Did John Carradine ever star in anything we can call a classic? Oh sure, he put in supporting roles here and there in classics like The Ten Commandments. But with 340 movies and TV appearances to his credit, it sure seems like he had a knack for starring in c-grade movies. Now, I think he can be quite entertaining and he co-starred with legends like Bela Lugosi and Vincent Price. But he never quite became selective enough with his film choices. Sometimes, movies are buried for a reason and I think there are certainly some sound reasons for the burial of The Face of Marble (1946).
John Carradine plays our resident mad scientist Dr. Charles Randolph. He’s looking for the secret of bringing the dead back to life. He’s helped by young Dr. David Cochran, played by Robert Shayne (The Neanderthal Man and The Indestructible Man). Claudia Drake (Detour) played the lovely Elaine Randolph, who was apparently saved by Dr. Randolph at one point and now yearns for young Dr. David. Rosa Rey plays the maid and wannabe voodoo expert Maria while Willie Best adds humor as the now-stereotypical scared butler. It doesn’t take long for this movie to meander around as ideas are introduced then dropped then resurrected again later in the movie. It never really decides what it wants to be. Dr. Randolph is obsessed then he agrees he’s doing wrong then saves his wife then is remorseful. David seems like he’s interested in Elaine but then all of a sudden he’s engaged. Maria is whipping up voodoo magic left and right. Dogs hungry for flesh…but they’re ghosts…sometimes. There just doesn’t seem to be any solid direction. As for the title of the movie, it plays a part during the resurrection process. The dead’s face turns to marble for some reason. It’s never explained at all and really not a big part of the movie. Oh, and when the dead come back to life they’re insane, sort of. They are also solid, sometimes, and then turn to ghosts when it’s time to walk through walls. And if you want them to disappear and never come back, you apparently turn on the lights. Confused yet?
The story was written by Edmund Hartmann, who had talent as a screenplay writer as he did quite a bit of work, including several films starring Bob Hope and Abbott and Costello, as well as some of the Sherlock Holmes movies for Universal. However, it seems the ideas were better left to someone else. It was directed by William Beaudine, who has 366 titles to his credit but none of them academy award-winners. There are a lot of B-movies, some of them entertaining (Voodoo Man with Lugosi) and some not entertaining (Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla). Carradine’s presence makes the movie watchable to a point but you have to go in with very low expectations and with an extra 80 minutes of your day just waiting to be used up. It’s not available on DVD but is on Netflix streaming. Add it to your cue for a curiosity but keep it low on the list.