Curse of the Faceless Man (1958) – By Duane L. Martin

 

During an excavation at Pompeii, a stone encrusted body is found along with a bronze medallion with an Etruscan inscription.  When the body is brought into a local museum for study by Dr. Carlo Fiorillo (Luis Van Rooten), he calls in his old friend, a medical researcher by the name of Paul Mallon (Richard Anderson) to check over the body.  It seems that while the body inside the crust is human, it may not be quite dead yet.  Dr. Mallon doesn’t believe there’s anything unusual going on, but as the faceless man starts coming to life randomly to kill people he’s left alone with, his real goal slowly becomes clear, and his only desire is to be reunited with Tina Enright (Elaine Edwards), Dr. Mallon’s fiancee, who’s been having strange dreams ever since the man’s body was discovered.  Why does this ancient man who’s trapped between life and death so desire to be with her that he tries to kill anyone and everyone who gets in the way of their being together?  You’ll have to watch the movie to find out.

While this film was a bit slow at times and was completely lacking in any semblance of realism, I actually quite enjoyed it.  Now let me qualify that last statement by saying that I don’t expect these movies to be realistic, but the fact that the stone covering the body seemed to keep switching back and forth between literally hard as a rock and soft enough for the faceless man to move around with relative ease just didn’t make a whole hell of a lot of sense.  Neither did the fact that Dr. Mallon’s fiancee would start having dreams about the faceless man, and even goes so far as to go into a trance one night when she goes to the museum to release him from his bonds.  They also couldn’t penetrate the stone at all, which is kind of ridiculous, especially considering what happens to the faceless man at the end of the film.  I won’t spoil it here, but it makes you wonder why the stone was so impenetrable.

Now, that said, there were some interesting things about the story as well.  The whole concept of having this guy who’d been encased in stone during the eruption of the volcano in Pompeii was actually pretty cool.  Even the way they explained how some sort of radioactivity was keeping his body and his cells alive was rather creative.  I didn’t really understand how he was supposed to be able to see considering that his whole head was covered in the same stone that encased his body, but that’s part of the fun of these old movies.  It doesn’t matter how he was seeing, or that the impenetrable stone got all flexible when he’d suddenly become animated to either kill someone or to try to go after the medallion, or to kill whoever happened to be around him.  I mean it’s nice when there’s some logic to it, and the story that comes out later in the film actually does answer all the questions about who the faceless man is and the motivations behind his actions, so all the other nonsensical stuff is really…well, it’s like frosting on a cake.  The story is the cake and the stuff that doesn’t make sense is the frosting.  They go together, and one isn’t all that great without the other.

The transfer and restoration of this film looks and sounds excellent, just as nearly all of the releases from Kino Lorber’s KL Classics do.  It warms my heart to see such dedication put into the restoration and release of these great old classic films that are every bit as entertaining as anything that’s made today.  The one thing I’ll complain about with this release, and I’ll keep complaining about it until someone does something about it, is that it doesn’t have subtitles.  In fact, not one of the six releases I got from KL Classics this month has subtitles.  Not everyone can hear, or has the best hearing, and they deserve to enjoy these films as much as anyone else.  I mean, they went through the trouble of recording audio commentaries with different film historians for many of their releases, so why not do the subtitles as well?  The thing that baffles me is that a few of the releases actually do have subtitles, so why not just do it for all of them?

This new release from Kino Lorber includes audio commentary by horror cinema historian Chris Alexander, and a trailer gallery as well.  The video and audio, as mentioned above are excellent, and this, like all of their other release, are far and away the best copies you’ll ever find of these great old films.

The fact that this slow, lumbering monster could actually move around silently enough or quickly enough to actually kill anyone is amusing enough to make the movie fun.  Combine that with some quality acting and a rather interesting back story on the creature, and you’ve got a real winner on your hands.  If you collect classic monster films, then this is definitely one that’s worth adding to your collection.

If you’d like to find out more about this release, you can find out more on the Kino Lorber website here: http://www.kinolorber.com/video.php?id=2237