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The Face Behind the Mask (1941)

Approved | | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir | 16 January 1941 (USA)
A disfigured watch-maker with a grudge against society embarks on a life of crime.

Director:

Robert Florey

Writers:

Paul Jarrico (screenplay), Arthur Levinson (story) | 2 more credits »
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Peter Lorre ... Janos 'Johnny' Szabo
Evelyn Keyes ... Helen Williams
Don Beddoe ... Lt. James 'Jim' O'Hara
George E. Stone ... Dinky
John Tyrrell ... Watts
Cy Schindell ... Benson (as Al Seymour)
Stanley Brown ... Harry
James Seay ... Jeff Jeffries
Warren Ashe Warren Ashe ... Johnson, Reporter
Charles C. Wilson ... Chief O'Brien (as Charles Wilson)
George McKay George McKay ... Terry Finnegan
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Storyline

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 <kyousten@bev.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

WHAT FIENDISH FURY TURNS MAN INTO MONSTER? (original one-sheet poster) See more »


Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

16 January 1941 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Das Gesicht hinter der Maske See more »

Filming Locations:

Yuma, Arizona, USA See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Columbia Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Shooting lasted from Nov. 6-26, 1940, released January 16, 1941. See more »

Quotes

Dinky: What do you get out of bein' dead? Layin' in a grave ain't my idea of life.
See more »

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User Reviews

 
The face behind the mask, it's mutated, hideous, a horrible nightmare. Out of which I can never awake.
9 March 2013 | by SpikeopathSee all my reviews

The Face Behind The Mask is directed by Robert Florey and collectively written by Paul Jarrico, Arthur Levinson and Allen Vincent. It stars Peter Lorre, Evelyn Keyes, Don Beddoe and George E. Stone. Music is by Sidney Cutner and cinematography by Franz Planer.

Hungarian immigrant Janos Szaby (Lorre) arrives in New York City full of hope for the future. Unfortunately he is trapped in a hotel fire which leaves his face severely disfigured. Even though he is a skilled craftsman he is refused employment by many on account of his looks. At his lowest ebb he turns to crime to fund the making of a face mask to hide his disfigurement, while soon enough he is running a little league crime outfit when he happens upon blind Helen Williams (Keyes) and finds a new meaning to life…

The sands of time plays the death rattle.

Lorre dismissed it as a bit of guff, but The Face Behind The Mask showcases one of his greatest performances. It's a film that beats a black heart, where fatalism is dripped over proceedings, the core of the narrative is the shattering of the American dream, and the makers here are not shy to put forward an uncaring society. After a breezy beginning the narrative becomes relentlessly bleak, right up to, and including, a no holds barred chilling finale that's preceded by a monstrous twist.

Florey (also doing some of his best work) and Planer add stark imagery and scene setting that belies the B budget and quick turnover of the production (less than two weeks). A bleak harbour sequence is tonally adroit, the face mask surgery with faces adorning the walls is deliciously macabre, there's torture, too, and oblique backgrounds and shadow play. The dialogue may sometimes be too weak for the haunting story, but the film rises above it because of skills of the cast (Stone and Keyes excellent support for Lorre) and makers alike.

Part noir, part horror and part social drama, it's a film of differing attributes. It's not one for anyone looking to be cheered up, but for those who like to lurk in the shadows and succumb to the dark underbelly of cinema; this is a treat. 8/10


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