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The Mask of Dimitrios Reviews

One of the great film noir classics to come out of the 1940s, THE MASK OF DIMITRIOS boasts no superstars, just uniformly fine talents, a terrific script full of subtle intrigue and surprises, and Negulesco's exciting direction. It's an edge-of-the-seater all the way. Lorre is Leyden, a Dutch mystery writer vacationing in Istanbul. At a party he great film noir classics to come out of the 1940smeets one of his most ardent fans, Col. Haki (Katch), head of the secret police, who tells him that the body of arch criminal Dimitrios Makropoulous (Scott), has washed up on the nearby beach, murdered, stabbed to death. What fascinates Leyden is Haki's obsession with Makropoulos, a man who practiced "murder, treason, and betrayal" as a way of life. After a visit to the morgue to view the body, Leyden decides to write a novel about the sinister man and begins to delve into his past. What he encounters is a heady, complexly plotted brew of blackmail, seduction, spy intrigues, assassination and suicide. Other than Ambler's American title for his novel and the fact that the mystery-detective writer is English rather than Dutch (an attempt to explain Lorre's slight accent), almost nothing was changed from the original novel. Ambler's despicable antihero is most certainly based upon the early career of one of the world's greatest intriguers, billionaire munitions king Basil Zaharoff. Though Lorre performs one of his few sympathetic roles with fascinating aplomb, Greenstreet, whom Lorre affectionately called "the old man" after they had become close friends while making THE MALTESE FALCON, dominates their scenes together. The entire film fits with the murky intrigue of the era, its stylized sets, low-key lighting, and a literate, witty script working to enchance the wonderful character actors in their segmented roles. Francen is particularly effective as the suave master spy, and impressive, handsome newcomer Scott is a properly loathsome creature without remorse or compassion for his myriad victims. Emerson, as a deserted tart, is also very good, as is Geray as a hapless, trusting government clerk. This film, under Negulesco's superb guidance, remains a superlative espionage yarn that artfully blends fact with fiction.