This film is an odd addition to the otherwise highbrow Criterion Collection. Normally, you'd expect to see foreign and art films from this company, but occasionally a genre-defying film is released by Criterion. FIEND WITHOUT A FACE is essentially a 1950s monster/sci-fi film--and not the sort that snootier viewers would watch. Now I am NOT saying all viewers of Criterion films are snooty--I've seen at least half their offerings and I have hardly ever been called 'snooty'--at least in the last day or so.
The film is set in rural Canada during the 1950s. Since the arrival of a US air/missile defense base, strange going-ons have occurred. Cows are giving less milk and people are dying in the most inexplicable manner. They are found dead--with their brains and spinal cords sucked through two small holes in the base of the skull!!! How the US Air Force is responsible for THAT is beyond me, but the locals need someone to blame. So, it's up to Major Cummings to get to the bottom of these gruesome murders. The Major is stumped and can't establish any connection between the air base and the killings. Finally, with no other options, he decides that a strange retired professor who dabbles in research on telepathy MIGHT be responsible. And, in a strange twist, the use of the atomic power plant on the base may hold the key. I'd say more but I don't want to spoil the film.
Overall, despite having a cast of entirely unknown actors, the film does have a professional look about it and the actors did fine jobs. The footage of airplanes don't appear to be stock footage and the usual cheap and grainy shots. The sets also look good--as do the uniforms and equipment. So, technically speaking it is way above average for the genre and places it in the top 1/3 of sci-fi/horror films of the age--even once you see the monsters, it is a bit silly looking (to say the least) and you can also occasionally see the wires holding them. However, the sucking sound the creatures made is really pretty cool...and chilling. And watching them get shot or smashed was pretty neat. My biggest concern about the plot is the odd way they recommended killing off the creatures--it did seem a tad reckless to say the least and I hope that isn't how you are really supposed to turn off nuclear power plants!!
Overall, a very watchable film for lovers of the genre, though it's not among the very, very best of the era--and kids today might just laugh at the whole thing (young whippersnappers!).
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