Dedicated to the work of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger and all the other people, both actors and technicians who helped them make those wonderful films.
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Submitted by Mark Fuller
The Man Behind The Mask
Kinematograph Weekly: 26th March 1936
Sensational melodrama entirely unconvincing as to plot, but holding the attention by its extremely good acting and some clever touches of production which introduce the human note. Able to hold its own as a quota thriller in most programmes.
Story:- Nick Barclay, planning to elope with Lord Slade's daughter, June, at a fancy dress dance, is assaulted and his place taken by a masked stranger. Discovery that the stranger has kidnapped June and stolen a famous Eastern shield belonging to Lord Slade puts Nick, even though under suspicion of the theft, on the trail.
Aided by a Dr. Walpole and his woman secretary, Nick traces June and her kidnapper to an inn and gains possession of the shield. Subsequently June, Nick, lord Slade and the doctor are enticed to the home of a mad astronomer, the instigator of the theft and various resultant crimes. The arrival of British and international police secures both the shield, the safety of its original owner, and that of Nick and June, now groom and bride.
Acting:- Hugh Williams as Nick and Jane Baxter as June put up competent perfomances. Honours rest chiefly, however, with the older actors. Donald Calthrop's performance as the doctor is always worth watching, while that of the master, played by Maurice Swartz, makes one wish to see this Continental actor in a more worthwhile role. As Miss Weeks, American lady secretary, Kitty Kelly is a delight. Ronald Ward is also good as the inconsequent brother of June.
Production:- Michael Powell has done everything possible to give plausibility to the tale; he provides a clear continuity, concentrates on facial expression and detail rather than background, and is responsible for many amusing touches.
Melodramatic atmosphere is preserved throughout, with the usual humourous quips lightening the tension. The ending is disappointing, the ravings of the madman whose one passion is possession of the shield, containing insufficient philosophy to interest.
Dialogue, by Ian Hay, as might be expected, is entirely successful, especially in its lighter moments.
Settings and Photography:- Well lighted and chosen scenes of the masked ball pave the way for rural English exteriors and interiors of an inn. Lighting adds to the sensational background suggested by the home of the mad astronomer.
Points of Appeal:- Old-fashioned thriller flattered by first-class acting and very good presentation.
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