Monday, January 02, 2006

The Scar

The Scar (1948) is a near-forgotten small gem of a movie for serious fans of film noir. When I say "small gem" there's a slight emphasis on the small, as in small budget. The dialogue is a bit clunky, the story gets going in fits and starts and the plot is so convoluted as to be ridiculous (I suppose there were B-writers in Hollywood along with B-actors and B-directors.)

But, surprisingly, at its best, the film totally unfolds with all the best elements of film noir in full flourish.

In The Scar--also marketed as Hollow Triumph and The Man Who Murdered Himself--Paul Henreid plays a sinister, coldly pathological psychologist (a possible model for Anthony Hopkins portrayal of Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs?) who kills a nearly identical man and takes his place to hide from the mob. In order to pass himself off as his "double," he has to give himself a scar, but due to a reversed negative, he puts the scar on the wrong side of his face. (Well, I did warn you about the plot, didn't I?)

If you can suspend your disbelief (and I realize that's a big if), you'll be rewarded with some really awesome noir. Once Henreid takes the other man's place, the film begins to take on a surreal nightmarish absurdist tone as he struggles to fit into his new role, walking a dangerously narrow tightrope, blindly feeling his way through the new identity.

The B-picture production values actually work for the movie: the eerie lack of detail in the sets and backgrounds only heightens the film's sense of paranoia, claustrophobia and inevitability.

It's hard to call the film a "meditation on identity" or such: it's more of a jumbled creepy, funny, existentialist nightmare thrown onto the screen.

Jeff and I found a copy of The Scar as part of a $9.99 film noir boxed set at the Hilton Head Outlets (That should in no way be read as an endorsement of Hilton Head or outlets). I've seen it for sale on the net for even less. The set comes with 8 other film noir "classics" including Orson Welles' The Stranger and The Strange Love of Martha Ivers.

FilmStocker Rating: B

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