The Face Behind the Mask

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Lorre is superlative as an immigrant watchmaker who arrives in America full of beaming enthusiasm for the promised land (his scenes with Beddoe, as the neighbourhood cop totally disarmed by his naive friendliness, are a joy), but whose reward is horrible disfigurement in a tenement fire. Forced to turn to crime to pay for the expensive facial mask without which he is unemployable, suicidally distressed by the betrayal of his own ideals, he is redeemed by the love of a blind girl (Keyes)...a tender, totally unsentimental idyll ended when her death by violence leaves him to plot a cold-blooded, self-immolating revenge. With Lorre's own sensitive features serving miraculously as the expressionless 'mask', while Florey's direction and Franz Planer's camerawork put scarcely a foot wrong, the film effortlessly transcends its B horror status to become a bleak, plangently poetic little tragedy.

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