21 November 2009 | Michael_Elliott
Fun Action with Karloff and Holt
Behind the Mask (1932)
** 1/2 (out of 4)
Columbia action picture has Jack Holt playing Secret Agent Jack Hart who goes undercover in a prison and befriends the henchman (Boris Karloff) of a maniac passing off various narcotics on the street. Hart isn't able to find his identity but he begins to grow suspicious of a doctor (Edward Van Sloan) who seems to be hiding a few things. Footage from the same studio's THE CRIMINAL CODE was used here as well as several sets from that film so fans of that film might be curious to check this one out, which turns out to be fairly entertaining even though a stronger director probably would have gotten more out of it and raised it beyond its "B" movie roots. What works best is the cast, which also includes Constance Cummings as the lose interest for our main hero. She's pretty good in the film and has wonderful chemistry with Holt whose as stiff as ever but still manages to turn in a good performance. It appears people either love Holt or hate him but I'm somewhere in between. I have often been put off by his stiffness but I think it actually suits his character here quite well. Karloff gets a pretty good role and manages to be in the majority of the first half of the picture. He too makes the film worth checking out as he proves once again that he could do a wide range of roles and didn't require make up to do them. Fans of FRANKENSTEIN will certainly like seeing him and Van Sloan together again. The story itself is pretty simple and straight forward and really doesn't add too many twists or shocks that can't be spotted from a mile away. The film runs a fast paced 68-minutes, which doesn't leave the viewer too many dull moments. Again, I think a stronger director could have rises the material up some but fans of the cast will certainly want to check this one out.