The Face Behind the Mask

Screening on Film
Directed by Robert Florey.
With Peter Lorre, Evelyn Keyes, Don Beddoe.
US, 1941, 35mm, black & white, 69 min.
Print source: Swank

My favorite Peter Lorre movie, and that’s saying a lot (and he’s the star too!). It’s brisk and unpredictable, always zigzagging from genre to genre. The tale starts out like Kafka’s Amerika, with a wide-eyed immigrant, our Lorre, on a liner cruising past the Statue of Liberty, on his way to unforeseeable opportunities in the West. Lorre plays the new American with a succession of acting styles that permute as rapidly as the film’s careening genres, which freely shift the storytelling cadences from coming-of-age narrative to crime film, romantic melodrama fairytale and even revenge legend, all the while defining a nation. It’s a B-movie wonder! – Guy Maddin

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