11 Comments

  1. “The nightmare sequence in this picture has to be perhaps the best dream-scape ever produced by Hollywood.”

    That’s quite a statement there in your assessment of STRANGER, but knowing that sequence well, I can’t argue.

    Sad to say I have not seen THE FACE BEHIND THE MASK, but am always excited when I hear the names of Robert Florey, Peter Lorre and Evelyn Keyes (“her portrayal is the cloest to angelic as I’ve ever seen on film”) It’s very interesting that you feel that the film overcomes it’s melodramatic trappings to achieve a kind of “pulp integrity,” and that the film fullfills the underpinnings of later ‘classic’ noir by offering ‘no redemption or hope.’ Your lead-in on STRANGER of course was exceptional and exactly the ‘appetite wetter’ for the noir in central focus. It’s always thrilling to hear teh name Musuraca and D’Agostino!

    Another noir essay of astonishing scope, appreciation and expertise.

  2. Maurizio Roca

    I definitely want to check this out. I’m a sucker for any film with Lorre and Florey.

  3. DeeDee

    Tony said,”The Face Behind the Mask is an iconic proto-noir which presages the motifs of a score of later noirs. There is no redemption or hope. A bleak ending where Lorre’s protagonist must wreak his own terrible vengeance on his persecutors and fate itself heralds the coming of classic noir…”

    Hi! Tony,
    I most definitely, agree with your rather accurately, description and assessment of the 1940 film The Face Behind the Mask. Since I recently acquired a copy of this film I have only watched it once. Therefore, I think that I will rewatch this film later this evening.(In order to think about some of the points that you have pointed out here in your review.)

    Tony said,”Until recently I like many others gave this accolade to another b-movie from a year earlier: Stranger on the Third Floor (Columbia 1940 64 mins)…”
    Tony, I think that you are in the
    “minority” this time… when you consider the 1941 film The Face Behind the Mask the first film noir, but believe me I respect your right to do so…I guess that you feel about this film the same way that I feel about Hitchcock’s 1960 film Psycho being the transitional film from film noir to neo-noir instead of, Welles’ Touch of Evil.

    Tony said,”Between the cheesy opening and closing scenes is a tight claustrophobic thriller, where fear and paranoia is deftly portrayed both in reality and oneiristically…”

    Tony, you had me at…hello, but then you lost me because I don’t think that the opening and ending scenes of the 1940 film Stranger on the Third Floor is/are cheesy, but the beginning of normal lives that descend into darkness, paranoia, false accusation, guilt, etc, etc, etc…only to be awaken from this nightmare in the end.(Once again I point your readers to author Eddie Muller’s book Dark City:The Lost World of Film Noir (See Pgs.109-110)

    (I was reading author Eddie Robson’s book this week entitled Film Noir and I think that he makes a good case in his book why Director Boris Ingster’s 1940 film Stranger on the Third Floor is considered the first film noir.)(See:pgs.7-17)

    I most definitely, agree with (Eddie) Robson’s assessment of the film Stranger on the Third …and I also respect your
    opinion too…when it comes to Florey’s 1940 film The Face Behind the Mask. But, I still think that the honour of first film noir belong to Ingster’s Stranger. This is just my opinion, but of course!

    By the way, what a nice “Italian” poster(?!?) and dark “noirish” screenshot…from the 1940 film The Face Behind the Mask
    Thanks, for sharing!
    DeeDee ;)

  4. DeeDee

    @ Sam Juliano said,”Sad to say I have not seen THE FACE BEHIND THE MASK, but am always excited when I hear the names of Robert Florey, Peter Lorre and Evelyn Keyes…

    Sam Juliano, I’am not 100% sure, but I think that I send you a copy of Florey’s film The Face Behind The Mask along with the Mother Lode.
    If you are unable to locate the original copy I will gladly send you another copy.

    Take care!
    DeeDee ;)

  5. Definitely worth a look Maurizio.

    DeeDee, yes I am out on a limb here, but I would pick-up on the ‘normality’ you talk about with respect to Stranger on the Third Floor. I think The Face Behind the Mask makes a stronger case as in that movie there is no return to ‘normality’ – this is the true heritage of noir – an unrelieved fatalism.

  6. Waldo Gemio

    I saw this film today for the first time. I think I’ve seen several hundred noir movies of the ‘classic period’ by now and I’m working my way through Selby’s ‘Worldwide Film Noir Tradition’ which is how I came to this film under ‘F’, and saw it was available on YouTube. Even in a poor, Kindle-size version, it really stands out, and the ineluctability of the hero’s destiny, and the refusal to compromise with a happy ending (I kept expecting Lieutenant O’Hara to rescue Lorre from the error of his ways) truly speak of a noir sensibility. Let me just say that in a world where every semi-literate film lover thinks they’re a film noir critic, your mini-essay is a masterpiece of well-written conciseness; you really nailed it – such a pleasure to read. This might well be the best film noir site for intelligent, well-written reviews. Thank you.

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