The Mask of Dimitrios (1944) Poster

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Thrilling suspenser from Warner Brothers
blanche-24 May 2006
It's wartime and Warners is short of those hot, young leading men, so they bring on one of the all-time great screen odd couples - Sydney and Peter - to work their magic. And as always, they deliver, in "The Mask of Dimitrios" starring Zachary Scott, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, and Faye Emerson. Though never leaving the back lot of Warners, the film takes writer Cornelius Leyden (Lorre) through Istanbul, Athens, Sofia, Geneva, Belgrade and Paris, following the life and career of an intriguing figure - Dimitrios - whose dead body Leyden has just seen in the morgue. The more he learns about this man, the more fascinated he becomes, and he smells a great story. Dimitrios is a con man, a thief, a blackmailer, and a spy for hire, and his victims tell their stories in a series of flashbacks. One of these is a nightclub owner (Emerson), who owns a nightclub in Sofia; another is a police detective; another a spy. Finally, Cornelius meets Mr. Peters (Greenstreet) who has some startling information...and a plan.

"The Mask of Dimitrios" captures a European flavor with its international cast and creative sets, and director Jean Negulesco keeps the action moving. In the title role, Zachary Scott is appropriately both attractive and slithery as a man constantly eluding those out to get him. Lorre is just great, becoming more and more worried and confused as he is drawn deeper into Dimitrios' adventures. Sydney Greenstreet gives a performance as big as he is as Mr. Peters - the scene where he passionately embraces French francs is one of his best ever! The last half hour or so belong to these two screen gems, Lorre and Greenstreet, and it's very exciting.

Two odd-sized, talented character men who helped keep Warner Brothers grinding out films during the war, Lorre and Greenstreet made ten films together. Unfortunately, we don't have anything like these two making movies today. Don't miss them in "The Mask of Dimitrios."
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Excellent dark film with a plethora of standout performances
The_Void1 May 2006
This excellent slice of film noir sees classic actor Peter Lorre in a role that is less sinister than what we're used to seeing from him, but nevertheless; the refined performer manages a portrayal that really is a major asset for this film. The plot takes in elements of mystery and suspense and features themes of intrigue and greed at its centre. The film follows a writer who learns of a devilishly intelligent criminal by the name of Dimitrios Makropoulos, whose corpse is washed up on the shore of Istanbul. Knowing that this will give him a good base for a story, the writer follows his story across Europe and learns more and more about the illusive criminal. Much of the film's plot takes place in flashbacks, and in this respect, Jean Negulesco's film is very clever as we get to see the central figure's actions at the same time as learning about the kind of man he is; and like the writer at the heart of the tale, it's easy to become intrigued with the character of Dimitrios by watching the flashbacks.

The cast really is a strong element of this film, and starring alongside Peter Lorre is his co-star in The Maltese Falcon, Casablanca and The Verdict (to name a few), Sydney Greenstreet. These two actors work well together, and this is shown by the way that their dialogue flows. They're a bit of an odd couple, with Lorre being a very short European and Greenstreet being an enormous Englishman, but really that just adds to the appeal. An excellent supporting performance from a very dapper Zachary Scott rounds off the film in the acting department. The Mask of Dimitrios benefits from its dark picture, which in turn lends the film a grim and foreboding atmosphere. The locations are good, as the film takes place across Europe, with scenes taking place in Paris, Istanbul and Athens to name a few places. The plot moves very well as it straddles between what is happening in the present and what went on in the past, and Frank Gruber's screenplay does a great job of ensuring that the characters are well thought-out in a film that is as intriguing as it is thrilling. Recommended.
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Dimitrios Unmasked
krorie20 March 2006
Eric Ambler was in a way the John Le Carré of his generation. A few of his works were turned into fantastic films. The two best ones were "Journey Into Fear" and "The Mask of Dimitrios." From the opening sequence when a body is washed ashore and a group of beachcombers walk up to it, realize what it is, and run away screaming, to the final fade out, this movie grabs the viewer's attention and holds it.

The acting is brilliant, from the stand out performances of the two leads, Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet to the smallest bit players. Zachary Scott in his first screen appearance is a knockout as the coldblooded, calculating, ruthless international schemer, Dimitrios Makropoulos. Faye Emerson as one of the women, Irana Preveza, Dimitrios used for his own selfish purposes then discarded is uncanny as she changes from a beautiful nightclub singer (in the flashback) to the worn out haggard shadow of a person she has become when relating her story to Cornelius Leyden (Lorre). She tells Leyden that Dimitrios was the only man she was ever actually afraid of. Adding to the effectiveness of this scene is the haunting "Perfidia (Tonight)," played in the background. Victor Francen gives a powerful portrayal of Wladislaw Grodek, someone else Dimitrios has double crossed.

The story unfolds as Leyden, a writer intrigued by Dimitrios' treachery, sets about to uncover as much information as possible about the archfiend in order to write a book. He views Dimitrios' corpse at the morgue then begins backtracking to separate fact from fiction. Enter a stranger who has been following him, a Mr. Peters or is it Peterson. The stranger too wants the facts on Dimitrios for what purpose is not clear.

