Put this movie on your ‘must-watch’ list

Put this movie on your ‘must-watch’ list

At 86, James Randi, fraudbuster extraordinaire, is still as sharp as a razor – and he’s the star of a new documentary, An Honest Liar.

Writing for Variety, Dennis Harvey said:

An Honest Liar is a highly entertaining portrait of James ‘the Amazing’ Randi, a magician-cum-escape artist who, like his role model, Houdini, eventually turned his primary attention to debunking professional mystics, telepathists and other ‘supernatural’ charlatans.

Justin Weinstein and Tyler Measom’s documentary bounces along enjoyably on a sea of archival clips from Randi’s high-profile career, with latter-day input from numerous celebrity pals (and at least one famous foe). It gains added dimension from the subject’s late-in-life coming out as a gay man [at the age of 81].

James Randi and producer/co-director Justin Weinstein at the special screening of An Honest Liar at the Magic Castle

James Randi and producer/co-director Justin Weinstein at the special screening of An Honest Liar at the Magic Castle

According to this report in Variety, Randi proved a big draw at a special screening this week in Hollywood.

In the documenantary, everyone from Alice Cooper to Penn and Teller weigh in on his influence, and the movie contains rarely seen archival footage of Randi appearing in shows ranging from The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson to Happy Days.

A Q&A followed the screening with filmmaker Weinstein, Randi and his husband Jose Alvarez. Weinstein discussed the process of obtaining and utilising the thousands of hours of archival footage he used in the film.

Said Weinstein:

We had the curse and the blessing that Randi lived a great part of his life in the public eye.

He added that one of the film’s biggest expenses was converting tapes and even 16mm film.

One of the film’s major coups was getting an interview with Uri Geller, who achieved fame in the 1970s by claiming to be a psychic and making countless TV appearances where he would bend spoons and keys.

For years, Randi would imitate his tricks to show there was no psychic ability involved, and the two were engaged in a heated rivalry. Weinstein described the pair as a superhero and his nemesis.

Said Weinstein:

They both come from the same place. They’re both doing tricks. And one of them goes to the light and one to the dark side. It’s a classic superhero narrative.

When asked about why he feels the need to reveal fakes, he said, “These people do positive damage to believers.” He talked about one faith healer who collected so much money, he threw out cheques worth $20 or less.

He was cashing the $500 and $1,000 ones – and there were a lot of them.


When asked whom he would like to expose today, he named televangelist Toufik Benedictus (aka “Benny The Hair”) Hinn, above.

He also revealed that he is working on his 11th book, A Magician in the Laboratory, which will include a take-down of anti-vaccination believers.

5 responses to “Put this movie on your ‘must-watch’ list”

  1. L.Long says:

    He is not called AMAZING for nothing!!!

  2. Ivan says:

    This sounds remarkably like this film I remember seeing on BBC4 late last year as part of the Storyville series. It may well be the same thing under a different title.

    Not available on the iPlayer at the moment but episodes usually turn up again sooner or later.

  3. Broga says:

    Randi is a public treasure. He does what governments ought to do: expose the scam artists who rob their victims.

  4. barriejohn says:

    I can bend spoons.

    James Randi is an inspiration. Penn and Teller are also adept at exposing charlatans, and I wish that Derren Brown would do more of it. He used to be an evangelical Christian, and that’s where he gets much of his motivation!

    Though Brown’s performances of mind-reading and other feats of mentalism may appear to be the result of psychic or paranormal practices, he claims no such abilities and frequently denounces those who do. He states at the beginning of his Trick of the Mind programmes that he achieves his results using a combination of “magic, suggestion, psychology, misdirection, and showmanship”…

    Brown was an Evangelical Christian in his teens, and became an atheist in his twenties. This is discussed by Brown in the “Messiah” special, and in his book Tricks of the Mind. An interview as part of Richard Dawkins’ two-part documentary series The Enemies of Reason, where Brown explained various psychological techniques used by purported psychics and spiritual mediums to manipulate their audiences, Brown also said he sought to strengthen his belief and provide answers to common criticisms of religion by reading the Bible and other Christian religious texts, but upon doing so found none of the answers he sought and came to the conclusion that his belief (in Christianity) had no basis.

    I’m convinced that people just WANT to believe.

  5. Marky Mark says:

    I’ve been watching a ton of Randi and Penn & teller the past few days…also some Dawkins…good stuff