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Religious Racketeers (1938)

Approved | | Crime, Mystery, Drama | 13 October 1939 (USA)
A wealthy young woman, racked with guilt because she wasn't there when her mother died, is so desperate to contact her that she gets involved with a phony mystic who promises to put her in ... See full summary »


Frank O'Connor


Frank O'Connor (story and screenplay), Charles R. Condon (adaptation)

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Cast overview:
Robert Fiske ... The Great LaGagge aka Louis LaGagge aka The Great Garno
Helene LeBerthon Helene LeBerthon ... Martha Morgan (as Helene Le Berthon)
Arthur Gardner ... Elliot Cole
Betty Compson ... Ada Bernard
David Kerman David Kerman ... Harvey Wilson
Robert Frazer ... Police Inspector Burke
Mrs. Harry Houdini Mrs. Harry Houdini ... Mrs. Harry Houdini (as Mme. Harry Houdini)


A wealthy young woman, racked with guilt because she wasn't there when her mother died, is so desperate to contact her that she gets involved with a phony mystic who promises to put her in touch with her mother's spirit, but who is really after her money. A reporter who loves the young woman sets out to expose the phony "psychic" for the charlatan he is. Written by frankfob2@yahoo.com

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Crime | Mystery | Drama


Approved | See all certifications »






Release Date:

13 October 1939 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Mystic Circle Murder See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Fanchon Royer Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


A print of this film survives in the UCLA Film and Television Archives under the title "The Mystic Circle Murder". See more »


Featured in Hollywood Ghost Stories (1986) See more »

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User Reviews

An interesting occult expose film
14 October 2006 | by catherine-71See all my reviews

As a person who studies (and practices) the occult arts, and who loves old films, i make a special point of obtaining early talkies that feature seances, fortune tellers, mystics, seers, and the like. In almost all cases, the occultists are depicted as frauds, although occasionally a little loophole of "the unexplained" is left over at the wrap-up of the plot to provide a hint of supernatural possibility.

I don't expect much sympathy for the occult in such movies, and so i enjoy them for what they are, and always keep a sharp eye out for interesting costuming, historical sets, exposures of stage illusions used by fraudulent mediums, vintage or antique props (often Orientalia), and intriguing special effects meant to simulate paranormal -- or fraudulently paranormal -- events.

"The Mystic Circle Murder" is the name under which i obtained this film (from Alpha Video), although i understand that its original title was "Religious Racketeers" -- and those two titles immediately reveal the problem of the plot: it serves two masters. Is it a murder mystery -- or an expose of religious rackets? It tries to be both, but straddling the fence leaves scant screen-time for either plot to unfold to its full possible extent.

Betty Compson is really good as a woman slowly destroyed by love for a man who has cast her aside, but then along comes the widow of Harry Houdini (whose scenes look spliced in, as she has virtually no interaction with the rest of the cast), and we are suddenly watching a moralizing educational film about fake psychics and their tricks.

I consider this a very interesting movie that will appeal greatly to those with a special interest in films about the international occult community and/or stage magic during the 1930s -- but for many other folks, i think it will simply register as another B-film from a cheap studio.

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