blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

The Face Behind the Mask (1938, Jacques Tourneur)

A scene from THE FACE BEHIND THE MASK, directed by Jacques Tourneur for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Until seeing The Face Behind the Mask, I had no idea there really was a mystery man in an iron mask. I’ve seen at least two of the movie adaptations, maybe three, and am aware of the source novel… I just had no idea it was based in some kind of fact.

MGM calls the short a “historical mystery;” the narrator tells the story as the action plays out, in summary. Sometimes the narration directly affects the action, which is disconcerting. It’s not a bad approach for a non-fiction narrative and the short is well-produced.

Tourneur’s finest sequence is when the prisoner is taken to prison. The actors interact with the sets instead of pose as they later do, when the narrator has to introduce them.

It’s a mildly amusing short, with Tourneur really making the time count. Face imparts a lot of information in a short time.



Directed by Jacques Tourneur; written by Milton Gunzburg; director of photography, Paul Vogel; produced by Jack Chertok; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Narrated by John Nesbitt.


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