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HOLLOW TRIUMPH (aka: THE SCAR) (director: Steve Sekely; screenwriters: from the novel by Murray Forbes/Daniel Fuchs; cinematographer: John Alton; editor: Fred Allen; music: Sol Kaplan; cast: Paul Henreid (John Muller/Dr. Victor Bartok), Joan Bennett (Evelyn Nash), Eduard Franz (Frederick Muller), Thomas Brown Henry (Rocky Stansyck), Robert Ben Ali (Rosie), Leslie Brooks (Virginia Taylor), John Qualen (Swangron), Mabel Paige (Charwoman), Herbert Rudley (Marcy), Henry Brandon (Big Boy), Jack Webb (Bullseye); Runtime: 83; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Paul Henreid; Eagle-Lion; 1948)
“Gets over despite an unbelievable plot.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The crime drama developed by screenwriter Daniel Fuchs from the novel by Murray Forbes, gets over despite an unbelievable plot. Steve Sekely’s Hollow Triumph (aka: The Scar) requires a healthy amount of suspension of disbelief in its series of coincidences and the blind acceptance demanded of the viewer after a failed operation that places a scar on the protagonist impostor’s right cheek instead of the left–something the filmmaker asserts no one notices.

John Muller (Paul Henreid) is a confidence man/thief with a college education in medicine and a vast knowledge of psychiatry, enabling him to be a phony shrink. He gets paroled from prison for a payroll theft and his concerned straight-laced brother Fred (Eduard Franz) gets him a safe but low-level office job with a medical supply firm, which doesn’t last long–he’s fired after punching out his supervisor.

Interested in making a big score, he gathers his old mob together and bullies them into knocking off dangerous mobster Rocky Stansyck’s (Thomas Brown Henry) gambling joint. Rocky has a reputation of getting even with anyone who crosses him which deters Marcy, Rosie and Big Boy, but the smart-alecky Muller convinces them his heist plan is fool-proof and there’s $200, 000 in the take. The robbery gets botched and only Marcy and Muller escape alive with the $60,000 they split. A frightened Marcy gets knocked off by the mobster in Mexico, while Muller remains at home in LA. Muller soon discovers a psychiatrist, Dr. Victor Bartok, is a dead-ringer for him except for a scar on his cheek. When he further discovers that Bartok’s secretary Evelyn Nash (Joan Bennett) is having an affair with the shrink, he moves in and romances her. He uses Evelyn to get into the office files and get the shrink’s signature, and then takes a job as a parking lot attendant where Bartok parks. Muller gives himself a scar on the cheek with a scalpel, but gets the wrong cheek due to the photographer’s enlargement being “reversed” in the negative. When he kills Bartok, he realizes the scar is on the wrong side but nevertheless takes the shrink’s place. No one notices, and Muller not only fools Evelyn but his brother who comes to tell him that Rocky is no longer after him–he was deported for income tax fraud.

There’s a twist ending, as Evelyn discovers the truth and becomes enraged until the smooth talking con man talks her into going to Honolulu with him. But unexpectedly he inherits Bartok’s bad karma.

The B-film thriller has a terrific cast and cinematographer John Alton’s magnificent film noir shadowy location shots of LA somewhat overcome this ‘Crime Gone Awry’ melodrama’s obvious faults and its cheaply arrived at moralistic comeuppance lesson.

REVIEWED ON 12/14/2004 GRADE: B-

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”