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The Mask of Dimitrios (1944)

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The Mask of Dimitrios (1944)

Postby kingrat » November 2nd, 2011, 7:30 pm

So glad TCM showed THE MASK OF DIMITRIOS (1944). GaryJ mentioned liking this film, so maybe it deserves a thread of its own. Although THE MASK OF DIMITRIOS is a film noir, it's very much influenced by CITIZEN KANE. It begins with the death of a powerful man; the story unfolds in flashbacks by multiple narrators, who tell their story to a writer. Both have been cruel to the women who loved them. Both draw on expressionism, and both use some deep-focus photography. For DIMITRIOS, that's the scene where Sidney Greenstreet, scarcely noticed by Peter Lorre, enters the archives in the extreme distance.

The parallels don't stop there. Each is the first signed full-length feature film of a young director. Jean Negulesco was removed from SINGAPORE, but given another chance with this project. Negulesco said that he was going to win the Oscar for Best Director for this film. That didn't happen, but the ambition is evident, with many eye-catching shots.

The billing has its own interest. In THE MALTESE FALCON (1941) Sidney Greenstreet gets eighth billing, but here he's billed first. Then comes Zachary Scott, followed by Faye Emerson and only then Peter Lorre, who probably has the most screen time. Lorre and Greenstreet are fine, as expected, and this is one of Scott's more appealing roles, but for me Faye Emerson is strongest of all, showing us first the weary brothel owner and then in flashbacks the vibrant young woman who fell for Dimitrios. Too bad more plum roles didn't come her way, although Negulesco gives her another good part in NOBODY LIVES FOREVER.

Much of the story is set in eastern Europe, and the Romanian-born Negulesco makes this more believable than Hollywood usually does, with some well-cast supporting actors, such as Kurt Katch as the Turkish Col. Haki.

Most directorial careers are strange--perhaps one could even say most directorial careers are strange and unfortunate. To see a late Negulesco film like COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS (1959), with its routine direction of a rather dreary script, is to wonder what happened to the ambitious young man who made THE MASK OF DIMITRIOS. At least through THREE CAME HOME (1950) Negulesco seems to me to be frequently a remarkable director.

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Re: The Mask of Dimitrios (1944)

Postby RedRiver » November 7th, 2011, 2:29 pm

This is a good movie. It made me want to read some books by Eric Ambler. As yet, I have not done that.

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