In France, an insane surgeon's obsession with an actress from England leads him to replace her pianist husband's hands that got mangled in an accident with the hands of a late knife murderer which still have the urge to throw knives.
Janos Szaby is a kind, innocent immigrant to America. Just after he arrives though, he is caught in a fire and his face is horribly burned and disfigured. Although a skilled craftsman his hideous features make it impossible for him to get work, and driven by despair he is forced to turn to crime to live. He finds himself very proficient at that, and soon makes enough money to buy a very lifelike mask to hide his scars behind. He hates what he does, but is he in too deep to get out? Written by
Ken Yousten <firstname.lastname@example.org>
In the same year Peter Lorre did The Maltese Falcon over at Warner Brothers, Columbia Pictures had him starring in The Face Behind The Mask. In his career Lorre was far better known for the supporting parts he played to big Hollywood marquee names. After his starring roles in German cinema in Fritz Lang's M and as Mr. Moto, Lorre was rarely the lead name in the cast. This interesting B film, The Face Behind The Mask is a glorious exception.
It's too bad that Columbia didn't put more production values into this film because Lorre has one interesting part. The film is a combination of Phantom Of The Opera and Little Caesar. Lorre first appears to us as an eager immigrant from Hungary, one of the few times he played his own nationality. He's looking to get his piece of the American dream as so many were back in the day. On a tip from friendly policeman Don Beddoe, Lorre takes lodging in a cheap rooming house and that very first night the place catches on fire and his face is burned horribly.
Disfigured as he is Lorre can't find legitimate work, but he's got certain skills that the criminal profession can use and with the aid of a temporary mask he takes charge like Edward G. Robinson did of an existing criminal gang. George E. Stone plays the same kind of role in The Face Behind The Mask as he did in Little Caesar.
Lorre also in maybe the only time in his film career gets a leading lady of sorts in the person of Evelyn Keyes. Evelyn plays a blind girl who can't see his disfigurement and she falls for him. It all ends badly, but not through any doing of Lorre's.
The Face Behind The Mask is a routine B programmer without a lot of production values invested, but the idea behind the film is an interesting one and Lorre pulls it off beautifully in his acting.
And who would ever have Peter Lorre would get the girl in any film, even temporarily.
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