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

Thursday, November 22, 2018

BEHIND THE MASK

Kane Richmond as the Shadow
BEHIND THE MASK (1946). Director: Phil Karlson.

The day before Lamont Cranston's (Kane Richmond) marriage to Margo Lane (Barbara Read), he learns that an impostor has broken into the office of the Daily Bulletin and murdered blackmailing reporter Jeff Mann (James Cardwell). Angered by this impersonation, Cranston leaves the pre-wedding party to investigate, incurring the extremely childish wrath of his fiancee. To make matters worse, Margo's maid Jenny (Dorothea Kent) is just as shrill and immature as Margo is, and has a vendetta against her boyfriend, the hapless Shrevvie (now played by George Chandler).

George Chandler, Barbara Read, Kane Richmond
Behind the Mask might have been a decent mystery were it not for the fact that Monogram studios decided to combine the Shadow character with elements of screwball comedy, with the result that nothing really works. The antics of Margo and Jenny, who are constantly hitting their boyfriends, are so tiresome as to be excruciating, and pretty much crowd out any real entertainment value the picture might have had. Joseph Crehan, repeating his role as dyspeptic Inspector Cardonna, is too manic in this by far, and he also loves to keep hitting Cranston. There are a couple of aborted cat fights and more than enough scenes of Margo becoming hysterical because Cranston supposedly has other women's unseen lipstick on his face.


Marjorie Hoshelle with Bill Christy on left and Kent and Crehan on the right 
Chandler plays the role of Shrevvie more like a butler and assistant and is not as stupid as in the previous film, The Shadow Returns. Richmond is a perfectly okay actor who desperately needs a better script and a bigger studio. James Cardwell [The Shanghai Cobra] makes an impression as the rakish reporter Jeff and it's a shame he gets bumped off so early. Edward Gargan [Detective Kitty O'Day] provides the film's few moments of fun as a detective who's suffering from the flu and alleged hallucinations, and Marjorie Hoshelle [The Mask of Dimitrios] is very vivid and striking as Mae, who is mixed up in illegal betting. Robert Shayne is very young and good-looking in this but his performance is no great shakes, and poor Pierre Watkin is as blah as ever as the police commissioner and Cranston's uncle.

Verdict: This has little to do with the Shadow pulp stories. *1/2.  

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