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Erich von Stroheim,
Mary Beth Hughes,
John Muller, medical school dropout and brilliant crook, plans a holdup which goes a little bit wrong, and finds vindictive gambler Rocky Stansyck after him. At the end of his tether, he stumbles onto a lucky chance to assume an impenetrable new identity as psychiatrist Victor Bartok. But irony piles on as Muller finds it's out of the frying pan, into the fire. Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Remembering the dark, brooding mythos that was film noir
Paul Henreid and Joan Bennett star in "The Scar," otherwise known as "Hollow Triumph."
As a film noir, "The Scar" works on several different levels. And even though a major plot point in the story stretches the realm of possibility a bit too far, this forgotten little film deserves a better fate than its present public-domain, bargain bin video status.
The plot revolves around John Muller (Henreid), who organizes a major casino heist with a few of his pals. When the sting is botched, Muller runs as far away as he can with his ill-gotten gains. The casino's owner, a gangster (who bears an interesting likeness to Richard Conte) isn't planning on taking this robbery on his back. He dispatches two of his more intimidating thugs to locate him and ... well ... retrieve the stolen money. "Even if it takes you 20 years," he demands. In a desperate attempt to conceal himself from the vengeful clutches of the fore-mentioned gangster, Muller engineers a plan to impersonate a psychologist who, as it turns out, is a carbon-copy lookalike of himself. The only difference between the two is a rigid scar that outlines his left cheek. Can Muller find it within himself to kill the psychologist and begin living a double life? Will the gangsters guns find him first?
I have to admit, with the exception of a couple of protracted scenes, "The Scar" truly is a first-rate thriller. Steve Sekely directs, punctuating just about every scene with classic film noir iconography. Daniel Fuchs' script is also top-notch ... which may have served as a primer for his next project ... the indelible "Criss Cross" for Universal. (He also penned "Panic in the Streets," another great, oft-overlooked film noir starring Richard Widmark.) Joan Bennett's performance comes off as a trifle pallid ... but then again, this was Henreid's picture from the get-go. He commands every scene that he appears in with suave acumen, something that I missed from his performance in the overrated "Casablanca." I'll be the first to admit that I've not seen many of his other pictures. But Henreid really won me over with this film ... he deserves a far better acknowledgement than only as "the other guy" of "Casablanca."
More than anything, I think "The Scar" (or "Hollow Triumph" ... whatever) is a classic example of just how absent-minded popular culture really is. More than ever, movie-goers expect a film that is saturated in bloody action, quick-cuts, and talentless actors. There's not a lot going for movies, today. And thankfully ... most of what's out there will have been long-forgotten by the popular culture consciousness in a few years. I think that modern pop culture has unfairly labeled film noir as being movies lavished with shadows, dames and guns. And while all of these are inherent to the genre, they forget the cold, black heart that beats beneath its surface. "The Scar" thrives on this kind of energy. It's a classic example of what made film noir great ... and why we'll never see anything like it ever again.
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