Not only is the viewer enthralled by the picture of Dimitrios that slowly emerges, but the international scope of the hunt is riveting, Istanbul, the Hellespont, Sofia, Belgrade, Athens, Paris. This was also the time that Hitler's war was raging across Europe which only adds to the atmosphere involving spying and treason.
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Not The Maltese Falcon, but still a remarkable Film-Noir classic
Ilya Mauter7 May 2003
The Mask of Dimitrios is an adaptation of Eric Ambler's novel A Coffin for Dimitrios directed by Rumanian-American director Jean Negulescu. A corpse of a man is found washed up on a sea shore somewhere in Bulgaria, which apparently is of Dimitrios Makropoulos, a sought after by the police of various European countries notorious criminal. A fiction writer Cornelius Leyden (Peter Lorre) gets interested in Dimitrios' story and decides to conduct an investigation about his life and death with the intent of writing a book about it. In order to do that he begins a journey through Europe, following the trail of Dimitrios activities, which begins in Istambul and ends in Paris.

On the way he is joined by a mysterious stranger Mr. Peters (Sydney Greenstreet) who, as it turns out to be, has the same mission of finding out about Dimitrios' life, but whose motivations are quite different.

A good but little seen Film-Noir classic. 8/10
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Dangerous Duo
Ron Oliver1 August 2004
A Dutch mystery writer tries to strip away THE MASK OF DIMITRIOS Makropoulos to discover the truth about his wicked life.

From Warner Bros. and director Jean Negulesco comes this well-produced version of Eric Ambler's novel A Coffin For Dimitrios. Thickly plotted and jammed with intriguing characters, the film will amply reward the attentive viewer. Moving quickly across Europe (Istanbul, Athens, Sofia, Geneva, Belgrade & Paris) the plot never lags as it adds details to the plots & crimes of Dimitrios. The final culmination of his nefarious career is most justified and quite satisfying.

Diminutive Peter Lorre (undeserving of the pitiful 4th place billing he receives) brings his unique talents to the role of the Dutch author. Feisty and tenacious, he lets nothing get in his way as he ferrets out the details for which he's searching. Massive Sydney Greenstreet portrays the mysterious stout gentleman who arranges an alliance with Lorre to seek information about the violently deceased Dimitrios. Looking somewhat like a malevolently cheerful Buddha, Greenstreet literally dominates most of his scenes with his enormous talent, his great bulk and expressive eyes put to most effective dramatic use. Teamed with Lorre, the pair make a compelling duo--like a sinister Laurel & Hardy--and are most entertaining to watch. They would appear in nine films together; this was one of their best.

The movie's only real drawback is the complete absence of Greenstreet & Lorre during the lengthy flashback sequences. But this is but a minor quibble as the rest of the cast comport themselves quite well.

As the despicable Dimitrios, Zachary Scott manages to divest himself of any hint of the heroic, while retaining a certain dash and smarmy charm about his persona. Faye Emerson, the picture's leading lady, has actually a rather limited role, but she makes good use of her screen time as a Sofia nightclub owner with a sad story to tell Lorre.

The large supporting cast features a considerable number of European character actors. Especially noteworthy are Kurt Katch as a Turkish police detective; Eduardo Ciannelli as a helpful Bulgarian reporter; Victor Francen as a cat-loving spy master living in Switzerland; and Steven Geray as a most unfortunate Yugoslavian governmental clerk. Chatty Florence Bates livens up her one short scene as an American society hostess living in Istanbul.

Set in 1938, the film was produced during World War Two. It is a fine example of how movie magic and back lot technology could transport an audience to a temporarily inaccessible geographic location.
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A compelling thriller about the life of a master criminal.
Ted-10112 February 2001
Mystery writer Cornelius Leyden (Peter Lorre) attends a dinner party where he is told about the recent discovery of the body of a master criminal by Colonel Haki, chief of the local police. When Leyden learns that the criminal, Dimitrios Makropoulos, avoided capture for years, and engaged in everything from smuggling, blackmail, murder, and political assassination, he becomes intrigued, and begins an odyssey which takes him to many exotic locals in a bid to meet the actual people who dealt with, and managed to survive, encounters with the ruthless Dimitrios.

Leyden meets Irana Preveya, who met Dimitrios when he barged into her apartment to seize a crust of bread when he was on the verge of starvation. In flashback, we see how her story unfolds. She begins by saying, "I have known many men, but I've only been afraid of one ... Demitrios."

Then Leyden meets Grodek, a master spy, (superbly played by Victor Francen). Grodek reveals how years ago he employed Dimitrios to steal a naval chart of some important mine fields. In flashback, we see how he and Dimitrios duped Bulic, a short, pudding faced government employee, (played by Steven Geray) by first causing him to fall into debt, then by coercing him to steal the chart from an office down the hall from his own post. It was almost too much watching these two suave criminals befuddle this kindly little man.

All the while, Leyden accidentally encounters a stout gentleman in trains, restaurants, and other places. But it's no accident. The man is Mr. Peters, played by Sydney Greenstreet. Greenstreet is interested in Leyden, because Leyden is interested in Dimitrios. They soon combine forces as the films surges towards a gripping climax.

