The Devil's Mask


1h 6m 1946
The Devil's Mask

Brief Synopsis

A detective tries to identify a shrunken head found in a crashed cargo plane.

Film Details

Also Known As
The Head
Genre
Mystery
Release Date
May 23, 1946
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Columbia Pictures Corp.
Distribution Company
Columbia Pictures Corp.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the radio series I Love a Mystery created by Carlton E. Morse (16 Jan 1939--1944; 1947--1952).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 6m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1

Synopsis

When a transport plane headed for South America crashes, the police find an unidentified shrunken head in the wreckage. Traffic in the heads is illegal, and consequently, Capt. Quinn of the San Francisco police department visits the local museum to check if any of its collection is missing. There, Quinn encounters private detectives Jack Packard and Doc Long, who are waiting to meet a new client. After Quinn turns the head over to curator Raymond Halliday, Halliday asks taxidermist Leon Hartman to examine it. Soon after, the detectives' client appears, Mrs. Louise Mitchell, the wife of museum director Quentin Mitchell, who recently disappeared while on an expedition in South America. Louise tells the detectives that a man named Rex Kennedy has been following her and voices her fears that he may be in league with her stepdaughter Janet to kill her. That night, Janet and Rex visit Hartman, an old friend of Janet's father, and Janet confides her belief that Louise is romantically involved with Arthur Logan, an associate of her father, and that the two conspired to murder her father in the jungle. Janet concludes that she has enlisted Rex to help prove her suspicions. At the Mitchell house, meanwhile, Louise introduces the detectives to Logan, who has come to show them slides of the expedition on which Mitchell disappeared. As Logan flashes the slides on the screen, an unseen assailant fires a blow gun at him through the window. When the butler tries to apprehend the fleeing figure, he is killed by a dart from the gun. Later, when Packard questions Janet about the shooting, and she accuses Louise of having an affair with Logan and claims to have found love letters from Logan addressed to her stepmother. After the police discover that Rex's shoes match the footprints found at the scene of the murder, Quinn brings him in for questioning, exposes him as a gambler and con man and then arrests him for vagrancy. Released on bail, Rex forces his way into the Mitchell houses and charges Janet with betrayal. When Janet becomes hysterical, Rex takes her to see Dr. Karger, a neurologist who had earlier treated him for lack of self-confidence. While hypnotized by Karger, Janet enters a trance and reveals that she thinks her father was the man at the window. After bringing Janet out of her trance, Karger privately confers with Rex and tells him that he believes that Janet is suffering from father fixation. Overhearing their conversation, Janet feels betrayed and thinks that they are conspiring against her. When she finds Packard and Long in the doctor's waiting room, she asks them to take her home. Before leaving, Packard discovers that the doctor has recorded Janet's session and accuses him of blackmail, thus confirming Janet's suspicions. Soon after, a decapitated body is found in the bay. Thinking that it may belong to Mitchell, the detectives visit Hartman to explore the possibility that the recovered head may also have been Mitchell's. Unknown to them, Rex eavesdrops on their conversation and later follows them to the museum to meet Halliday. At the museum, they find that the night watchman has been locked in a closet and that one of the shrunken heads in the case may have been replaced with that of Mitchell. After carefully examining Mitchell's head, Packard discovers that a passage from the poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner , a poem dear to Hartman, has been inscribed in the beads sewn onto the head. Rex, meanwhile, confronts Hartman at his workshop and accuses him of killing Mitchell after Mitchell secretly returned to San Francisco to spy on his wife. Overhearing their conversation, Janet thinks that Rex is lying and is now planning to blackmail Hartman. To prove that he is telling the truth, Rex informs her that he followed Hartman to the museum and saw him knock out the night watchman. Pulling out a knife, Hartman threatens Rex and then admits that he murdered Mitchell because the explorer killed innocent animals and then forced Hartman to stuff them for exhibition at the museum. While Packard pounds at the door, Hartman hurls his knife into Rex and then opens the door and knocks the detective unconscious. As Hartman prepares to kill the wounded Rex, Packard regains consciousness and Hartman frees his pet leopard to kill him. Running through the open door into the workshop, Packard then locks Hartman outside with the vicious leopard. As the leopard attacks Hartman, Packard shoots the animal. Later, Janet, cured of her father fixation, embraces the wounded Rex in his hospital bed and apologizes to Louise for her suspicions. Louise then explains that the love letters were written by Logan long before she ever met Janet's father.

