An Honest Liar

It’s Houdini meets “Inside Job”.

This “Psychic Investigator” takes down con-artists, psychics and faith healers.

Trailer for “An Honest Liar”

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  • My Rating: 97/100
  • IMDB Rating: 7.5/10
  • Rotten Tomatoes Ratings: 88/100 (Users); 98/100 (Critics)

My Review of “An Honest Liar”

I love a documentary about someone who is awesome in some random niche.

In this case, it’s about James Randi (aka “The Amazing Randi”).

Randi is a “Psychic Investigator”.

His job is to debunk con artists, psychics and faith healers.

Directed by Tyler Measom and Justin Weinstein, this 2014 doc runs 90 minutes.

Randi, born Randall James Hamilton Zwinge in 1928, began his career as a magician and escape artist.

The film showcases Randi’s most famous investigations (see below about Geller and Popoff).

The doc has a major twist too:

We also learn about Randi’s long-time partner, artist Jose Alvarez. In 2011, it was discovered that Alvarez had been living under a false identity for over 20 years.

This revelation cast doubt on Randi’s integrity. How could a man who built a career on exposing deception keep such a monumental secret?

Some of my favorite moments of the documentary:

Exposing Uri Geller

Randi’s relentless pursuit of exposing Uri Geller’s claimed psychic abilities is a core part of the doc.

Randi dedicated his career to debunking Geller.

One of the most notable exposures happened on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” in 1973. Randi advised Carson on how to prevent trickery during Geller’s appearance.

With the props controlled by Carson’s team, Geller was unable to perform his usual feats.

It’s a major blow to Geller’s reputation.

Randi’s books, “The Truth About Uri Geller” and “The Magic of Uri Geller,” challenged Geller’s assertions.

For example, Randi explained the sleight of hand behind Geller’s spoon bending.

There were legal battles between Geller and Randi. Geller’s lawsuits against Randi were dismissed or resulted in Geller paying significant legal fees.

Exposing Peter Popoff

I loved Randi’s takedown of faith healer Peter Popoff. You’ll be shocked by the revelations from a faith healing event.

Randi, along with his associate Steve Shaw (known as Banachek) and electronics expert Alexander Jason, use a scanner radio to intercept transmissions between Popoff and his wife, Elizabeth.

She was offstage, providing Popoff with detailed information about the attendees, which she had gathered from prayer cards.

This information included names, addresses, and ailments. Popoff then announced these details as if they were divine revelations.

Randi presented the intercepted audio on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” in May 1986.

It was awesome

Popoff’s reputation significantly declined, contributing to his bankruptcy the following year.

Project Alpha

Then there’s Randi’s ambitious Project Alpha.

This well-orchestrated hoax tested the scientific rigor of parapsychological research.

It began in 1979 and concluded with a public revelation in 1983.

The project was triggered by a substantial $500,000 grant from James S. McDonnell to establish the MacLab at Washington University in St. Louis.

Randi recruited two young magicians, Steve Shaw (Banachek) and Michael Edwards.

They pose as psychics.

Initially, the MacLab reported extraordinary results from tests with Shaw and Edwards.

As rumors of a hoax circulated, the MacLab tightened their experimental protocols.

In 1983, Randi publicly revealed the hoax at a press conference. I

Some argue Randi’s methods were unethical.

One thing most agree on: the paranohoax demonstrates how easily researchers could be deceived without stringent controls.

Project Alpha remains a significant event in the history of parapsychological research.

Randi’s Personal Life and Relationship with José Alvarez

The unexpected turn in the doc that explores Randi’s personal relationship with his romantic partner José Alvarez.

Their initial meeting was at the Fort Lauderdale Public Library in 1986. Randi was drawn to Alvarez’s interest in space imagery.

Despite a 33-year age difference, their romantic relationship flourished. They were married in 2013 after 27 years together.

They wed in Washington, D.C., the closest place to Florida where gay marriage was legal.

Professionally, Alvarez and Randi collaborated on various projects.

Alvarez’ acts as “Carlos,” a spirit channeler, as part of Randi’s campaign against fraudulent supernatural claims.

Their relationship faces challenges when Alvarez was arrested in 2011 for identity theft and falsifying a passport.

Randi gives his unwavering support for Alvarez throughout this ordeal.

This twist adds a layer of complexity to Randi’s character and the theme of deception

Thanks for reading!

Rob Kelly, Chief Maniac, Daily Doc