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  Stolen Face A Trouble Doubled
Year: 1952
Director: Terence Fisher
Stars: Paul Henreid, Lizabeth Scott, André Morell, Mary Mackenzie, John Wood, Susan Stephen, Arnold Ridley, Cyril Smith, Diana Beaumont, Terence O'Regan, Russell Napier, Ambrosine Phillpotts, Everley Gregg, Alexis France, John Bull, Richard Wattis
Genre: Drama, Thriller, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Dr Philip Ritter (Paul Henreid) is a plastic surgeon who conducts his business with great responsibility; for example, when an older lady he has seen and treated before with cosmetic operations comes to see him yet again, he tells her that he is not going to carry out any more surgery on her and she will have to resign herself to the fact that she is now getting old, and nothing she can do to her face will change that. But it's not only making women attractive that Philip concerns himself with, as a scarred criminal (Mary Mackenzie) who has been referred to him proves more of a challenge that he anticipated...

Movie plastic surgery is not really like actual plastic surgery: sure, plenty of actors and actresses undergo the procedures to make themselves look younger and therefore increase their marketability and career longevity, or to fix features they were never happy with before they had the money to spare on such things. In the landscape of cinema, however, plastic surgery is like a magic wand which is so advanced that when applied it can make people look utterly different, without a trace of how they appeared before to be discerned in their visage, probably because they are being played by a different performer.

So you can see there is quite some suspension of disbelief to be wrestled with when the subject arises in a film, showing that the preposterousness of John Woo's Face/Off, a definitive example of the farfetched style, had many a precedent reaching back to the very inception of the operations as we know them today, and Stolen Face was one of the least convincing. Therefore for many who like to delve into the oeuvre of Hammer studios, as an early work of their most celebrated director Terence Fisher it was one of those which carried a little more interest than some of their pre-horror boom efforts, which tended towards your basic melodrama, usually with an imported North American star to increase appeal at the box office, and therefore the profits.

There were two Hollywood stars in this case, which did indeed create a degree of popularity among audiences at the time in spite of their profile beginning to slip by this stage; European Henreid was still best known as the other man in Casablanca, and by now was turning his interest into directing, with many a TV show episode in his future. His co-star was Lizabeth Scott, who once upon a time was a pretender to Lauren Bacall's status as the husky-voiced siren of film noir, but never saw her opportunities take off in the same way. Technically she was playing two roles here, thanks to a complication brought about by Philip's yearning for her character, one which flew in the face of scientific reason.

He meets Lizabeth's Alice Brent in a country hotel when she has a cold causing her to sneeze loudly enough to keep him awake in the next room, though oddly when he meets her in the flesh her sneezing is a lot more ladylike and less blaring. Anyway, one thing leads to another and before you know it they're sharing picnics together and Philip's rest and recuperation break has him falling in lurve - ah, but then the bombshell drops, as Alice already has a fiancé, leaving our hero in the lurch. So obviously he does what anyone would do: he takes the criminal and gives her an extreme makeover to look exactly like the object of his affection and grooms her as a replacement for Alice. You and I could probably take him to one side and point out the error of his ways, but he has to learn for himself, and soon the crim has rejected his Pygmalion excesses and reverted to type, just as the original Alice decides she wants him back after all. With an ending both convenient and ludicrous, Stolen Face was very silly, though its deadly seriousness downplayed the fun to be had. Music by Malcolm Arnold.

[Stolen Face is included as a bonus feature on the Blu-ray and DVD double disc sets of The Mummy, as part of the Hammer collection brought to HD. Other extras include many documentaries on the film and studio and an expert audio commentary.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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