23 January 2014 | kevinolzak
Seen on Pittsburgh's Chiller Theater in 1967
1932's "Behind the Mask" was the earliest Columbia title included in the hugely successful SON OF SHOCK television package of the late 1950s, reteaming Boris Karloff and Edward Van Sloan following the just-completed "Frankenstein" (shooting wrapped Nov 21 1931). Headlining is the studio's top workhorse, Jack Holt (father of Tim), playing an undercover FBI agent posing as a convict, pumping information from Jim Henderson (Karloff), part of the dope smuggling ring run by a mysterious 'Mr. X.' The somewhat dim Henderson hardly taxes Boris, who virtually disappears at the midway point (we later learn of his offscreen capture); the real revelation is seeing Edward Van Sloan in dual roles- he looks like himself in two scenes as Dr. Alec Munsell, involved in the FBI investigation, but is unrecognizable in heavy beard and glasses as Dr. August Steiner, chewing the scenery with great relish. It's a juicy, scene stealing villain, sounding very much like an evil Van Helsing, able to lawfully dispose of enemies through surgery on the operating table, rather than wielding a knife in the street, which would only attract attention. Lovely Constance Cummings finishes her third film opposite Karloff, following "The Criminal Code" and "The Guilty Generation," while Thomas Jackson, shortly after his successful pursuit of Edward G. Robinson's "Little Caesar," surprisingly comes to a bad end. Jack Holt went on to work with Bela Lugosi in a later Columbia, 1935's "The Best Man Wins" (and with John Carradine in 1942's MGM "Northwest Rangers"). Many viewers, particularly Karloff fans, grouse that it's not really a horror film, but there's certainly enough horrific touches to qualify for SON OF SHOCK, a solid pre-code melding of crime and chills. "Behind the Mask" made one appearance on Pittsburgh's Chiller Theater, July 8 1967 (followed by 1961's Mexican "Bring Me The Vampire").