AVAILABLE ON DVD
RUNNING TIME: 72 min
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Plastic surgeon Dr. Philip Ritter is able to give new faces to people, and believes that it can change the ways of those who are criminally inclined. His next patient is Lily Conover, a disfigured former convict and thief. Phillip goes on holiday and, at a country inn where he’s staying, meets and falls in love with concert pianist Alice Brent, but Alice is already engaged to be married and, afraid to tell Phillip, runs away. Phillip is devastated, but is even more so when he returns to his London surgery and receives a phone call from Alice, who informs him she is to marry David….
Now this one’s rather interesting, with plot elements that virtually prefigure Les Yeus Sans Visage, Vertigo and even Hammer’s Frankenstein Created Woman. It’s still a little clumsy at times, and suffers a bit from an uneasy first half with far too many scenes of Phillip, sometimes with Alice, driving along in a car while crappy back projection which must have seemed poor even at the time is in the background, and a few scenes which just seem irrelevant, like a pub sing-along, while you wonder where the film’s going with all the romance. Go somewhere it certainly does though, with its ‘hero’, who is a bit arrogant and certainly politically incorrect in thinking that curing ugliness can cure crime, deciding to recreate the face of his lost love on his latest patient – the scene where this is revealed certainly being a shock to me – and even marry her, only for her to start to resort to her old ways. While there isn’t much suspense for the most part, it’s a fascinating, slightly twisted tale, and one in which director Terence Fisher really feels at home. The first of his films where you can detect traces of his horror classics and the scientific, philosophical and psychological themes which would recur throughout his work, it contains two well put together montages, one with the images blurring into each other to show Phillip’s thoughts, and does eventually rush to a tense climax on a train, though the film than seems to stop without really resolving many of the issues. That’s life though, I suppose, and the final scene remains poetic justice in the best way.
They were able to get two fading Hollywood stars for this film, and, while Paul Henreid seems a little stiff as he often did and doesn’t really transmit his character’s romantic obsession, Lizabeth Scott gives her all in her dual role as the classy Alice and the trashy Lily, replete with very good cockney accent. The morally murky piece may have you wishing that Phillip will kill his horrible wife as well as having trouble deciding whether you like Alice or not. A tale like this usually inspires composers and Malcolm Arnold certainly comes through here, with a lovely lush piano theme for Alice and much Bernard Herrmann-like mood-building. Sometimes the score is left to virtually carry the film along, which it’s just about able to do even during its weaker earlier moments. Stolen Face, in the end, doesn’t go quite as far with its ideas as it could have done and probably would have done had this been made later, and is both too quick and too slow in certain parts, but there’s some intriguing stuff here, and it stays in the mind.