This is one of the great films of the 40's. Zachary Scott, in his 1st film, gives an oscar caliber performance as the cunning, charming, and totally ruthless Dimitrios Makropolus. There are other great performances all around, and this may be the only film where Peter Lorre gets to play himself. His character is complex. At first Leyden seems to have a cavalier interest in Dimitrios, but he has a drive and perseverence that are not at once evident. Greenstreet is masterful as the charming and courteous Mr. Peters. Yet, just below the surface of his polite veneer, he is full of vengeance. This film is a must for those who love mystery and international intrigue.
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Mr. Ambler's Balkans - But what happened to the plot?
theowinthrop28 August 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Because of the shadow of Graham Greene, Eric Ambler was prevented from being fully recognized by the public for the great novelist he was. Greene's themes on sins and redemption, and his heavy Catholicism, made him the favorite of serious critics. Only lovers of spy novels fully appreciated Ambler's ironic tales. Of his first five novels the best one was A COFFIN FOR DEMETRIOS (1940). It is the basis for THE MASK OF DEMETRIOS (1944).

Ambler was quick to notice the realities of the European world in fiction. In one of his novels he includes an introduction about the history of the spy novel, and mentions only three or four predecessors (one of whom is Joseph Conrad - for THE SECRET AGENT). The 1920s and 1930s saw a Europe in turmoil with five major powers either drifting (England and France) or in the grips of dictatorships (Germany, Italy, Russia). The Balkans (and Eastern Europe) were in the hands of minor dictators, who were jockying for positions among themselves. It was a fit area for fictional development.

In THE MASK OF DEMETRIOS Ambler dealt with the career of a truly evil character (based somewhat on the career of munitions kingpin Sir Basil Zaharoff). Demetrios Makroupoulos is dead when the movie begins, when his body washes up on the coast near Istanbul. A novelist named Leyden is at a party where he meets Col. Haki, head of the Turkish police. Haki tells him about the recently deceased Demetrios. Leyden decides to do a biography, and goes across Europe discovering how Demetrios began by killing a money-lender in Smyrna, and leaving a trail to his inebriated confederate/patsy (who gets hanged); got involved as a political assassin for hire in Bulgaria (using a woman named Sonia, and discarding her); getting involved in international spy-rings in Belgrade (and double-crossing his partners); and getting into the international drug trade in Marseilles. He is assisted in this by a Mr. Peters, who turns out to be a Mr. Peterson who was one of the drug ring betrayed by Demetrios. Peterson has tracked down Demetrios to Paris - the dead man in Istanbul was just another victim of his, used as a decoy. Peterson and Van Leyden confront Demetrios and are paid a sum of money to keep quiet. But he has found their hide-out, and surprises them there, shooting Peterson. But Peterson manages to turn the tables on Demetrios, and kills him (finally and fully).

The film makes the most of a grand cast of character actors led by Greenstreet as Peters/Peterson, Lorre as Van Leyden, and Scott as Demetrios. Stephen Geray, as a stooge of a clerk who is blackmailed into betraying Yugoslavian secrets,is the most sympathetic character. Victor Francken has an amusing bit as a retired spymaster in Geneva, who was involved in the Belgrade affair (Eduardo Cianelli was also involved), and who explains he spends his retirement working on a biography of St. Francis of Assisi, which he fully hopes he doesn't complete. The story manages to mingle true history with fiction: the assassination attempt involving Demetrios was an attempt on the life of Stambouliski, the agrarian radical Premier of Bulgaria who finally was assassinated in 1923. Unlike other Warner films using flashbacks ( PASSAGE TO MARSEILLES comes to mind as a horrible example), they were used properly here. Jean Negulesco, a fine director, did well with Greenstreet and Lorre here, and would have a good second chance at it in THREE STRANGERS in a year.

But while the film is an excellent example of a spy noir, it does not do the novel full justice for the extent of it's irony. As I mentioned above, Demetrios is supposed to be based on Zaharoff, who raised himself from the slums of the Balkans to immense wealth and influence (supposedly as a bad influence - he would encourage war because of his munitions interests), and finally to a title. In the novel, nobody Demetrios Makroupoulos rises step by step to the post of a director of a French cartel bank in Paris, which has financed many of the evil crimes that he has been involved in. Now Monsiur M. is a supposedly respectable upper-class figure. His interest in silencing Peters and Van Leyden is really to avoid any type of revelation that will cost him his hard won respectability.

