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 <email@example.com>
When John Muller attempts to duplicate Dr. Bartok's scar on his own face, he copies from a photograph of Dr. Bartok. Dr. Bartok's scar is on the left side of his face, so to Muller it appears on the right side of the photo, same as when you look at someone's face, their left ear will be on the right side of your field of vision. Muller simply copies what he sees and cuts a scar on the right side of his face. He is not seeing his face as others see it - he is seeing a mirror image. As a first time viewer I said "Aha! He is making the scar on the wrong side." Then he goes to the photo lab to retrieve the negative and after he leaves, the two men in the photo lab talk about how the photo was printed wrong, by reversing the negative, making the picture a "mirror image" of Dr. Bartok. So I said "Aha! His mistake in incorrectly copying the mirror image actually put the scar on the correct side of his face - the right side." Yet after Muller kills Dr. Bartok he discovers to his horror that the scar is on the left side of Dr. Bartok's face. The rest of the movie plays out based on the premise that Muller's scar is on the wrong side. The movie would have made sense with just the mirror scene or just the reversed negative scene. Either of those standing alone would have resulted in a mistake, but by including both, Muller would have had the scar on the correct side of his face, and he might have avoided his tragic fate. It seems the director, producer and studio never caught the mirror image error, or simply thought the audience would mentally make the same error Muller did when looking in the mirror. See more »
At the height of noir is this contrived but visually intense Henreid vehicle
Hollow Triumph (1948)
Maybe Hungarian/French/American actor Paul Henreid (of "Casablanca" fame) knew by 1948 that he was not going to be an American movie idol. So here he went all out and produced this film and starred in two (two) of the leading roles. No one could stop him. And it almost works. There is no making up for his styrofoam abilities, but he is serviceable, at least, and the photography (by John Alton, a noir great, see "The Big Combo") makes it worthwhile alone. Joan Bennet is not cast well, I suppose, but she has her own kind of cheerful innocence that works fine.
Not to trip over myself with superlatives. This is a decent movie with maybe an overly clever (and highly implausible) plot getting mostly in the way. And yet, with all these issues it still is involving. It partly succeeds because it uses the best of the era--great Hollywood studio machinery top to bottom--so it looks and feels very professional. And there are some terrific location scenes that are worth the ticket alone. Hungarian director Steve Sekely was and is little known and yet he clearly makes the most of what little he had to work with here...enough to wish we could get his pre-war Hungarian films on DVD for a look. Probably lost to American audiences forever.
This is officially a B-movie, produced at a smaller studio, but it feels very professional and really A-movie in technique (thanks largely to Alton, I think). If you like noirs, and you like brooding dark and eventually depressing material, I wouldn't hesitate to watch this, but keep in mind the caveats.
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