Film Details

Also Known As
The Head
Genre
Mystery
Release Date
May 23, 1946
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Columbia Pictures Corp.
Distribution Company
Columbia Pictures Corp.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the radio series I Love a Mystery created by Carlton E. Morse (16 Jan 1939--1944; 1947--1952).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 6m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1

Articles

The Devil's Mask


Carlton E. Morse's radio adventure serial I Love a Mystery ran on three different networks from 1939 to 1953 and inspired a short-lived film series from Columbia Pictures. A vast improvement over Henry Levin's tentative kick-off, I Love a Mystery (1945), was Levin's follow-up, The Devil's Mask (1946), which reunited stars Jim Bannon and Barton Yarborough as San Francisco private detectives Jack Packard and Doc Long. (Lost in the translation from radio to film was the participation of the partners' occasional British colleague, Reggie York, voiced by several actors - among them a young Tony Randall.) True to their source, Columbia's I Love a Mystery films boast Gothic and macabre flourishes which make them progenitors of such later mystery-horror fare as Hanna-Barbera's animated Scooby Doo, Where Are You? series and the cult television classics Kolchak: The Night Stalker and The X-Files. In The Devil's Mask, the discovery of a shrunken head in the wreckage of a downed plane draws Jack and Doc into the mystery of a missing museum curator and his psychologically damaged daughter (Anita Louise), whose undiagnosed Electra Complex may have driven her to murder. Shot with an expressionist eye for bottomless shadows by cinematographer Henry Freulich, The Devil's Mask augured great things for the franchise but Columbia pulled the plug on I Love a Mystery after just one more film - the aptly titled The Unknown (1946).

By Richard Harland Smith
The Devil's Mask

The Devil's Mask

Carlton E. Morse's radio adventure serial I Love a Mystery ran on three different networks from 1939 to 1953 and inspired a short-lived film series from Columbia Pictures. A vast improvement over Henry Levin's tentative kick-off, I Love a Mystery (1945), was Levin's follow-up, The Devil's Mask (1946), which reunited stars Jim Bannon and Barton Yarborough as San Francisco private detectives Jack Packard and Doc Long. (Lost in the translation from radio to film was the participation of the partners' occasional British colleague, Reggie York, voiced by several actors - among them a young Tony Randall.) True to their source, Columbia's I Love a Mystery films boast Gothic and macabre flourishes which make them progenitors of such later mystery-horror fare as Hanna-Barbera's animated Scooby Doo, Where Are You? series and the cult television classics Kolchak: The Night Stalker and The X-Files. In The Devil's Mask, the discovery of a shrunken head in the wreckage of a downed plane draws Jack and Doc into the mystery of a missing museum curator and his psychologically damaged daughter (Anita Louise), whose undiagnosed Electra Complex may have driven her to murder. Shot with an expressionist eye for bottomless shadows by cinematographer Henry Freulich, The Devil's Mask augured great things for the franchise but Columbia pulled the plug on I Love a Mystery after just one more film - the aptly titled The Unknown (1946). By Richard Harland Smith

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

The working title of this film was The Head. The film opens with a voice-over narration describing various artifacts in a museum. Although Mona Barrie's character is listed as "Eve" in CBCS and other contemporary sources, she is repeatedly called "Louise" in the viewed print. For additional information on the "I Love a Mystery" series, please consult the Series Index and see the entry below for I Love a Mystery.