In the movie, Peters (with Van Leyden's help) turns the table on Demetrios, and we finally see the craven creep that is behind this evil man - just before he dies. Peters is arrested, but he is satisfied that he did rid the world of Demetrios. But in the novel Peters/Peterson dies too, but in killing Demetrios he has destroyed his face, making identification impossible. The papers refer to the dead man as unknown (and we realize the cartel bank will not make an effort to identify it's missing director - they will probably make up a story that the latter has retired). The final irony of the story is that the real Demetrios Makroupoulos, having killed and hurt his way to fortune will end up buried in an anonymous grave.
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holds up well after 58 years: suspense and intrigue
imp-617 August 2002
I saw this movie 3 times in blackout conditions in 1944 on the German front just before the Battle of the Bulge. That was 3 separate times and apparently it was the only movie on the whole front. I just viewed it again today, 2002, and showed not a bit of age. It is exciting though it is 75% talk and 25% action. But what talk: Greenstreet and Lorre!! All the parts are finely chosen and hand polished until they fit the space perfectly. They don't make them like this anymore. Put it with Casablanca, Maltese Falcon (Bogart one), Key Largo, etc. If you like these, you'll love the Mask. And Col. Haki is great and in a previous movie was played by Orson Wells, i.e., another Eric Ambler movie. It is the Balkans in 1938 and background shots are exciting. If you don't know Faye Emerson, you will wish you did. Rush out and rent it.
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The best of all Eric Ambler adaptations
Mike-7541 June 1999
Wonderful suspense film, with Lorre and Greenstreet, the Mutt and Jeff, of international intrigue, at the very top of their game, a great screen debut by Zachery Scott in the title role, and Victor Francen's very best performance in a minor but vital part. Atmosphere galore. -This- is the kind of film Warner Brothers did better than anyone else.
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Why is this movie not yet on DVD?
bertisaacs21 April 2006
This movie is as good as the Third Man and the cast is a classic keeper. Dimitrios is not as endearing as Harry but he is every bit as ruthless and amoral. The movie is fairly faithful to Eric Ambler's book (A Coffin for Dimitrios). Sydney Greenstreet is in perfect character, Mr. Peters, as Sydney Greenstreet or should I say the character he portrays in the Maltese Falcon, Casablanca or Across the Pacific. Peter Lorre plays it straight as a writer, Charles Latimer, who discovers for the first time that there are men like Dimitrios Makropoulos, a man who can draw others to him but who has no love for anyone except himself a man who is truly amoral. This changes Latimer such that you know he will no longer be as trusting again. He is like all persons who naively trust in a world of rules and then confronts the fact that there are people who succeed by taking advantage of the rest of us because they know we live within the rules. Finally Zachary Scott was an excellent choice as Dimitrios. He is charming, handsome with the countenance of a reptile. I WANT THIS MOVIE TO BE DIGITIZED AND PUT ON DVD. IT IS GREAT!
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Fine Actors in an Unglamorised Noir Suspenser
Melvin M. Carter2 October 2004
If the Mask of Dimitrios was made today there would be car chases,explosions,and bloody encounters with cannon fodder Nazi agents,with the dialogue reduced to hopefully witty one liners. And a love interest for one of the photogenic heroes to rescue from the clutches of ... Dimitrios! The original movie shows the difference between actors ( Greenstreet,Lorre, Francen, Geray,and Scott who is probably the greatest personification of the Oily Weasel God on screen.)and "stars" past and present. The storyline now seems old the search for the true history of an infamous individual;Cititzen Kane was just three years old when this movie came out, but the story seems real as are its characters. They and the sets show an unglamourous Europe that is still reeling from the catastrophes of WW1, disease,the Depression,and the rise of dictatorships large and small. It's in the smaller,lesser known jackbooted world of the Balkans that the events of the novel and film occur in,an area generally not mentioned in movies of that era unless it's Captaine Renault's interrupted affair with a young Bulgarian woman in "Casablanca" The actors aren't the usual glam cam fodder they look like they exist in this world and that happens to reinforce my enjoyment of the film. A good film to see after watching a bang bang boom boom "star" exhibition.
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A Coffin for Dimitrios.
Spikeopath10 February 2016
The Mask of Dimitrios is directed by Jean Negulesco and adapted to screenplay by Frank Gruber from the novel "A Coffin for Dimitrios" written by Eric Ambler. It stars Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, Zachary Scott and Faye Emerson. Music is by Adolph Deutsch and cinematography by Arthur Edeson.

"For money, some men will allow the innocent to hang. They will turn traitor...they will lie, cheat, steal...they will kill. They appear brilliant, charming, generous! But they are deadly. Such a man was Dimitrios"

Dimitrios alright - ruthless and primitive.

Foreign intrigue mystery thriller dressed up in film noir clobber, Jean Negulesco's film is a treat for the so inclined. Often tagged as the inferior baby brother of John Huston's The Maltese Falcon, that statement shouldn't detract from what a good film Dimitrios is. Plot finds Lorre as mystery novelist Cornelius Leyden, who after learning of the body of master scally-wag Dimitrios Makropoulos (Scott) being washed up dead on the shores of the Bosphorus, seeks out his history in the hope of writing a novel about him - aided by the suspicious Mr. Peters (Greenstreet). What he finds is waters more muddier and deeper than the Bosphorus itself.

Narrative is a two pronged affair, we are in the company of Leyden and Peters during real time, and in the dubious company of Dimitrios in a number of flashbacks that introduce new characters that are bruised and battered, or worse, by Dimitrios' actions. The story moves through a number of exotic European locations, ensuring there's always a cosmopolitan feel to the intrigue. Intrigue that ticks away nicely because nothing you sense is as it seems. Moody atmosphere is unbound via Edeson's (also The Maltese Falcon) photography, plenty of low lights and shadows ensure all the mystery machinations are given added impetus.

