The Face of Marble

June 25, 2012 at 2:13 am (6 Heads, Face of Marble) (, , , , , , )

The Face of Marble – 1946 – United States

William Beaudine directed over 350 flicks between the 20s and 70s. Equally prolific is actor John Carradine, with over 300 credits from the 30s to the 90s. Beaudine and Carradine often worked for Poverty Row studios, the leader of which was Monogram Pictures. Typical of old Monogram releases, The Face of Marble seems creaky today, but its talented cast and crew and inventive story go far to compensate.

On a stormy night, a drowned sailor washes up on a rocky beach. Two scientists take the corpse to their dark mansion to use for their experiments. With electrical shocks, they resurrect the sailor, who attacks them savagely. The younger scientist is disturbed and urges the older scientist to abandon the project. The older scientist refuses, and before long, he kills his wife’s mastiff and revives it as a blood-drinking phantom. Subplots unfold involving jealousy and treachery between the scientists’ wives and a voodoo-practicing housemaid. After one of the wives is murdered, she too returns as a killer specter, causing the flick’s bleakly bloody climax.

If this summary is vague, it’s because the plot is full of unintentional ambiguity. The older scientist’s wife and the voodoo housemaid share an intriguing history that is only alluded to. Equally hazy is their relationship and motivations, details of which could add great depth and clarity to the promising premise. Instead, the narrative is so bewildering that at one point I wasn’t sure if one of the characters was dead or alive.

But Face of Marble is still interesting thanks to John Carradine as the kind yet sinister scientist. His morbid research is ultimately for the preservation of life and he’s easy to empathize with, even as he snatches bodies and kills dogs. Plus, I’ve always dug flicks that investigate the realm between life and death, for example Carnival of Souls (1962). Face of Marble doesn’t explore its subject matter on a philosophical or spiritual level, but it has certain visceral spookiness. What exists in that twilight realm that drives the resurrected spirits to insane bloodlust? Probably our mortal minds couldn’t handle the revelation, and it’s that mystery which lingers hauntingly after the credits roll.

Rating: 6/10 Shrunken Heads. For further education, read an issue of The Journal for Near-Death Studies.

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