For Reel

The Man with Two Faces (1934)
March 15, 2014, 8:58 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Archie Mayo
3.5 Stars
The Man with Two FacesIt’s a great bit of casting to peg Edward G. Robinson in the dual role at the center of The Man with Two Faces, which doesn’t for a moment attempt to conceal a twist that was meant to shock theatre-goers when they saw the play (originally titled The Dark Tower) in 1933. Playing the self-professed finest actor in the country and eventually sinking into a role so deeply that he fools all of those around him, it’s a character that forces the audience to reflect on Robinson’s incomparable talents–his elasticity as a performer is the main attraction. As for the film itself, it is visually masterful (credited to Tony Gaudio, who also shot Robinson in his break-out role in Little Caesar) and more than a little ridiculous. The talented Louis Calhern plays a caricatured villain so despicable that his wife (Mary Astor) becomes nearly comatose in his presence (one isn’t sure whether to attribute this to a history of abuse or bonafide hypnosis). He’s a marvel to behold in his grandiosity–it’s a ridiculous character, but the performance is every bit as intense as it is delirious. The film’s most accomplished moments come towards the beginning in which the arts of acting and directing creep into these character’s lives in more subtle ways. Robinson takes on the literal multifaceted role of the title, but the film makes an argument that everyone changes themselves based on the circumstances of those around them, whether that be to don the mask of the protector, or to find yourself rendered impotent when confronted by your abuser.