BluRay/DVD Reviews

CURSE OF THE FACELESS MAN

By • Jul 5th, 2011 •

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If you’re a horror aficionado, you have to be willing to take chances with the older studio titles, especially from the glorious age of the ’50s, and revisit (or visit for the first time) those ‘B’s of old.

CURSE OF THE FACELESS MAN is a variation on the ‘Mummy’ story, emanating from the ruins of Pompeii, buried thousands of years ago during Mt. Vesuvius’ eruption. A modern-day worker unearths a box containing jewels and an inscribed talisman, and also a rock-encrusted body, which ‘could be alive’, though how the cast initially surmises this is unclear. Nonetheless, it does turn out to be still capable of life and, in keeping with the Atomic radiation themes of the era, it’s an X-ray machine, used to ascertain what’s underneath the crust of the corpse, that finally restores it to full mobility.

Scripted by Jerome Bixby, who stayed mainly in the SciFi realm in his screenwriting career, penning such memorable stories as “Mirror, Mirror’ (1967 -the ‘Star Trek’ TV series) “It’s a Good Life’ (TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE – Segment 3), and IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE, the same year, and on the same double bill, as this film. CURSE’s running time is short even for a second feature (67 mins) and has an overlain narration track which feels like it was added in post, explaining plot elements that were trimmed to give the film a little more energy.

Unfortunately, they would have had to overlay different actors, and provide a different director to fix the pacing and deadening tone. Everyone in it is bad, which points the finger of guilt at director Cahn. My educated guess is that Cahn was a hack. What do I base this on? Maybe the fact that he directed 7 films in 1939, 9 in 1940, 10 in ’41, and 7 in ’42. From ’52-54 he took a sort of vacation, directing episodes of the Martin Kane TV series. However, by 1956 he was up to his old tricks, directing 6 films, followed by 6 more in ’57, 5 in ’58, 7 in ’59, 10 in 1960, and a whopping 11 in 1961, breaking his own record. Do you catch my drift? 1939 is widely considered the best year ever for film. But did he really stand a chance making the pantheon by turning out 7 that year?! I don’t think so.

In fairness to Cahn, I enjoyed INVASION OF THE SAUCER MEN in ’57, IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE in ’58, and THE FOUR SKULLS OF JONATHAN DRAKE in ’59. That’s about the ratio of good-to-bad Jess Franco films, too, or even slightly better.

The disc looks clean and sharp. The score is rousing, but not memorable. And there are two low-angle shots near the end, looking up at the Faceless Man against a dramatic, cloud-filled sky as he is about to judo chop a couple of cops, that are quite striking. I remember thinking so back in ’58 when I first saw the film.

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