandra has more redeeming qualities than Williams’ characters in things like Employees’ Entrance or Skyscraper Souls. It’s a rather unusual pre-code, which isn’t a bad thing, but I think I would have liked the movie more if the ending weren’t so forced.
I’ve got to hand it to The Mind Reader, though, for containing what has got to be the most canted angle shots I have ever seen in one movie. The canted angles represent how crooked Chandra and Frank were, and this movie has more canted angles than an episode of Batman.
All in all, it isn’t a bad movie, but if you’re looking for a definitive pre-code Warren William movie, I’d definitely recommend Skyscraper Souls or Employees’ Entrance over The Mind Reader.