Back on release some critics bemoaned the lack of action and of "A" list stars, which now looks very unfair criticism. Certainly Greenstreet and Lorre to their fans have never been seen as lesser lights, their body of work holding up as joyous celluloid art. While the lack of action is irrelevant, this is about story telling and of characterisations, of mystery unravels, all of which leads to a super finale that rewards those who invested their time. 8/10
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An outstanding directorial debut in this spy noir
johno-214 June 2006
I saw this at the 2006 Palm Springs Film Noir Festival and it was a film I had never seen before so it was great to see on the big screen. This is the story of the search for the story behind a master criminal whose murdered body bearing his credentials has washed ashore in Istanbul. Dimitrios Makropouls is a criminal who made the leap from being a common street beggar petty thief to murder, robbery and on to racketeering, con man, blackmailer and to the international stage as political assassin and spy. A writer becomes interested in his story and sets out to investigate his background for a book. The story moves from Turkey across the Balkans and Yugoslavia and Bulgaria to Switzerland and France. Zachary Scott is in his film debut as Dimitrios. Peter Lorre is the writer. Sydney Greenstreet is a man of intrigue who doesn't believe that Dimitrios is really dead. Faye Emerson is Dimitrios' ex-girlfriend. Also in the cast are Victor Francen and Steven Geray. This was adapted to screen by Frank Gruber from the popular 1939 crime/thriller novel A Coffin for Dimitrios by Eric Ambler. The story is set in pre WWII Europe in the year the book was published. This film marked the feature film directorial debut for Jean Negulesco who would go on to direct such films as Humoresque, johnny Belinda, Three Came home, How To Marry a Millionaire, Three Coins in the Fountain and the excellent segment The Last Leaf from O'Henrys Full House. The cinematographer is Arthur Edeson whose long career began in the early silents and was the director of photography on such films as All Quiet On the Western Front, Frankenstein, The Invisable Man, Mutiny on the Bounty, The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca. I liked the use of the Alberto Dominguez song Perfidia in the film by a Balkan band which was really scored by the Warner Brothers Orchestra as led by Jerome Moross. The now standard classic had been a hit for Glen Miller in 1941 and had showed up in four films already including Gene Autry's Stardust on Stage, Desi Arnez' Father Takes a Wife, Public Deb #1 and The Gay Sisters. This is a dialogue driven film and Lorre is a little stagy at times in his delivery but he has some great comic lines too and is great along with Sydney Greenstreet and they would be paired together in several films. Scott is a little wooden in his delivery. Emerson is outstanding as the young femme fatal/aged nightclub hostess. Great art direction from Ted Smith. I would give this an 8.5 out of 10.
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The Mask of Dimitrios
Scarecrow-8820 October 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Wasn't this a pleasant surprise! I adore "The Maltese Falcon" so "The Mask of Dimitrios" was essential viewing since I love both Peter Lorre and Sidney Greenstreet. Dimitrios (as portrayed by the wooden, but dashing, Zachary Scott) is a murderer, thief, scoundrel, spy, turncoat, double-crosser, predator, and manipulator who preys on the weaknesses of others to further benefit his own means. Lorre portrays a detective novelist who has a particular interest in the life of Dimitrios, his stabbed, very dead, body found washed ashore (or we assume is his body, since the coat the corpse wears has a French identification card with Dimitrios' name), after seeing the corpse for himself thanks to a fan of his books, an inspector who takes him to the morgue. Greenstreet takes a peculiar interest in Lorre's activities, the two eventually "joining forces" to participate in the potential novelization of Dimitrios' career/life of crime. But Greenstreet's motives are complex which could drag Lorre into a dangerous situation. I just enjoyed the compelling complications and twists that arise as the story unfolds in regards to all the lives destroyed by Dimitrios, a really evil and crafty criminal who goes from a ragged, impoverished petty thief/murderer to a sophisticated, well-groomed, debonair master of disguise. We see how slick and charming Dimitrios is as he convinces victims to aid him in what seem like innocent partnerships, only to stab them in the back, take their pride, and leave their lives shattered into pieces (one poor schlep is taken for all that he's worth, is duped by a successful con into gambling away money he thought was legitimately his through a business venture, forced into betraying his country, eventually committing suicide—this is the kind of life that is reduced to shambles thanks to the malevolence of Dimitrios) in flashbacks told through various victims Lorre interviews. But Greenstreet drags Lorre into a far more perilous plot including blackmail and the revelation that his eyes were perhaps deceived (again, was or was not Dimitrios the man on that morgue slab?).

