STOLEN FACE (director: Terence Fisher; screenwriters: Richard H. Landau/Martin Berkeley/story by Alexander Paal & Steven Vas; cinematographer: Walter Harvey; editor: Maurice Rootes; music: Malcolm Arnold; cast: Paul Henreid(Dr. Philip Ritter), Lizabeth Scott (Alice Brent/Lily Conover after surgery), Andre Morell (David), Mary Mackenzie (Lily Conover, before surgery), John Wood (Dr. John ‘Jack’ Wilson), Arnold Ridley (Dr. Russell), Susan Stephen (Betty), Everley Gregg (Lady Millicent Harringay), Diana Beaumont (May), Terence O’Regan (Pete Snipe, Lily’s friend); Runtime: 71; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Anthony Hinds; VCI Entertainment; 1952-UK)
“An uneven minor mad scientist horror pic.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
An uneven minor mad scientist horror pic directed by Terence Fisher (“The Hound of the Baskervilles”/”The Curse of Frankenstein”/”Kill Me Tomorrow“),that can be construed as a lesser Eyes Without A Face (1959).It’s based on the story byAlexander Paal and Steven Vas,and is written byRichard H. Landau and Martin Berkeley.
Workaholic, brilliant and philanthropic plastic surgeon Dr. Philip Ritter (Paul Henreid) goes on a forced weekend holiday when stranded in the English countryside and meets at the inn he’s staying at American concert pianist Alice Brent (Lizabeth Scott), who is on a European tour. In the few days that they are together they fall in love, but she refuses his marriage proposal and vanishes. The smug doctor’s ego is bruised, so on the rebound he gives career female criminal Lily Conover (Mary Mackenzie), an inmate in the local prison soon to be paroled, a face lift and makes her look just like Alice. Doc then marries her, as he thinks with her new face and environment she’ll change into a refined lady. But the marriage is a disaster, as Lily turns into a monster and to the chagrin of hubby goes on a stealing spree, parties with her low-life criminal friends in the cultured doctor’s house and treats the well-meaning but foolish doctor with utter contempt.
Alice was supposed to marry her kind-hearted British manager, David (Andre Morell), but he refuses when he sees that she’s in love with doc. If things were far-fetched until now, when Alice returns to Philip and the psychopathic Lily won’t give him a divorce things really go over-the-top in the film’s unbelievable ending that one can only scratch their head at and wonder what the writers were thinking.
Liz Scott is in a dual role, playing the nice cultured concert pianist and the boorish criminal after surgery.
The chintzy Hammer studio leaves us with the moral lesson that one can never steal a face, even if it’s beautiful, and expect it to therefore be beautiful without working on the character part. Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958) cleared up all of this film’s flaws in storytelling, while using the same motifs. Paul Henreid starred in the also far-fetched crime drama entitled The Scar (aka: Hollow Triumph, 1948), where fugitive Henreid kills his psychoanalyst double and takes his place–which reminded me of this pic’s hysterical (and I don’t mean funny) story.
REVIEWED ON 8/6/2010 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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