16 January 2014 | kevinolzak
First seen on Pittsburgh's Chiller Theater in 1966
1941's "The Face Behind the Mask" was among the 11 Columbia titles included in the SON OF SHOCK television package issued in the late 50s, garnering a growing cult that continues to build even today. A solid 'B' offering a rare starring role for the unique talents of Peter Lorre (who cavalierly dismissed it in its day), as Hungarian immigrant Janos Szabo, arriving in New York full of boundless enthusiasm as he seeks to make his home in the New World and bring over his fiancée Maria. Tragedy strikes as his hotel burns down, leaving his face scarred beyond repair, a pariah in society despite his skills at watchmaking and aviation. With no work and no future prospects, Janos finds it easier to turn to a life of crime, his mastery at eluding detection without leaving any clues baffling the police. Only when he meets a sweet blind girl does he find his heart stirring again, except his gang won't allow him to quit without repercussions. For an actor who dismissed his profession as 'making faces,' it's remarkable that Lorre's performance shows none of the disdain he may have felt; surely a part that juggles naïve optimism with despairing pessimism, going from criminal mastermind to humanity restored, just doesn't come along every day, and it's a testament to his overall talent that he never lets the film down. George E. Stone tries out his role as 'The Runt' in the upcoming 'Boston Blackie' series at Columbia, and Evelyn Keyes, as the blind Helen, had just played Boris Karloff's daughter in "Before I Hang." Other memorable turns come from James Seay, Al Hill, Mary Currier, and the ubiquitous Frank Reicher, as a sympathetic plastic surgeon. Like all of the SON OF SHOCK titles, "The Face Behind the Mask" appeared on Pittsburgh's Chiller Theater on three occasions (only Boris Karloff's THE BLACK ROOM aired four times).