Ahhh, SF B-movies from the 50's and 60's. You either love 'em or hate 'em, and I definitely fall into the former camp. Made with very small budgets, tight shooting schedules and often with a less than stellar cast, I love seeing what the cast and crew were able to create under those less-than-ideal conditions. Often they're pretty horrible, but sometimes a gem would be created. Falling in between those two extremes is 1958's The Curse of the Faceless Man, an obscure flick penned by Jerome Bixby (Star Trek:TOS, The Man from Earth) and staring a young Richard Anderson (The Six Million Dollar Man). While the plot has holes (to put it mildly) director Edward L. Cahn was able to stretch his meager budget to create an eerie and atmospheric tale that's more enjoyable than it has any right to be.
While excavating the ancient city of
The curator calls in the help of Dr. Paul Mallon (Richard Anderson) and together they discover that the body is that of a roman slave, Quintillus Aurellus. They have a harder time explaining why Mallon's artist girlfriend, Tina (Elaine Edwards), has been having dreams of the stone man pursuing her, even before she hears about the discovery. Then, late one sleepless evening, Tina goes to the museum to sketch the petrified Aurellus. He raises causes her to swoon, and then kills a guard before becoming inert once more. No one is really sure that a 2000 year old dead man is killing people, but who else could it be? More importantly, if the faceless man is dead already, how do they kill him?
This is a movie that takes me back to the Saturday Afternoon Creature Feature on the local UHF station back when I was a kid. It's hokey but a lot of fun to watch, especially if you can enjoy some of the outlandish dialog. When Mallon wonders how the creature can see since it is, well, faceless, the curator opines that "if its mind is intact... it can receive images. Bats can see without eyes! The blind have vision too! Not exactly like ours, but some kind of sight that guides them instinctively."
There are other great lines that really make this movie enjoyable to watch. When someone questions how a fossilized cadaver can walk and murder, the same curator steps gets deeply philosophical: "Where is the dividing line between yesterday and today, between the past and the present even between life and death!" My favorite line in the whole movie comes when the police announce that they want to stop the monster's murderous rampage and a scientist exclaims "The fools! Here we are so close to solving the mystery of life and death, and they worry about their precious laws."
Even with the hokey dialog, the director and crew did a good job of creating a bit of an eerie atmosphere. Shadows were used to great effect in most of the film and there are a lot of close-ups of scared faces that also serve to build that tension. Technically it is a solid film with good composition and careful lighting and that goes a long way towards making it a fun movie.
This film comes on a made to order DVD-R with a full color cover and a generic printed label.
The mono soundtrack is fine. The music sounds a bit thin and the dialog isn't as crisp as it could be, but overall it's a decent sounding disc.
I was very pleasantly surprised with the full frame black-and-white image. For an unrestored movie from the 50's, this looks very good. The level of detail was good, the contrast was excellent and the blacks were strong and even. There is a little bit of print damage, but it's very minor. Overall this is a very good looking movie.
Being an MOD disc, there are no extras.
While there are more than a few plot holes (including the rather lame ending) this is a fun film accented by some memorably hokey dialog. Fans of 50's monster movies will want to make this part of their collection for sure but to casual fans it comes recommended.