Monday, September 4, 2023



STOLEN FACE is a 1952 melodrama from Hammer and directed by Terence Fisher. I finally caught up with it on the Tubi streaming channel. 

STOLEN FACE is unlike most of the productions Hammer made in the early 1950s in that it is not a crime story with noir elements. The story deals with Dr. Phillip Ritter (Paul Henreid), a hard-working, selfless plastic surgeon. While on a much-needed vacation, Ritter meets a beautiful American concert pianist named Alice Brent (Lizabeth Scott). The two fall for each other, but Alice is involved with another man (Andre Morell), and she leaves for a tour of Europe. Depressed, Phillip performs surgery on a female convict who was disfigured during WWII. Phillip transforms the woman (named Lily) into a duplicate of Alice, and he even marries her. Lily may be changed on the outside, but on the inside she's still the same dysfunctional person, despite Phillip's efforts to provide her a better life. Alice decides to return to Phillip, but the surgeon is now tied to the vindictive Lily, as he realizes his attempt to create happiness has only hurt the lives of everyone involved. 

One main thing Terence Fisher fans will discover when watching STOLEN FACE is how it anticipates some of the director's future work. The idea of a brilliant man creating a "duplicate" of a lost love was also explored in Fisher's THE FOUR SIDED TRIANGLE, and FRANKENSTEIN CREATED WOMAN also had a master surgeon totally changing a disfigured young woman's appearance. (The producer of STOLEN FACE was Anthony Hinds, who wrote the screenplay for FRANKENSTEIN CREATED WOMAN. You have to believe that the earlier film was on Hinds' mind.) If you want to get even more film geeky about it, you could also say that STOLEN FACE is a prime example of a theme that runs throughout Fisher's work as a director: the "charm of evil", or the idea that the most attractive and dynamic personalities are the ones who create the most harm to others. 

There's also a slight resemblance to VERTIGO after Dr. Ritter performs the surgery on Lily. He steers her toward having the same hair color and using the same makeup as Alice, and he also gets her a brand new wardrobe. And just like James Stewart in VERTIGO, Paul Henreid sadly comes to the conclusion that the recreation of his lost love can never come close to matching the original. 

Paul Henreid is quite good as Dr. Ritter, who is basically a decent man that makes a major mistake in trying to create love instead of having it happen naturally. Some critics have felt that Henreid wasn't desperate or obsessed enough, but this is a kindly middle-aged man who has spent his life helping others--he's not a mad scientist. Lizabeth Scott also does well in a dual role. The part of the pre-surgery Lily was played by Mary MacKenzie, and she dubbed Scott's voice as the post-surgery Lily. 

It appears that Hammer (along with co-producer Robert Lippert) tried to have STOLEN FACE come off at a higher level than the usual product the company was making at this time. Along with the two Hollywood stars, the movie has a lush music score by Malcolm Arnold, and Lizabeth Scott's wardrobe was designed by the legendary Edith Head. The movie is still essentially a B picture--it is only 71 minutes long, and Fisher's style is typical for this period--he shows the viewer exactly what they need to see, without wasting time or using any excess frills. STOLEN FACE also has something that is very much in common with Hammer's overall product, even its horror films--an abrupt ending that tries to tie things up a bit too neatly. 

I believe STOLEN FACE is one of the better entries in Terence Fisher's early Hammer career. The story is much more intriguing than the generic crime stories Fisher was directing around this time, and Paul Henreid and Lizabeth Scott give the movie a high-class sheen. It needs to be pointed out that before he became known for Gothic horrors, Fisher directed not only Henreid and Scott, but such notables as Dirk Bogarde, Jean Simmons, Herbert Lom, George Brent, Diana Dors, Tom Conway, and Pat O'Brien. Even if Terence Fisher hadn't become tied to horror films, I think he would have handled any of his assignments efficiently and effectively. 


  1. I found this movie on Youtube and enjoyed it. The plot seemed slightly unbelievable, but the actors make it worth watching. Lizabeth Scott has a chance to stretch her acting muscles a little more than usual. Mary McKenzie was very impressive. But no amount of plastic surgery in the world could turn her into another Lizabeth Scott!

    1. At first I honestly thought that Scott was playing both roles! "Man, that sure is a great makeup job on her!"