Cast & Crew
In the basement laboratory of a lone cliffhouse, Professor Charles Randolph, a brain surgeon, is aided by fellow scientist David Cochran in attempting the revivification of a recently drowned sailor, using electric shock. As Charles's young wife Elaine enters the lab, the victim's body stirs, his hair turns white, and his face becomes frozen, like marble, before he again dies. Charles then has the coast guard return the body to the scene of the shipwreck. After Elaine unsuccessfully pleads with David to stop her husband's sinister experiments, Maria, the house maid who is maniacally devoted to Elaine, places a voodoo doll under David's pillow to make him fall in love with Elaine and support her. Her plot fails, however, when David burns the voodoo doll in acid, and Maria places a curse on the house. Meanwhile, after the coroner finds the sailor's death to be caused by electric shock, not drowning, homicide inspector Norton accuses Charles of tampering with the corpse. Charles next kills Elaine's faithful Great Dane, Brutus, and shocks him alive again. Although the dog is now immortal, he becomes extremely dangerous. Then in an effort to keep David at the house, Charles sends for his fiancée, Linda Sinclair. On her first night there, Brutus enters through Linda's closed bedroom window and terrifies her. The next morning, Norton announces that local stock farm animals were found dead with their throats ripped apart and their blood drained. Realizing that Brutus was responsible, Elaine becomes angry at Charles. Linda and David prepare to leave, but that night, still hoping that David will choose Elaine, Maria places a deadly potion in Elaine's room, believing Linda is sleeping there, and Elaine is asphyxiated. David and Charles revivify her, but, in her delirium, she calls only David's name, and Linda is convinced that Elaine is in love with him. When Charles finds an incense burner in Elaine's room, he realizes that Maria killed her with a root used in the voodoo death ritual. Maria then places Elaine in a trance and orders her to stab Charles. Maria accuses David of the murder, and Norton arrests him. David fears Linda will not be safe at the house with Maria and flees the police, while Shadrach, the butler, confesses he saw Elaine stab Charles. At the house, Brutus and Elaine nearly attack Linda, but David's sudden arrival saves her. Later, Maria is found dead from the death root, and two pairs of footprints, human and canine, are seen walking out to sea.
Thomas E. Jackson
General, A Dog
Joseph I. Kane
William H. Wilmarth
The Face of Marble
Unfolding with the illogical progression of a bad dream, The Face of Marble opens on a dark and stormy night as Professor Randolph (John Carradine) searches for a new guinea pig for his electro-chemical experiment, a procedure that has the potential to revive the recently deceased. Immediately you know he's doomed to failure because mad scientists in horror films NEVER succeed. But Dr. Randolph doesn't know that and, along with fellow researcher Dr. David Cochran (Robert Shayne), tries to bring a drowned fisherman back to life, succeeding only in giving the cadaver a "face of marble" (a ghostly white makeup effect that Robert Blake must have copied for his character in David Lynch's Lost Highway, 1997). Other guinea pigs follow including Brutus, the faithful family dog, who is transformed into a transparent being who starts preying on the local livestock.
With its dingy, claustrophobic sets and overwrought performances, The Face of Marble often looks and sounds like a bad play performed by the inmates of a mental institution. Take, for instance, the scene where David's fiance Linda witnesses a ghostly visitation from Brutus. She freaks out, telling Dr. Randolph's wife, Maria, that she saw "a monster dog, he came in right through the closed window. He had a mad gleam in his eye, he was frothing at the mouth." To which Maria responds impassively, "Well, perhaps you'd rather sleep in my room, Linda." Like duh. How about calling the local exorcist? Nobody behaves sensibly in movies like The Face of Marble which is part of its loony charm.
In Poverty Row Horrors! by Tom Weaver, co-star Robert Shayne recalled working on The Face of Marble and his impressions of workaholic actor John Carradine who would rehearse Shakespeare dialogue on the darkened set when all of the other crew and cast members broke for lunch. He also remembered seeing the film with an audience: "I went to see a preview of it over in South Los Angeles somewhere, with my wife and another couple. We were near the back of the theatre, and as this picture went along I hung my head, I was so embarrassed by it! Finally, when the thing was over, I got out into the lobby...Two young ladies came out and stood against an opposite wall, and they did a double take when they saw who I was. And one of them came over to me and said [wagging a finger], "Mr. Shayne, you ought to be ashamed to be in a picture like that!" Even the Legion of Decency dumped on The Face of Marble, giving it a B rating with these comments, "encourages credence in voodooism and superstitious practices; suicide in plot solution."
All of which makes The Face of Marble required viewing for horror movie die-hards and those willing to open their minds to the genuine delights of a poverty row quickie. The only downer is Willie Best's appearance as the frightened black servant, a painful reminder of the racial stereotypes that were prevalent in Hollywood movies of this era.
One note of interest: the director, William Beaudine, entered films at the medium's early beginnings, working with D.W. Griffith. Although he directed several notable silents such as Little Annie Rooney (1925) and Sparrows (1926), he primarily ended up working for cheapjack operations like PRC and Monogram Pictures. The famous story goes that Beaudine, working late one evening on a low-budget Western for Monogram, was ordered by an executive to speed up production due to product-hungry exhibitors. His famous retort, "You mean someone out there is actually waiting to see this?" has since become legendary.
Producer: Jeffrey Bernerd
Director: William Beaudine
Screenplay: Michel Jacoby
Art Direction: Dave Milton
Cinematography: Harry Neumann
Editing: William Austin
Music: Edward J. Kay
Cast: John Carradine (Dr. Charles Randolph), Claudia Drake (Elaine Randolph), Robert Shayne (David Cochran), Maris Wrixon (Linda Sinclair), Willie Best (Shadrach).
by Jeff Stafford