Mon 2 May 2016
CURSE OF THE FACELESS MAN. United Artists, 1958. Richard Anderson, Elaine Edwards, Adele Mara, Luis Van Rooten, Gar Moore, Felix Locher. Screenplay: Jerome Bixby. Director: Edward L. Cahn.
There are two primary ways of looking at Curse of the Faceless Man. Either it’s a hodgepodge of horror film tropes with more than a smidgen of themes generously, um…. borrowed from Karl Freund’s The Mummy (1932). Or it’s a loving, living homage to Universal’s entire Mummy series, modified to a Southern Italian setting in which the mystical Etruscan and Roman past loom large over the scientific present.
As an admirer of director Edward L. Cahn’s ability to make the most out of what are admittedly low-budget productions, I’m more akin to give the film the benefit of the doubt and call it an homage, albeit one clearly designed to exploit interest in the mummy film sub-genre and to make a quick buck off of it. To paraphrase the famous saying from Seinfeld: not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Richard Anderson, who went on to feature in The Six Million Dollar Man, portrays Dr. Paul Mallon. He, along with his fiancée, Tina Enright (Elaine Edwards), is residing in modern day Italy in the outskirts of the town that was once the Roman city of Pompeii.
After an archaeological dig discovers the remains of a faceless mummy-like man in the ruins, strange things begin happening. First, the driver tasked with transporting the mummy is mysteriously killed. Second, and more significantly for the story, Tina begins to have visions of the faceless mummy, as if she has some unexplainable connection to him and to the distant past (shades of The Mummy).
But what could it be? Is she the reincarnated descendant of a Roman elite family? And who is this faceless man and what does he want? Dr. Carlo Fiorello (Luis Van Rooten) and his daughter, Maria (Adele Mara) are both on the case. Working at the local museum, they’re determined to unravel the mystery of the faceless man once and for all!