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The Face Behind the Mask (1941 film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Face Behind the Mask
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRobert Florey
Screenplay byAllen Vincent
Paul Jarrico
Story byArthur Levinson
Based onInterim
radio play
by Thomas Edward O'Connell
StarringPeter Lorre
CinematographyFranz Planer
Edited byCharles Nelson
Columbia Pictures
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
  • January 16, 1941 (1941-01-16)
Running time
68 minutes
CountryUnited States

The Face Behind the Mask is a 1941 American film noir crime film directed by Robert Florey and starring Peter Lorre. The screenplay was adapted by Paul Jarrico, Arthur Levinson, and Allen Vincent from the play Interim, written by Thomas Edward O'Connell (1915-1961).

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  • PETER LORRE: A Maker Of Faces



Janos Szabo (Peter Lorre) is a hopeful new Hungarian immigrant who, on his first day in New York City, is trapped in a hotel fire that leaves his face hideously scarred. He is refused employment due to his appearance and, though possessing tremendous skill as a watchmaker, is willing to do any work. In extreme poverty, and despite believing that dishonesty can never bring happiness, he resorts to safecracking to obtain food, medicine, and a warm bed for his only friend, Dinky (George E. Stone). Eventually he becomes the leader of a gang of thieves and raises money to commission and wear a realistic latex mask of his own face.

Janos then falls in love with Helen (Evelyn Keyes), a blind woman who perceives only the good in him, and attempts to leave his life of crime behind him. Unfortunately, his gang come to believe that he has betrayed them to the police, and attempt to kill him by car bomb, an attempt on his life that he survives but which kills Helen. In retaliation, Janos disguises himself as the pilot of the private plane in which the gang plans to fly out of the country. He lands the plane in the Arizona desert and lets out the fuel, suicidally stranding both the gang and himself without food or water, dooming them all to a slow death. At the film's end, Janos's body and those of his enemies are discovered by the police.



The Face Behind the Mask was directed by French-American director Robert Florey,[1] and written by Paul Jarrico, and Allen Vincent.[2] The film is based on the radio play The Interim by Thomas Edward O'Connell.[3] Florey previously made contributions to Universal Studios' 1931 film Frankenstein before James Whale was brought on as director, and he had directed Murders in the Rue Morgue.[1][4][5] The film's script was specifically written with Peter Lorre in mind for the film's lead role,[6] with parallels to Lorre's own life,[7] as co-writer Jarrico recalled "The script was 'tailored', as I recall, in a sense Lorre had already been cast."[6] Lorre was cast in the film's lead role of Janos "Johnny" Szabo as the first of a two-picture deal that he was contracted to make for Columbia Pictures.[3] Evelyn Keyes, who had starred in Victor Fleming's Gone with the Wind, was cast as Janos' love interest Helen Williams.[8] Actors Don Beddoe, George E. Stone, John Tyrrell, and Cy Schindell were cast in secondary roles for the film. Tyrell and Schindell were both regulars at Columbia Pictures and were well-known for starring in the studio's Three Stooges short films.[9]

Principal photography began on November 6, 1940, lasting for 20 days.[10]


Theatrical release

The Face Behind the Mask had its official premiere on January 16, 1941.[10]


The Face Behind the Mask was poorly received during its initial release. In its 1941 review of the film, The New York Times was critical of the film, writing "Despite a certain pretentiousness toward things psychological, The Face Behind the Mask may safely be set down as just another bald melodramatic exercise in which the talents of Peter Lorre again are stymied by hackneyed dialogue and conventional plot manipulations."[11]

Later reviews of the film have been more positive. Blockbuster Inc.'s Guide to Movies and Videos rated the film three out of four stars, praising the film's direction, premise, and performances.[12] Leonard Maltin awarded the film three out of a possible four stars, calling the film "Extremely well done on slim budget".[13] Dennis Schwartz from Ozus' World Movie Reviews gave the film a "B+" on an A+ to F scale, calling it "a horror story in that it offers a vision of the American Dream turning ugly and wrong."[14] TV Guide rated the film two out of four stars, calling it "A stylish film about human suffering".[15]





External links

This page was last edited on 8 September 2023, at 10:22
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