|Page 1 of 2:|| |
|Index||12 reviews in total|
"The Devil's Mask" (1946) is one of the "I LOVE A MYSTERY" series of
B-movies produced by Columbia Studios, based on the then-popular radio
show. Poker faced Jim Bannon heads up a duo of private detectives who
appear in each of the mysteries.
This one begins after a shrunken head is found in the ruins of a crashed plane that was headed from California to Latin America. A woman, who believes that her step-daughter is planning to kill her, hires the pair of detectives.
The mystery deepens when the woman's butler is killed by a poison dart from a blow-gun similar to those used by the jungle tribe of head-hunters responsible for the shrunken head. Add a blackmailing psychiatrist, a crazy taxidermist, a ferocious black panther, a few nebulous characters of dubious repute, and you have an atmospheric little chiller that's most enjoyable.
You may be able to figure out who the killer is, but that won't stop you from searching out more of these neat little "I LOVE A MYSTERY" thrillers.
The "I Love A Mystery" films from Columbia were all based on a radio
program of that name and each of them was made into very entertaining
mysteries, the sort that Columbia was able to churn out on a tight
budget with directors like Henry Levin.
This is the most gripping mystery in the batch, full of ingredients that will have you guessing from beginning to end just how all the loose ends will be tied up.
It starts off with the shrunken heads discovered when a plane crashes en route from California to Columbia, and then the plot includes a missing explorer who has possibly been murdered, an anxious wife afraid that someone is trying to kill her (MONA BARRIE), a young woman and her fiancé (ANITA LOUISE and MICHAEL DUANE)who resent being followed by detectives, and the detectives hired to cover the case (JIM BANNON and BARTON YARBOROUGH). Also in the mix: a restless black panther and the weird owner of a taxidermist shop (PAUL E. BURNS).
Nicely photographed in crisp B&W with appropriate set decorations, it has the look of a better than average programmer from Coumbia (not Republic, as another comment suggests).
Guaranteed to surprise and entertain, it's well worth watching.
Jack Packard and Doc Long are backthe detectives of I Love a Mystery.
Jim Bannon is Packard: serious, cool, businesslike, and tough to fool.
Barton Yarborough is Doche of the southern drawl, gentle sarcasm, and
vaguely comical attitude and behavior. Together they tackle another
case, this time attempting to sort out a set of entanglements involving
family and colleagues of a missing adventurer.
The opening minutes set up the mystery quite wellthe characters are introduced and laid out carefully, but it's genuinely tough to tell who is who, who's on which side. Gradually, deliberately, the mystery opens and unravels and eventually builds to a rather exciting climax. The story itself features a shrunken head, the mysterious disappearance of an explorer who may or may not be dead in a jungle somewhere, a collection of his mutually suspicious family members, and a taxidermist who keeps a large black mountain lion in a cage outside his shop.
The acting is passable if not great Bannon and Yarborough are fine if slightly bland, Anita Louise and Michael Duane are tightly wound and thus somewhat unpredictable as the young couple, Mona Barrie is suitably concerned yet perhaps a tad shady as wife and stepmother.
The dialog occasionally aims at humor (standing next to a museum case of shrunken heads, Packard suggests that he and Doc put their own heads together, at which Doc winces, "I wish you wouldn't say that"ha ha) but mostly it's a straight mystery that plays up the spookiness of such elements as said shrunken heads, some poison dart guns, the growling cat, and the general air of suspicion that the family members create around themselves and each other.
A tidy little mystery that's tightly plotted and efficiently produced.
