In 1933 film producer and original “shockumentarian” Willis Kent set his eyes on exposing what he saw as the phoney racket of psychics. Earlier in his career Kent had made a name for himself by producing the film “The Pace that Kills” a little film about dope, heroin, cocaine addiction and prostitution. His later films would be about things…even worse.
The Psychic Racket
Sucker Money, happily is a short little jaunt into what Willis saw as the grifty world of phony-bologna psychics. The film is billed as an “Expose of the Psychic Racket” but in reality is just a 60 minutes or horrible acting.
In the movie the psychic Swami Yomurda, played by Mischa Auer, kidnaps a girl and holds her for ransom…didn’t you know that’s what psychics really do?
“I see in this crystal ball people will be bored”John E.L. Tenney, after watching the movie Sucker Money
In one sense the film is fun seeing how the “psychic powers” are pulled of by Swami Yomurda and his henchmen, dry-ice and hidden cameras and string; they’ve got the “con” down. But, ultimately the movie is a slog even at less than a hour run-time.
Psychic / Ghost Breaker Connection
Interestingly enough the film is co-directed by Dorothy Davenport who was the widow of actor Wallace Reid. One of Reid’s most famous roles was in the 1922 film Ghost Breaker. Reid later died from a drug addiction which is how Davenport probably got involved working with Kent.
The film is slow but, sometimes, fun and offers a glimpse into how psychics were seen by some in the early 1930’s; especially by people who were seemingly obsessed by cocaine, heroin, white slavery, prostitution and dope.