Face of Fire (1959)

FACE OF FIRE (1959)
Article #1771 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-19-2006
Posting Date: 6-18-2006
Directed by Albert Band
Featuring Cameron Mitchell, James Whitmore, Bettye Ackerman

When a handyman attempts to save a child from a burning building, he ends up horribly disfigured and mentally handicapped. As a result of his injuries, he and anyone who harbors him become pariahs in the town in which he lives.

If it weren’t for its poor ending, I BURY THE LIVING would rank with my favorite horror movies from its era. Much of what I do like about the movie is Albert Band’s taught direction, and I’m really glad to catch another one of his movies. This one is not a horror movie, but its subject matter and central themes (deformity and fear) are cut from the same materials as many horror films; in fact, it was based on a story by Stephen Crane called “The Monster”. No, this is at heart a drama, and a painful and devastating one at that. It takes a long, hard look at how people would react to a man suffering such extreme deformities, and often their reactions are just as ugly as his visage. It is quite harrowing to see their reactions, especially when they think he is dead and begin hypocritically praising him for his bravery. What makes it most painful is its air of truth; it is quite easy to see people acting this way when you know that they (and we) are capable of it when we let fear take control of us. James Whitmore and Cameron Mitchell are both excellent as the deformed handyman and the doctor (whose son it was that was rescued from the fire) who cares for him, even when he himself becomes a pariah and has to watch his son cope with the situation. I found myself very grateful for the ending of the movie, since it generates a spark of hope from what has begun to look like a hopeless situation. This is a powerful film, and I highly recommend it.

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