A woman thinks her daughter is out to kill her, and hires a detective agency to help her. "Devil's Mask" had a perfectly respectable cast, and a good solid script. With shrunken heads from south America, a panther, and even the use of hypnosis were all probably pretty new and exotic in 1946. (Although, when they try to put someone under hypnosis, they shine a bright light in the actor's eyes, and loudly tap a pencil over and over, so not sure how deeply the actor could have gone under....) The acting by some of the actors is a tad flat, and assistant detective Doc Long (Bart Yarborough) spouts more southern descriptive phrases than necessary, probably the reasons for the low rating on IMDb and membership in the "B Movie" club. The lead detective playing Jack Packard , Jim Bannon, had played detectives and cowboys, and was married to Bea Benaderet (Pearl Bodine, in the Beverly Hillbillies). Another interesting connection, Frank Wilcox, who plays Professor Logan, would also go on to be the oil company president on "Beverly Hillbillies". Also.... Mona Barrie and Bea Benaderet were both in "The First Time". Anita Louise, who plays the daughter Janet in Devil's Mask, was really only six years younger than the Mother Mitchell (Mona Barrie). good Whodunnit. no big glaring plot holes. no big car chase scenes.
Jack Packard, (Jim Bannon) plays the role with a duo of private investigators concerning a shrunken head found on the ruins of a crashed plane traveling from California to Latin America. There are many investigations among head hunters in the jungle and people being killed with deadly blow guns. There are family members who all mistrust each other and lots of mysterious people who appear to be the killers. Janet Mitchell, (Anita Louise) gave an outstanding performance and gave some romance to this black and white low budget film from 1946. Found this film to be rather boring and the story goes around and around in circles and never seems to end. However, this series was an old time radio show starring Jim Bannon which entertained many people during the radio era.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
***SPOILERS*** It's when a plane crashed on it's way to South America
that among the wreckage was found a box with a shrunken human head
inside! This set off alarm bells back in San Francisco to who that head
belonged to in that the Cordoza Museum where the head supposedly came
from had, in it's collection of shrunken heads, one head too many or
The wife of the late big game hunter and explores Clinton Mitchell Louies, Mona Barrie, is terrified of her step daughter Janet, Anita Louise, in that she's planning to have her murdered in that her father who was lost in the Brazilian jungle was in fact murdered by Louise and her secret lover Prof. Arthur Logan, Frnak Wilcox. It was Prof. Logan who was with Anita's father on the expedition and who's love letters to Louise she found hidden in the house. What all this has to do with the head found in the plane wreckage is that it's suspected by Janet to be her father's, Clinton Mitchell, head!
The head itself is nothing to write home about in that it can belong to anybody without one but the circumstances of it being found in such a mysterious way had Louise get in touch with ace private eyes Jack Packard & Doc Long, Jim Bannon & Barton Yarborough, in order to protect her from her outargued step daughter Janet, who feels that it's her father's head, from having her killed! In Janet suspecting her of murdering her father and have his head shrunken to cover up her crime!
There's also in the movie Janet's good friend Rex Kennedy, Michael Duane, who in trying to get to the bottom of Clinton Mitchell's disappearance ends up being the #1 suspect in Louies' butler Johns, John Elliott, murder when he was spotted snooping around outside the Mitchell mansion. The fact the murder weapon in John's death was a South American native blowgun made it very certain that the unidentified shrunken head must have been that of Clinton Mitchell! Since it was there in South America that he spent the last year getting friendly with the local native head shrinker's who's weapon of choice is the deadly poison dart blowgun!
In fact Janet herself was involved with a head shrinker here back in San Francisco Dr.Karger, Ludwig Donath, who was recommended to her by Rex Kennedy a former patient of his. Dr.Karger who was not only shrinking Janet's head but planning to shrink her bank account in using the information about her that he got from his head shrinking sessions to blackmail Janet!
***SPOILERS*** The key to this whole missing or shrunken head mystery turns out to be Janet's good friend and confidant Uncle Leon, Paul E.Burns, the friendly neighborhood taxidermist who among all his stuffed animals that he keeps in his house also has a live full grown black panther named Diablo! It's in fact Uncle Leon who's expertise in stuffing animals as well as shrunken heads that in the end exposed the secret to whom the mysterious head belongs to and even more important who shrunk it!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In the wreckage if a plane crash a box is found with a shrunken head
inside. The Head is similar to one that is on display in the city
museum. When the police bring it to the museum to see if they can help
determine its origin its found to be similar to one already on display.
