The Man Who Reclaimed His Head (1934)

Article #530 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 8-27-2002
Posting date: 1-20-2003

A pacifist journalist hooks up with an ambitious but untrustworthy editor and later discovers his cause has been betrayed.

If you’re like me, you may have first encountered this movie on your local creature feature where it was included with horror packages on release at the time. There are only four reasons I can think of that would cause this drama to be classified as such: 1) the title sounds like it might be a horror movie, albeit an eccentric one, 2) the ending of the movie involves madness and a rather horrifying murder, 3) the presence of Lionel Atwill, and 4) the fact that this was Claude Rain’s follow-up to THE INVISIBLE MAN. All I could remember from having seen this movie in my childhood was the opening scene where Rains talks to a lawyer; since I had been expecting a horror movie, it’s easy to see why I forgot the rest.

On its own, it’s a little slow-moving; certain scenes take too long to make their points, and others go on after they have already made their points. Still, the story itself is pretty solid and interesting. It also pulls off the nice trick of keeping in mind that it is about a character who is a pacifist rather than about pacifism per se; the preachiness inevitable in the subject matter ends up being directed between the characters on the screen rather than at us in the audience, leaving the movie to explore the deeper and more universal issues that are its true themes; idealism, integrity, compromise, and corruption. This is a nice trick for this sort of movie, and one that is rarely pulled off, so I can’t help but admire one that does it well.

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