Movie Review: The Face of Marble (1946)
“The last gasp in chillers!”
The Face of Marble (1946)
Director: William Beaudine
Cast: John Carradine, Claudia Drake, Robert Shayne
Synopsis: A scientist’s efforts to bring the dead back to life result in terrible consequences.
One of the things we learn early in life is that it’s unwise to piss off large dogs, but that’s exactly what Charles Randolph (John Carradine – Captains Courageous, The Grapes of Wrath) does in William ‘One Shot’ Beaudine’s silly, but strangely enjoyable, no-budget horror, The Face of Marble. Hidden away in an inconceivably small and cluttered lab in the remote seafront mansion he’s just moved into with frisky wife, Elaine (Claudia Drake), Randolph’s trying, with the irresolute aid of his young protégé Doctor Cochran (Robert Shayne, who was actually six years older than Carradine, but never mind), to return life to dead tissue. Fate initially smiles on the scientists when a fresh corpse washes up on the beach outside Randolph’s home, and even though they’re not really ready to start testing the doctor’s device on a human body, Randolph happily has a go anyway and, to his and Cochran’s excitement, the experiment succeeds – for all of twenty seconds, after which all life promptly drains from the body. Returning the corpse to the beach proves to be a mistake as well, because the police are quite rightly suspicious of a victim of drowning suffering a massive electric shock immediately before their demise.
Randolph’s got the bug now, though, and next to have their head inserted between his electrodes is Brutus, the slobbery Great Dane to whom Elaine is devoted. Now, any husband will tell you that’s a bad move on all sorts of levels, but science is a demanding mistress. Of course, first Randolph has to kill the poor mutt, which is the point where he loses the goodwill of much of the audience despite screenwriter Michael Jacoby’s strenuous attempts to make him a sympathetic character. At least this time his experiment is successful. The only problem now is that the freshly resurrected Brutus is in no mood for choc drops and pats on the head; in fact, the previously placid chap has devolved into a loudly barking killer of sheep with an uncanny knack for walking through walls (this trick appears to be The Face of Marble’s money shot because we see him repeatedly perform it throughout the film).
What The Face of Marble lacks in terms of… well… everything, it more than makes up for with a plot that simply doesn’t know when to stop. In addition to Randolph’s woes we have Mrs Randolph making it clear to young Doctor Cochran that she’s more than prepared to undergo any kind of examination of her that he’d like to perform, a voodoo-practicing maid willing to perform any kind of black magic ritual necessary to ensure her mistress gets what she wants, and Cochran’s hapless fiancé (Maris Wrixon) turning up unexpectedly at the worst possible moment. It doesn’t make a lot of sense much of the time, but that’s half the fun of these ultra-cheap horrors from Poverty Row.
(Reviewed 10th January 2017)