Not every sci-fi or horror flick is destined to be a classic. Some are truly bad while others balance that line from bad to so-bad-it’s good. And then there are those films that simply exist, neither bad nor good. Through the years, they’ve slipped through the cracks and been mostly forgotten. That is until home video decides it’s time to unearth them for a new generation to determine their value among the classics. And so we have Curse of the Faceless Man (1958).
The initial premise behind Curse of the Faceless Man is somewhat interesting and unique. A body is discovered at the site of Pompeii. It’s soon revealed to be that of a gladiator believed to have died during the infamous volcanic eruption. He is wearing an Etruscan medallion, indicating he may have been part of an ancient cult. The body is soon removed and being transported to a facility for study when it comes to life in the bed of the truck. The driver is killed and the faceless man is found nearby the wreckage. Upon further examination, there is blood on his hand. What follows is a series of events with the body being left alone with someone and coming to life, leaving a trail of bodies and many people clueless as to what is happening.
Curse of the Faceless Man is a low-budget independent release that is more often than not overlooked. I stumbled across it on Netflix years ago before it was eventually released on DVD and now Blu-ray. It features a young Richard Anderson as Dr. Paul Mallon, years before he would portray Oscar Goldman on The Six Million Dollar Man. He turns in a rather good performance but I’ve always enjoyed whatever I’ve seen him appear in. It’s nice to see Adele Mara as the intelligent Italian archeologist Maria Fiorello while Elaine Edwards’ performance as Tina Enright is also interesting. The sub-plot of Tina experiencing visions is something different from the usual monster fare at the time.
The monster suit isn’t necessarily earth shattering but designer Charles Gemora does an adequate job of creating what is really a rather believable creature. Legendary Jerome Bixby wrote the potentially good script years before writing the Mirror, Mirror episode on Star Trek or It’s a Good Life on The Twilight Zone. And director Edward L. Cahn follows up his previous efforts Creature with the Atom Brain (1955) and Invasion of the Saucer Men (1957) with a well put together film. So why doesn’t this film get more love?
At the time of release, it was easily overshadowed by the other film on the double bill, It! The Terror from Beyond Space, which is admittedly a superior film. It had all the elements for a better film but suffers from a weak script. It’s not one of Jerome Bixby’s better efforts as nothing really seems to happen. Everything is in place and it looks great but the viewer keeps waiting and waiting for something more to happen. Unfortunately, it never really does. At 67 minutes, you haven’t lost a lot of time and you won’t walk away wanting that time back. But you feel unsatisfied and wanting more.
Curse of the Faceless Man is worth watching once but should be paired with something a little more substantial. It’s readily available on Bu-ray, so check it out for yourself. It would make a nice opening film for a rainy day weekend double feature matinee.