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Countdown to Halloween: Curse of the Faceless Man (1958)


There's no particular reason I've never seen Curse of the Faceless Man. I never purposely avoided it.


I talked the other day about buying movies during sales. In this case, it was a going out of business sales at Hasting's. I grabbed as many classic horror Blu-rays as I could for dirt cheap, and they had several that were released about the same time as this one.


The selling point of Curse of the Faceless Man for me was not its cast (although it features Richard "Oscar Goldman" Anderson) or its director (although it was helmed by Edward L. It! The Terror from Outer Space Cahn). It was instead its writer, Jerome Bixby, whose name is forever etched into my memory from four episodes of Star Trek (including Mirror, Mirror), an iconic episode of Twilight Zone (It's a Good Life), and the story (with Otto Klement) on which the movie, Fantastic Voyage, was based. Bixby is a well-known science fiction author.

Oddly, what you get with Curse of the Faceless Man is a movie with almost too much script. That is to say, it's very talky and more focused on history and science than it is on horror. I can't believe I'm complaining about that! In this case, though, it's just not necessary. Instead of providing enhancement to the action, it often supplants the action. Opening narration (uncredited by Morris Ankrum) is fine, but it's not required throughout the movie. At some point we can figure out what's happening without someone having to tell us.

As with so many of these movies, that's just nitpicking. I actually like the movie quite a lot. It's basically a variation of The Mummy, so it's not terribly original. However, the idea of someone being buried alive when Mt. Vesuvius erupted in Pompeii in AD 79 is an interesting twist. He has a similar attachment to the reincarnation of his forbidden love in modern times. An embellishment to that legend is that Tina Enright (Elaine Edwards) is aware of her tragic history and relives it through a series of nightmares.

I like the creature, as well, a man encased in stone. It's interesting how most of the time he's locked into the solidified state from the time of his death. Yet when he periodically awakens, he becomes more flexible… well, about as flexible as a mummy would be, minus any eyes peeking through wrapped bandages. I'd like to have seen more of it in action. Curse of the Faceless Man is full of medical characters, with no less than four instances of "Dr." in their names. It could learn a thing or two from Jack Arnold about keeping the science lessons more succinct.


Written by Jerome Bixby Directed by Edward L. Cahn Starring Richard Anderson, Elaine Edwards, Adele Mara, Luis Van Rooten, Joseph Garland Moore Jr., Felix Locher, Jan Arvan, Bob Bryant Released August, 1958 RT 67 min. Home Video Kino Lorber (Blu-ray)



We all have them... stacks of movies we've purchased, but never watched; or, movies on the DVR, filling them to capacity. This year for the annual Countdown to Halloween, I'm going to make a dent in my "stack," watching one movie a day for the month of October that I've never seen, then writing about it.

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