The Face Behind the Mask (1941)

“What strange terror does this mask conceal?” An excellent, low-budget crime drama directed by Robert Florey (Murders in the Rue Morgue) and released by Columbia Pictures, The Face Behind the Mask stars Peter Lorre as naïve Hungarian immigrant watchmaker “Janos Szabo,” who has big dreams of a new life once he arrives in New York City but tragically becomes hideously disfigured in a fire at a rundown rooming house. Rejected by society at large because of his grotesque appearance, the suicidal Janos meets “Dinky” (George E. Stone), a dimwitted thief who introduces him to various criminal endeavors. Janos, now known as “Johnny” and sporting a rubber mask that resembles his former face, uses his savvy to become the leader of the gang. However, after meeting the love of his life, a blind woman named “Helen Williams” (Evelyn Keyes), Johnny vows to settle down and leave his criminal past behind him. Johnny’s former gang has other ideas. I won’t give anything away, but I found the ending quite fascinating! Best of all, this film just breezes by with a running time of only 69 minutes. The Face Behind the Mask was based on Interim, a radio play by Thomas Edward O’Connell.

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