SCOTLAND YARD (1930)
Article 5265 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by William K. Howard
Featuring Edmund Lowe, Joan Bennett, Donald Crisp
What it is: Crime drama
During World War I, a criminal joins the army to evade the police, but has his face destroyed in an enemy barrage. A French plastic surgeon restores his face under the assumption that the photograph in a locket the criminal was carrying was his own face; in fact, he had stolen it from a banker. The criminal decides to use his resemblance to the banker for his own purposes.
The fantastic content of this movie, as explained by the Don Willis guide, was that plastic surgery in the movie was beyond the capabilities of plastic surgery in real life, and I can see where he’s coming from; it’s similar to the exaggerations movies applied to hypnotism and lifelike face masks, just to name a couple. However, I can also see putting this phenomenon into the realm of movie convention rather than in outright science fiction; I don’t recall within the movie there being any mention of the surgeon having developed any new techniques, so I’d have to say the fantastic content is extremely marginal. The movie is very much an early talkie, which is to say it creaks and paces itself so deliberately that you could visit the refrigerator in the spaces between the lines. It’s based on a stage play, but it least it does some interesting things with the framing, occasionally focusing on close-ups of objects, and this helps it fight the “photographed stage play” feeling. Still, the script itself is rather creaky, especially when it attempts to be subtle about meanings that are blatantly obvious. Still, it does have some points of interest, but it requires a certain amount of patience and a little forgiveness.
The 1930 Fox release SUCH MEN ARE DANGEROUS just happens to feature Bela Lugosi as the plastic surgeon called upon to change the appearance of wealthy patron Warner Baxter, who intends to use his new look to seduce and abandon the wife who shunned him. Like the 1932 6 HOURS TO LIVE it’s less genre than odd love story, Baxter better served by Columbia’s Crime Doctor series of 10 titles (also in a 1940 curiosity called EARTHBOUND).