Entombed for eons… Turned to Stone… Seeking Women! Women! Women! Edward Cahn’s CURSE OF THE FACELESS MAN

Entombed for eons… Turned to Stone… Seeking Women! Women! Women! Edward Cahn’s CURSE OF THE FACELESS MAN

Etruscan gladiator-slave Quintillus Aurelius rises from the ruins of Pompeii to reclaim his reincarnated bride in this occasionally odd and often rote science fiction horror, produced by Robert E. Kent (Invisible Invaders) for the prolific Edward Small (Witness For the Prosecution) and directed by B-picture genre dependable Edward L. Cahn (Creature With the Atom Brain).

Curse of the Faceless Man plays in a more or less predictable fashion, with a gaggle of Neapolitan scientists working to uncover the secrets of their discovery; a man, perfectly preserved by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD (never-mind that the real-life inspirations for the film’s ‘Volcano Man’ were poured plaster through and through, shaped by the cavities left by Pompeii’s long-decomposed dead); as bodies start to pile up. Elsewhere artist Tina (Elaine Edwards, The Bat) is haunted by dreams of the faceless man, of his slavish imprisonment in the past and of his misdeeds in the present. On the anniversary of the eruption of Vesuvius Tina succumbs to her psychic connection with the faceless man and the pair, reliving their doomed flight of two-thousand years ago, make their way towards the sea . . .

This is another of those films which was arguably better than it needed to be, reasonably photographed (by The Outer Limits regular Kenneth Peach) and intelligibly edited, with a capable cast (including a perennially disinterested Richard Anderson, The Six Million Dollar Man, and the lovely Adele Mara, Wake of the Red Witch) who do little to embarrass themselves. The primary draw, then as now, remains the faceless man himself, a memorably blank make-up by Charles Gemora performed by the substantially buff Bob Bryant (My Seven Little Bares). He reminds of the meteor-encrusted astronaut of the following year’s First Man Into Space, albeit less grotesque. The score by Gerald Fried (The Killing) lends the beast a suitable atmosphere in its various budget rampages, knocking through doors and bashing in the skull of the occasional misplaced guard.

Curse of the Faceless Man isn’t a bad hour to spend all told, provided expectations aren’t set to high for it. Pseudo-DeMille-ian narration by genre regular and frequent screen general Morris Ankrum (Invaders From Mars) may put it a notch or two higher in my book, but this is pretty standard monster-on-the-loose fair, and perfectly average among its contemporaries. It may not sound like much of a recommendation, but those of you looking to scratch that mid-century sci-fi / horror itch could do much worse.

As of this writing Curse of the Faceless Man is available for streaming, and in HD besides, via Prime Instant Video through Amazon. The film is also available on Blu-ray through Kino Lorber, who include a commentary for the feature by Chris Alexander.