The Face Behind the Mask (1941 film)

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The Face Behind the Mask
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Robert Florey
Produced by Irving Briskin
Wallace MacDonald
Written by Paul Jarrico
Arthur Levinson
Allen Vincent
Starring Peter Lorre
Evelyn Keyes
Don Beddoe
Music by Sidney Cutner
Cinematography Franz Planer
Edited by Charles Nelson
Release date
January 16, 1941 (1941-01-16)
Running time
69 minutes
Country United States
Language English

The Face Behind the Mask is an American film noir released by Columbia Pictures in 1941. It stars Peter Lorre and Evelyn Keyes and was directed by Robert Florey. The screenplay was adapted by Paul Jarrico, Arthur Levinson, and Allen Vincent from the play Interim, written by Thomas Edward O'Connell.


The film is the story of a hopeful new immigrant, Janos Szabo (Peter Lorre), who, on his first day in New York City, is trapped in a hotel fire that leaves his face hideously scarred. Refused employment due to his appearance although he possesses tremendous skill as a watchmaker, the only way he can survive is by turning to theft, using his skilled hands to disable alarms. Eventually he becomes the leader of a gang of thieves, and raises enough money to commission and wear a realistic latex mask of his own face.

Janos then falls in love with Helen (Evelyn Keyes) a blind woman who sees only the good in him, and attempts to leave his life of crime behind him. Unfortunately, his gang come to believe that he has betrayed them to the police, and attempt to kill him by car bomb, an attempt on his life that he survives but which kills Helen. In retaliation, Janos disguises himself as the pilot of the private plane the gang is flying out of the city with, which he lands in the Arizona desert and lets out the fuel, suicidally stranding both the gang and himself without food or water, dooming them all to a slow death. At the film's end, Janos's body and that of his enemies are discovered by the police.



Film critic Leonard Maltin awarded the film 3 out of a possible 4 stars, calling the film "Extremely well done on slim budget".[1] New York Times gave the film a negative review, criticizing the film's hackneyed dialogue, pacing, conventional plot manipulations, and underdeveloped themes.[2]


  1. ^ Leonard Maltin; Spencer Green; Rob Edelman (January 2010). Leonard Maltin's Classic Movie Guide. Plume. p. 196. ISBN 978-0-452-29577-3. 
  2. ^ "Movie Review- The Face Behind the Mask- At the Rialto- NY". New York New York Times. Retrieved 14 October 2015. 

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