When I first started watching CURSE OF THE FACELESS MAN, i was sure this would be another candidate for Movies That Need To be Overlooked. Then it started to veer into that territory of so bad that they become good. The story here is a gladiator killed in the eruption of Vesuvius that buried Pompeii and an undying love that stretches over nearly two thousand years.
An excavation of of Isis’s temple uncovers a small cache of jewelry and a petrified human body which are returned to the local museum. Inside the container with the jewels is a bronze medallion that threatens death to anyone that stands between Quintillus Aurelius and his love. You see, a slave/gladiator had dared to fall in love with a daughter of nobility.
Richard Anderson, of Six Million Dollar man and Bionic Woman fame, stars as Dr. Paul Mallon, a medical researcher, and Elaine Edwards is Tina Enright, his fiancee/artist, and the focus of the stone man’s affections, what with her being the reincarnation of his long ago love. She begins to have dreams of a man coming for her and starts painting them, a vague looking figure. She eventually adds straps9more about that later).
The stone man has the disturbing ability to come to life at inopportune times, usually when some poor fool is alone with him, and strangle the life out of them. Then go back into his rock-like state whenever his work was done. The hoot was when old stone face came to life. As he rolls over and climbs to his feet, arms still locked in a forty-five degree position, you can see the rolls in the cheesy rubber suit(either that or he was having a mid-life bulge around the middle: perhaps a little too much lava for lunch).
Anderson, as the evidence mounts up, is the disbelieving man of science(amid the Italian archeologists with the opposite beliefs. The idea of a two thousand year old petrified body coming to life.
Now, all the really bad stuff:
the excavation of Pompeii at the beginning of the film: one man with a pick ax digging in the hillside. Certainly guaranteed to preserve anything hit.
When one of the stone man’s live episodes is witnessed, they restrain him, after he returns to solid state, with straps. Remember, his arms are eternally in a forty-five degree, out thrust angle. He has no trouble moving his arms together and producing slack.
When on one of his walkabouts, after his love, the lovely Tina Enright, the police and the good fiance surrounding her apartment, the stone man manages to sneak into the building. They seem to miss the sound of him him smashing through several solid wood doors, standing oblivious on the street, only reacting when she screams loud and long at sight of the monster.
He takes her and heads for the Mediterranean. You see, in his mind, the eruption of Vesuvius is just happening and he must get her into the water to save her.
There’s always clueless scientists in this sort of film. Here’s an exchange between two of them:
Dr Carlo Fiorillo: “One more of these killings and they will hold me criminally responsible.”
Dr. Emanuel: “The fools! Here we are so close to solving the mystery of life and death and they worry about their precious laws!”
CURSE doesn’t have a bad pedigree. Directed by genre veteran Edward L. Cahn, the script was by Jerome Bixby, an SF writer who did a lot of Hollywood work. He wrote four episodes of the original Trek series, but he’s most known for his short story IT’S A GOOD LIFE, which the Science Fiction Writers of America voted as one of the twenty best ever written. Billy Mumy starred in the 1961 TWILIGHT ZONE episode as the six year old boy with remarkable powers that terrorized the adults and also did the sequel as the adult version, still in charge, whose own daughter starts to exhibit similar powers in an episode on one of the later versions of Twilight… And of course Richard Matheson used the story as one of the segments in the film version of the show.
On it’s original release, it was paired in a double feature with It! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND, a much more remembered film, not to mention a better one(though cheesy in it’s own right).
Yes, CURSE goes into that vault in my mind of those films so bad that I love them(joining PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE and LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS). Check out the trailer below:
As always, for more good stuff, check out Todd Mason\'s SWEET FREEDOM.