If you’re a fan of old time (and sometimes creaky) mysteries, you could do far worse than spend a little over an hour watching The Devil’s Mask.
The story, let’s face it, is lower level pulp. We begin with a shadowy figure breaking into a museum and doing something with one (or more?) of the five shrunken heads on display recently brought in from South America. Then, a plane crashes and one of the few things recovered from the wreckage is a box whose address and destination has been burned off but whose contents remain intact.
Inside the box?
A shrunken head, of course!
Meanwhile, two detectives -one “serious” and the other more of a “comic relief”- are hired by the wife of a disappeared explorer to check in on her step daughter and boyfriend. The boyfriend is following her around at the behest of her stepdaughter and the stepmother fears the two want to do her harm. You see, the explorer who brought those shrunken heads into the museum is/was the husband of the stepmother, and he has mysteriously disappeared following an expedition south.
Was he murdered? By whom? Could the stepmother be hiding a hidden lover? Could she and the lover be the killers? Or is it possible the missing explorer is still alive and lurking in the shadows…ready to strike?
As I said, the plot itself is pure pulp and either you enjoy this sort of stuff or you won’t. Regardless, one can appreciate the lovely black and white cinematography and use of very heavy shadows. While the plot itself was mildly diverting, even a fan of the pulps like me will admit the story itself borders on the ridiculous (the whole airplane crashing thing never really amounted to more than a way to introduce the idea of the shrunken heads and the payoff to that was more than a little silly).
Still, what can I say? I enjoyed the film and it was short enough (as I said before, its total runtime is a little over an hour) to not wear out its welcome. A cautious recommendation is offered to those who like these kind of old “B” films.
Others might want to steer clear.