While at the museum the Museum the police detective meets Jack Packard
and Doc Long who are at the museum to meet a new client, the wife of
them man who brought the original heads for display. It seems the woman
thinks her step daughter is having her followed, so that she can be
killed since her husband has gone missing in the jungle. From there the
story spirals out as Jack and Doc try to unravel what the daughter is
up to and what happened to her father (their client's husband).
Good but not great mystery has way too many plot threads running through it for a 66 minute film. In addition to the basic mystery we have murder, blackmail, a black panther, more questions about the head, taxidermy, shrinks and one or two other things. To be certain it keeps the plot moving but at the same time it feels thrown together.
Based on Carlton E Morse's classic radio show I Love Mystery (later I Love Adventure) the film makes limited use of its transferred characters who seem to simply wander through events in order just to clean up some one else's mess. Forgive me the radio show worked because Jack and Doc were men of action not reaction. That said Jack Packard comes across as an imposing figure here who I think comes across as being able to kick just about anyone's butt if he chose to. (I've rarely ever seen any character radiate such an aura of being in charge and the baddest man in the room while doing absolutely nothing other than standing.) I have no idea why they were brought in to this story since if they were this under utilized in the first and third films in the series its understandable why it ended with three films.
Still the film is not bad and is worth a look for those who like mysteries of the 1940's.
(As for the title's meaning, I don't have a god answer except it sounds good.)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Taking the three part "I Love a Mystery" to a new level of confusion, this second entry deals with shrunken heads, missing heads, poisoned darts and an extremely convoluted plot that had me squinting, huh? Jim Bannon's Jack Packard is back, and having just solved the mystery of an Asian cult demanding the head of a man doomed to die within a year, he's now dealing with South American head shrinkers, and all I can say is that even psychiatric help couldn't help my head figure this one out. On a return viewing, it confounded me more, and if the first film in the series had a pretentious ring to it, this one is one for whom the audaciousness bell had tolled. Artistically gorgeous to look at, it is twice as wordy as the first entry in the series (which did improve with the third and final installment), and is a far cry from Columbia's other mystery series of the 1940's of which there were many. At least even with characters coming in and out so fast, I could follow the "Lone Wolf", "Boston Blackie" and "Crime Doctor" series rather easily, but this one just left me shaking my head so much I thought it would fall off. Anita Louise is the leading heroine in this one, and there are all sorts of shady characters coming in and out, and an obvious villain that stood out like a sore neck.
Good combination of horror and noir. Now if I could just figure out whose head belongs on which body, I might be able to figure out the plot. But, no matter since the film is carried by some great noirish atmosphere. The gloom hangs heavy over everyone, so you just know anything might happen. The movie's adapted from a radio stage play and it shows in the stretched out storyline that sometimes appears to ramble. Still, brighter bulbs than mine may be able to follow out the mystery part. Anyhow, I really like the obscure Michael Duane as the ambivalent Rex Kennedy; he brings unexpected depth to the part. The cast is basically an ensemble of no-names, who, nevertheless do well enough in their roles. No, the movie never rises above programmer status, but does show how imaginative these bottom-of-the-bill B- movies could be.
Second in the I Love a Mystery series sees Jack Packard (Jim Bannon) and Doc Long (Barton Yarborough) investigating a mystery involving a missing man, shrunken heads, and blow guns. Yarborough is at his "good ole boy" best, for those who enjoy him. Bannon is not bad but not exciting. Very ordinary. Anita Louise is irritating throughout the picture. Terribly overwrought performance. The best thing about this series were the nice atmospheric moments. The usage of supernatural or bizarre elements helps separate it from most other B detective films. The killer is pretty easily figured out, though the motivation was pretty cool. Anita Louise's hysterics are the worst part of the movie. Still a decent way to spend an hour and change.
|Page 1 of 2:|| |
|Plot summary||Ratings||External reviews|
|Plot keywords||Main details||Your user reviews|
|Your vote history|