Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, June 11, 2015


Jim Bannon and Anita Louise
THE DEVIL'S MASK (1946). Director: Henry Levin. Based on a I Love a Mystery radio script.

A plane crashes on its way to South America, and among its cargo is a shrunken head. Meanwhile Janet Mitchell (Anita Louise of The Firebird) is convinced that her father was murdered on a trip into the jungle, and goes to her Uncle Leon (Paul E. Burns) for succor. Her chief suspects are her stepmother Louise (Mona Barrie) and Professor Logan (Frank Wilcox), who are supposedly having an affair. Private eyes Jack Packard (Jim Bannon of Unknown World) and Doc Long (Barton Yarborough) are hired by Louise, who is suspicious of Rex Kennedy (Michael Duane), an alleged gadabout who is keeping company with Janet. Then someone is killed with a Jivaro blow gun ... The Devil's Mask is minor in all departments but it has its intriguing aspects and the acting is okay, with insouciant Duane [The Return of the Whistler] the stand-out. There's some interesting business with the shrunken head as well.

Verdict: Okay, but a better movie with shrunken heads is The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake. **1/2.


Gary R. said...

This is one of three films based on the old "I Love a Mystery" radio show created by Carlton E. Morse. IMO, a big detriment in all three was the casting of Jim Bannon. Bannon is painfully wooden as hero Jack Packard, sort of a leading man version of Edward R. Murrow. In comparison, Barton Yarborough displays more presence as his down-home sidekick. Actually, it's too bad "Devil's Mask" cast member Michael Duane didn't get cast as the series' lead. I agree that his was a stand-out performance here, and could easily see him as a much more charismatic Jack Packard. BTW, if you get a chance, I recommend checking out the first series entry, titled "I Love a Mystery." It features a fine, anxiety-ridden performance by the always interesting George Macready.

William said...

Would love to see that one, as I'm a big George Macready fan, and I agree with you that Duane probably would have been better than Bannon. Macready had one of the great voices in the movies, always instantly recognizable.

Thanks for the info and your comments!