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Director: Edward L. Cahn
Cast: Richard Anderson, Elaine Edwards, Adele Mara, Luis Van Rooten, Gar Moore, Felix Locher, Jan Arvan, Bob Bryant
Length: 67 min
Label: Kino Lorber
Release Date: Feb 16, 2016
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English: LPCM 2.0
- Audio Commentary with Chris Alexander
- Original theatrical trailer for Invisible Invaders (SD)
I still remember watching Edward L. Cahn’s Curse of the Faceless Man (1958) as a kid, in the early 80’s, and how much the experience had creeped me out at the time. In particular, the scenes where the faceless mummy rises from its slab in the museum, and slowly marches toward its victims like an unstoppable monolith, left an indelible impression. Revisiting the film today as an adult, in Kino Lorber’s good-looking new blu-ray, does not alas distill quite the same innocent magic, but it is still an effective little monster film, and some of the monster set pieces remain genuinely creepy.
Curse of the Faceless Man owes much to Universal’s Mummy films, only instead of an Egyptian mummy, we have an ancient Roman one; an Etruscan gladiator named Quintillus Aurelius, who was buried under a mountain of ash in the city of Pompeii, when Mount Vesuvius exploded in AD 79. Unearthed by an archeological excavation (presumably around 1958), the mummified Quintillus is sent to a local museum for study, where he goes on a rampage in search of his lady love–reincarnated as the girlfriend of one of the scientists who is studying him.Considering that the film took only a week to shoot, Curse of the Faceless Man is quite an achievement. B-movie director Edward L. Cahn, responsible for classics like Creature with the Atom Brain (1955), Invasion of the Saucer Men (1957), It! The Terror from Beyond Space (1958), Invisible Invaders (1959), and The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake (1959), among many others, does a credible job at telling the story of the faceless mummy, and the acting is remarkably gripping, considering the flatness of some of the material. The Faceless Man himself is a superb creation, and is the one element in the production that really stands out for its creepiness, particularly in the museum scenes described above. Gerald Fried’s tempestuous music score also deserves special mention, particularly the eerie string and percussion moments when the faceless man begins to stir on the slab, which invoke something truly frightening and otherworldly. But the louder parts are effective too, with brass to the fore.
Ultimately, the film’s weakest link is the writing. When the faceless man is unearthed at the start of the film, his hand is already moving. The fact that he is alive is presented as a foregone conclusion, which robs the story of tension, and the audience of discovering the mystery for themselves. Tension is further eroded by a pointless expository narration which assails you when you least expect it, during various key and non-key moments. The narration fills no plot gaps, and tells us nothing you couldn’t deduce for yourself by watching the action. These is not huge problems, and lovers of B-movies should find it easy to forgive such hiccups.
MGM’s new HD master is very good quality, and Kino Lorber presents it in their usual fashion, with minimal restoration. Film grain is fully retained—although it’s somewhat inconsistent from scene to scene, owing mostly to the film’s low budget—and the print itself seems to be in excellent condition. The limitations seem to stem directly from the source material, not the transfer.
The one standard mono audio track does the job adequately. Dialog and music are clear and present no problems. Occasionally, there is a strange anomaly which sounds like an echo; almost as if the sounds was filtered through an echo filter. This seems to affect only the sound effects, rather than music or dialog, so it’s very possible that the problem is inherited from the source material.
The only two extra features on this release are a trailer for director Edward L. Cahn’s Invisible Invaders (presented in SD), and an audio commentary by former Fangoria editor and current Shock Till You Drop editor, Chris Alexander. Chris is always entertaining to listen to, but he is also a good film historian. He is realistic in treating Faceless Man as a minor, but entertaining B-movie, rather than some under-appreciated masterpiece, and his insights are credible.
B-movie lovers and anyone who had seen Curse of the Faceless Man early in life will certainly enjoy Kino Lorber’s new blu-ray. The transfer is very good; the extras are a bit short measure, but Chris Alexander’s commentary is worth listening to, and it serves as an excellent introduction for anyone who has never seen the film. Even today, Curse of the Faceless Man remains an effective little black & white creeper.