Thursday, November 8, 2018

The Scar

Here's a 1948 Film Noir that couldn't decide on a name--it was produced by Eagle-Lion Films, which was a British company that made films intended to be released in the U.S. The working title during production was The Man Who Murdered Himself, the British title (and the novel its based on) was Hollow Triumph and the U.S. title was The Scar.

Well, whatever the title, it's a good Noir film. It was produced by its stat, Paul Henreid, because Henreid wanted to play a bad guy.

And the guy he plays is definitely bad. John Muller is a med-school drop out who had been studying to be a psychiatrist. But somewhere along the way he went bad. Released from prison after serving time for one crime, he immediately starts planning another. And this will be the big one. He and three other guys will rob a casino run by a notorious gangster. This is dangerous--if they pull it off but the gangster learns who they are, they're as good as dead.

But Muller has a plan that will get them in and out with 200 grand in cash without anyone seeing them. Nothing ever goes as planned in a Noir film, though. Soon, Muller's buddies are all dead and he's on the run with a price on his head.

This is where his luck seems to change. He learns about a psychiatrist who looks just like him. Except for a scar on the doctor's face, the two could be twins.

So now Muller has a new plan. He'll have to cut a scar in his own cheek, but then its just a matter of learning as much as he can about the doctor, killing the doctor and taking his place. He knows enough about psycho-analysis to get by. Nothing can possibly go wrong. He even snaps a photo of the doctor to act as a guide when he cuts his own cheek.

He really should have made sure the negative wasn't reversed before the print was made. That way, he wouldn't have scarred the wrong cheek on his own face.

Muller doesn't notice this mistake until he's getting ready to dump the doctor's body. By then, there's nothing he can do but try to brazen it out and depend on how unobservant most people are.  But even if he gets away with that, there are other things about the doctor's life that might come back to haunt Muller.

The Scar (or whatever you want to call it) is a good Film Noir. Henreid does a fine job in bringing the clever, sometimes charming and always sociopathic John Muller to life. Joan Bennett, as the doctor's secretary who falls for Muller before the identity switch is made, also gives a strong performance.  The plot is a tad bit unlikely, of course, and there are moments when the story seems contrived. But overall its not a bad way to spend an hour-and-a-half of your time.

The film is in the public domain, so here it is from YouTube. If you have Amazon Prime, a pretty good print is available there.

Look for an absurdly young Jack Webb in a small role as a hitman.

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