Plot: An archaeological expedition is hard at work, hoping to unearth some valuable or insightful relics from the last days of Pompeii. As it turns out, they uncover a landmark piece of history, a fully petrified man encased in stone. The dig also locates some other relics, including a mysterious medallion, but the petrified man is the real find and the researchers are ecstatic. The stone-man is to be transported so it can be studied, but the truck driver is killed under strange circumstances and no one seems to be able to figure out what happened. This leads to some unusual debate, as one scientist claims it could have been the stone-man who killed the driver, but the others laugh off his suggestion as pure fantasy. All that changes when the other scientists witness the stone-man rise and walk however, but what does this ancient man want?
Entertainment Value: This is a brisk, no frills b movie that is simple and formulaic, but Curse of the Faceless Man is also a run ride and manages to capture that special monster movie magic genre fans love. The narrative is basic, but does what it needs to do and I think the more serious approach taken here yields dividends, as it almost feels like a b movie spin on the Universal classics. The movie is still silly and has strong b movie vibes, but doesn’t fall into camp often and I think that works well. I appreciate wild camp of course, but this more serious approach is a welcome shift and helps the movie stand out from the crowd. The movie is also helped by a brisk pace and running time of just over an hour, so it flies by and little time is wasted. This is lean cinema, the story kicks off fast and filler is minimal, which was a wise choice. The narrative isn’t strong enough to hold a 90 minute movie, but at 67 minutes, it feels light and enjoyable. Sometimes less is more and that is certainly the case here.
Another reason The Curse of the Faceless Man is so solid is likely thanks to director Edward L. Cahn, who had a ton of b movie experience and knew how to work within the tight budget limitations. Cahn knew the audience for these kind of movies and that shows, as the pace is brisk and we’re given plenty of shots of the monster, while filler is minimal throughout. The cast makes a noble effort and while the material is thin and silly for the most part, the cast tries to make it all believable. The lack of camp might dissuade some b movie fans, but I appreciated the earnest performances and I think it adds a lot to the movie. Richard Anderson and Luis Van Rooten are fun as the dueling scientists, while Elaine Edwards, Adele Mara, and Joseph Garland Moore, Jr. help fill out the rest of the prominent roles. The monster is a simple one, but the lack of basic features adds a creepiness that I think works well. The movie is never shy about showing the monster either, giving us plenty of full view scenes and of course, interactions with the various cast members. I think The Curse of the Faceless Man is a fun, brisk b movie that genre fans should appreciate.