THE MASK OF DIMITRIOS (1944). Director: Jean Negulesco.
A mystery writer named Leyden (Peter Lorre) is fascinated by the tales of a master criminal, Dimitrios Makropolous (Zachary Scott), who was found dead on a beach, and travels to interview people who knew -- and hated -- him. On his journeys he encounters Mr. Peters (Sydney Greenstreet), who wants to know what Leyden is up to without giving away any of his own secrets. Flashbacks illustrate the increasingly violent and cunning career of Dimitrios -- one of the best vignettes details how he helps maneuver a harmless little clerk (Steven Geray) into betraying his country via greed and gambling. But Dimitrios may even have one last trick up his sleeve. Although quite talky, the picture moves fast and features excellent performances from the entire cast; Lorre and especially Greenstreet are a marvel to watch as they emote with great skill and conviction. Kurt Katch as Colonel Haki, Victor Francen as Grudek, Marjorie Hoshelle as the clerk Bulic's wife, are all stand-outs, with Florence Bates and Edward (Eduardo) Ciannelli also offering noteworthy bits. Faye Emerson isn't bad as a discarded woman in Dimitrios' life. Negulesco may not be a Hitchcock (it would be interesting to ponder how the great Hitch would have handled this material) but his direction is quite good nonetheless. Based on A Coffin for Dimitrios by Eric Ambler.
Verdict: Fascinating! ***1/2.