I think just viewing the film for Greenstreet and Lorre's many scenes together is reason enough to see "The Mask of Dimitrios". I think they have a magic in both presentation and dialogue; they simply just work well off each other and their scenes have a sense of realism in how they communicate one to another. While movies about a character told in flashback don't necessarily always excite me, I think it works in this case because Zachary Scott is a rather boring actor (to me anyway) and seeing him in small doses helps the film. I prefer the structure of this film as other far more interesting actors (like Victor Francen, a charismatic rich heel who has a huge mansion and charming air about him, as Wladislaw Grudek) tell of how Dimitrios betrayed them. Following the downfall of Steven Geray's Karel Bulic, a timid, meek, naïve fellow who is perfect fodder for Dimitrios' kind of villain, was painful to watch for me. Quite simply, Dimitrios is a disease that infects anyone who comes into his orbit. I will say that you must prepare for a dialogue-heavy movie, because "The Mask of Dimitrios" is built around plot developments and characterization—I think, though, if you are not intimidated by this you are in for a rewarding experience. This is a MUST-SEE for Lorre fans as he is the star, not Scott, and approaches his character as one of an innocent, logical, practical man just trying to place a history behind a subject he's morbidly fascinated in. He's innocent because Lorre doesn't like this man in the least and when he actually abruptly halts his own murder, crying "You cannot continue to go around murdering people!" it proves that this guy's unmoral, reprehensible behavior must come to an end (which is where Greenstreet earns top honors as a hero, a criminal for sure, but someone who has been waiting a long time to confront the man who has caused him such heartbreak).
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Rode through blackout in warzone three times to see it
imp-611 July 2002
On the front in 1944 in the Siegfried line I heard there was a movie in the area. It was quiet so in the black of night for about an hour we hunted the tent in blackout to see this show. Twice more I heard there was a movie and it was the same one. I now think it was the only one in Germany at that time being shown by the Army. It was one of the best suspense movies I remember and Zachary Scott was the best. It was chilling and worth it. The Germans didn't start their Battle of the Bulge for 2 more weeks. Sorry I can't tell more but I might ruin it for you. You must see it for yourself.
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Strong opinion of great film.
Svengali-200124 June 2000
This is one of the great little films of hollywood. A rare chance for great supporting actors to show how a top B grade film should be made. Lots of little things make this a classic that should be watched by any afficionado of noir type films. Studio bound and better for it, this is a great series of vignettes and Greenstreet & Lorre are the Laurel & Hardy of implied evil. It is too bad that dirctors didn't use their chemistry more often. Imagine if Sturges had been able to direct them in a Ben Hecht film. Here they are great and you would hardly know that Zachary Scott was making his debut. This is a real gem. I have great respect for men like Jean Negalusco. Much of the same quality seen in the Val Lewton pieces of this period.
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Obscure Noir worth the digging
102421 July 2003
The VHS version of this film turned up at my local library. I thought I'd heard of every Noir film with Lorre and Greenstreet, but this was obscure. It's no mystery why it got lost in the archives, there is no big name male or female star.

However, if you enjoy solid character actors as much as the legends this may be your cup of tea. Lorre is at the top of his U.S. movie career here. He really infuses the character with a very worldly sense of irony and humor that would be more fitting for today's audience than in 1944. Listen for the line near the end "Why did you kill him? He was my friend!! Ok. So he wasn't my friend, but he was a nice man compared to you!!" Greenstreet is equally great in his role. The plot is really good for a 40's film, and very, very dark. There are no american characters in this film of Balkan intrigue. Perhaps in the mid 40's Hollywood assumed no one in the States would identify with such cynical views of human

nature... perhaps that is why they cast Europeans in the leading roles? I don't buy that all the leading men of Hollywood were away for the war. The only

Hollywood actors who served in actual combat were Jimmy Stewart, and John

Garfield. The rest sold war bonds and "entertained" troops. A lot of veterans were quite bitter that these "Broadway Commandoes" cashed in on war movies

during and after WWII. But I digress. Mask of Dimitrios is a rare film noir gem starring two of the genre's great actors in leading roles. It has an intricate plot and wonderful Noir lighting mixed with exotic Eurasian sets and themes. Lorre and Greenstreet starring in a film together? Before I saw this flick, I would've thought that was a Film Noir Buff's fever dream. Get a hold of this and pour a glass of bourbon for a Noir evening's entertainment.
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A Sneaky Screenplay
dougdoepke8 January 2011
Mystery man Dimitrios (Scott) is found dead, causing novelist Lorre to piece together the man's sinister life, taking him all over Europe as he gets involved in a number of sub-plots.

Okay, the super-dudes have their Butch and Sundance, but eccentrics like me have Pete and Syd, Lorre and Greenstreet, that is. And for sure this is their magnum opus, where the man- mountain and his diminutive sparring-partner cement their wacky bond. Note at the start how the movie makes you think it's about mystery man Dimitrios. Then when the Dietrich-like Emerson parades in, the story shapes up like a standard romantic plot.

But no-- writer Gruber and director Negulesco are really sneaky. Because Emerson soon drops out, and Dimitrios only pops up like Where's Waldo. No, slowly but surely, it's the bonding of the two eccentrics that takes over the screen. In fact, that final staircase departure sort of tugs at tears in a very different and unexpected way-- no formula movie-making here. Okay, you can take the subtext in a gay-men sort of way, but it's not necessary. Instead, think of the two as physical oddities finding a rare bond of friendship and respect inside a difficult world. Then it's that rarest of all birds, Hollywood being almost unHollywood.

