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Frank's Movie Log

My life at the movies.

A still from Behind the Mask (1932)

Behind the Mask

1932 | United States | 68 min
aka:
  • Secret Service
  • Watched on Sun Sep 12, 2021 via DVD (2013 | TCM Vault Collection | Karloff: Criminal Kind)
    C-: 3 stars (out of 5)

    Boris Karloff plays a low-level goon working for Mr. X, a mysterious drug smuggling kingpin. The G-Men have been trying to unmask Mr. X but have only dead agents to show for their efforts.

    Now, I’m going to spoil some plot twists. Said twists reveal themselves to the astute viewer within the first ten minutes, and it’s near-impossible to discuss the film without discussing the plot.

    The film opens with Karloff in prison. His cellmate, played by Jack Holt, declares his intent to escape. Karloff directs Holt to seek refuge at the home of one of Mr. X’s agents. In short order, we learn Holt is a Secret Service agent, and Mr. X is an upstanding doctor played by Edward Van Sloan. Sloan’s Mr. X persona consists of a beard and glasses. This disguise seems sufficient to conceal his identity despite his distinct accent.

    Anyway, this oddball mix of crime, mystery, and mad scientist genres proves a curious novelty provided you can look past the myriad plot holes. Even the screenwriters seem befuddled as the abrupt, inane ending had me laughing out loud.

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