Thanks Warner Bros., for giving all those continental types a payday and the exotic Zachary Scott a chance at movies. The plot may meander all over the map, along with a lighting budget of about $1.50. But that's okay, because this is one of those bizarre two-headed mavericks that somehow escaped the deadening studio herd. So don't miss it.
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Great Dramatic Classic Actors!
whpratt122 November 2003
Originally viewed this film in 1944 and was spellbound by the great acting skills of Sydney Greenstreet (Mr.Peters),"Christmas in Connecticut'45", who gives Peter Lorre (Cornelius Latimer Leyden), "Quicksand",'50, a very hard time, pointing guns in his face and warning him against Dimitrios (Zachary Scott),"Flamingo Road",'49, who is a ruthless villian up to all kinds of evil tricks in order to make money. Faye Emerson (Irana Prevega),"Hotel Berlin",'45 plays a Golddigger and loves to wipe her fingers on her dress when she eats sticky candy, Irana gives them a hard time. In real life, Faye use to be married to Skitch Henderson, a famous piano player and band leader. All these actors in this film were Giants of the Silver Screen who would keep you on the edge of your seats in any films they ever performed in. Sydney Greenstreet's final word in this picture was: "There is not enough kindness in this world".
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"I've known many men but I've only been afraid of one of them -- Dimitrios."
utgard1431 July 2015
A mystery writer (Peter Lorre) visiting Istanbul is told stories of a notorious criminal named Dimitrios (Zachary Scott) whose body was just found washed ashore on the beach. Intrigued by what he hears, he decides to investigate Dimitrios' life. Along the way he's joined by a mysterious man named Mr. Peters (Sydney Greenstreet), who had his own dealings with Dimitrios.

Intriguing noir thriller, directed by Jean Negulesco with a fine script adapted from an Eric Ambler novel. Most classic movie fans know any picture with Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet is bound to be good and this is one of their best. It's nice to see Lorre playing the 'hero' of the piece for once. Both men are in top form and their scenes together are excellent. Zachary Scott makes his film debut here and, for my money, it's one of his best roles. Faye Emerson and many other quality actors make up the supporting cast. It's a talky movie but that isn't necessarily a bad thing with a good cast and smart script like this. Definitely worth your time.
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Fascinating search for the man behind the mask
Gary1704592 January 2015
I first saw this in the 70's on TV and a few years afterwards went on to read the Eric Ambler novel – and found the Warners film had been an excellent adaptation, slightly shortened and simplified but not missing anything important. It was from Ambler's pre-Army classic early period and was a classic choice in which to bring Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet back together again. Alfred Hitchcock apparently thought the story was "hypnotically fascinating", and I can only wonder what he might have come up with if he'd made the film!

The death of the thoroughly rascally individual Dimitrios interests a Dutch writer of detective fiction Cornelius Leyden (altered from the English Charles Latimer in the book for some reason) played by Peter Lorre whose interest is fanned by the head of the Istanbul secret police Colonel Haki. One thing leads to another as sure as one fact uncovered leads to a journey to and from various people all over Europe in and out of flashback. It's all fascinating, convincing and engrossing in finding out about Dimitrios and the lives he'd led, and ended, in his quest for money and self-preservation over the previous fifteen years. To state he appeared to be a thoroughly bad hat is to put it mildly; one of those people it'd be best to cross the road to avoid. Add atmospheric sets nicely and atmospherically photographed in a gleaming nitrate monochrome, what more could lovers of the film noir genre want - not a femme fatale surely? Greenstreet will have to do instead... Two minor irritating non plot-dependent points though: in the book Bulic didn't "put a bullet through his head", and unfortunately the end of the film was er heavily Greenstreet-ised. It was Zachary Scott's film debut and most memorable role - a similar part to Orson Welles' Harry Lime five years later in The Third Man - and as the years went by neither of them seemed to be able to get a decent part.

Nowadays of course Leyden would've done all his researching and travelling on his smartphone and the story would be completely different and shorter still, even with sex and violence padding it out! Overall, a knockout film, recommended both as a movie and as a movie of the admittedly better book.
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One of the great forgotten film noirs
calvinnme22 November 2009
This film was made in 1944, thus many of Warner Bros. so-called A-List stars were not available for making motion pictures since many were serving in the armed forces during World War II. Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet usually played in support of other Warner stars, most notably Humphrey Bogart. This time, they got a film of their own, and the result is a most enjoyable and somewhat unusual film noir. Lorre plays Dutch author Cornelius Leyden who is on vacation in Istanbul when he listens to the tale of the career of legendary criminal Dimitrios Makropoulos, whose bloated body has washed ashore that day. Intrigued by the story, Leyden then begins a trek across Europe to learn all he can about Dimitrios in preparation for a book he wishes to write. Mr. Peters, played by Sydney Greenstreet, joins him in his travels. However, he has darker motivations.

Because it is set in 1938, this allows the film to avoid the subject of World War II which would make Leyden's travels impossible, but also avoids making the film a period piece by traveling only six years into the past. Zachary Scott does a good job in the title role as we learn about the extent of Dimitrios' treachery through well-done flashbacks. He seems to be a man who not only wants to steal anything not nailed down, but actually enjoys the pain he causes others. The theme seems to be that a person so completely despicable as Dimitrios must be successful for a time because few will anticipate the next move of such a treacherous individual - at least not for awhile. Thus there are obvious parallels being drawn between Dimitrios and Hitler.

This is one of many films made during this time period for patriotic reasons, although this one is more subtle than most of them. However, it is not dated at all and stands up today as good entertainment.
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Peter Lorre Puts His Unique Mark on This Story of International Intrigue
evanston_dad12 March 2009
Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet star in this atmospheric noir from 1944.

Lorre plays a writer who becomes fascinated with a criminal known as Dimitrios, who's cut a path of thievery and murder across the Mediterranean. He's approached by Greenstreet, a mysterious stranger, about hatching a scheme to blackmail Dimitrios with information each has separately and that would be highly incriminating if put together. These shady dealings take Lorre, and the audience, to all manner of exotic locales, from Istanbul to Austria.

"The Mask of Dimitrios" isn't that different from any number of international intrigue stories from the same time period, but what does give it a touch of the unique is the relationship between Lorre and Greenstreet, two men who form a kind of tentative friendship even though neither much trusts the other. Lorre in particular gives a wonderfully engaging performance, full of character and wit. He's fascinating just to watch and listen to -- it doesn't' much matter what he's even doing or saying.

Grade: B+
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A hidden gem
dr_foreman24 August 2006
"The Mask of Dimitrios" has been one of my favorite films since I was a kid - and I've been consistently amazed at how obscure it is. The movie's got great atmosphere, a rock-solid script, and two legendary character actors in the forms of Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre, and yet it remains basically unknown and unheralded. To date, it hasn't even been released on DVD (to my knowledge), and I'm always forced to revisit the same fuzzy VHS print I've been watching for ages!

I suppose I understand why the movie's a bit forgotten. It hasn't got any big-name stars like Bogart or Bacall; Greenstreet and Lorre are usually their supporting players, not the headliners. Also, the story does sag at a few points, and it isn't exactly heavy on action. But I still think "The Mask of Dimitrios" is ripe for rediscovery and reassessment by film buffs.

The thoughtful storyline centers around the efforts of a mystery writer (Lorre) to uncover information about the life of Dimitrious (Zachary Scott), a master criminal. Scott, who was a newcomer to Hollywood at the time he made this film, does a great job making Dimitrious come across as charismatic, dangerous, cunning and attractive, all at the same time. And, of course, Greenstreet and Lorre are brilliant at creating their own eccentric personas, which they seemed to carry effortlessly from film to film.

As I said before, the plot occasionally drags, especially when Dimitrious is absent from the screen for a while in the middle. (As much as I like Greenstreet, listening to him talk at length about Dimitrious isn't as interesting as seeing the man in action.) But the plot is episodic, moving between different exotic locations and different times in Dimitrious' career, so any lulls in the action are relatively brief and not too detrimental to the film as a whole.

Out of all the anecdotes about Dimitrious, I must say my favorite is the one where he cheats a hapless government clerk, Karel Bulic. It's great fun to watch Dimitrious mercilessly manipulate Bulic - and it's also a bit sad and tragic. Some of the other anecdotes are good, too, but the Bulic episode is clearly the best-developed and most emotionally charged, so it stands out.

Though I have a couple of minor gripes with the film, on the whole I enjoy it immensely. I find it to be a very unique viewing experience. The absence of a handsome, heroic leading man is highly unusual. (I guess Dimitrious could qualify as the handsome male lead, but he's unmistakably evil!) I also like seeing all of the different, bizarre locales - in terms of setting and exotic atmosphere, it's like a prototype Indiana Jones or James Bond movie. And, like many films of this period, it's got beautiful grayscale photography and tons of delectable film noir "mood."

If you can find a copy, watch it. If you're a fan of Greenstreet or Lorre, or noir in general, I don't think you'll be disappointed.
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What a trip ;)
A-Ron-26 July 2000
I always wondered why there were so many movies starring that ugly little bugger, Lorre. After watching this excellent film on AMC I was informed that it was because most of the more film-friendly leading men were away at war (I apparently was too dense to make this connection myself). I find that interesting, that there should be all of these films starring Lorre and Greenstreet simply because everyone else was gone.

Well, not simply because of that, Lorre and Greenstreet are fine actors, but usually relegated to character acting. TMD really allows them to demonstrate their range (which may not have been great, but they could definitely carry a film). I really enjoyed this taught little thriller and found myself enthralled with its Machiavellian plot twists and scheming. Greenstreet was phenomenal as the terminally self interested criminal, Lorre was great as the obsessively curious novelist. And the story of the search for Dimitrios is highly remeniscent of The Usual Suspect (in fact, I would be curious if this film was the direct inspiration).

Definitely worth a watch if you can find it somewhere. Great film.
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