Man with 100 Faces (1938)

Genres - Crime, Drama, Romance  |   Run Time - 72 min.  |   Countries - United Kingdom   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Bruce Eder

Every so often, even those who have seen a vast range of movies of a given era and country get surprised -- that's the case with Albert de Courville's Crackerjack (1938) (aka The Man With 100 Faces), starring Tom Walls and Lilli Palmer. If this movie had been made in America, it would have starred William Powell and would probably be regarded as a classic today; instead, it was made in England and never found an audience anywhere else. What's great is that it's not too late -- at the risk of offending Anglophile audiences, this movie still seems almost too good to have come out of England. It has the breezy pace of an unusually good American independent film of its day and the opulence of a solid American A-picture, without any slow moments or slackness; even the musical numbers, which are part of the plot and are worked in beautifully, are delightful and don't slow the story down for an instant. When the plot turns violent and threatening, it happens in an instant, very convincingly. But amid the mayhem and the violence, the movie slips in the most delightfully racy dialogue -- as the hero is interrupted on his way to his hotel room at a late hour, the manager apologizes for keeping him out of bed, to which he replies, "Oh, that's alright -- it's a single one." The movie is filled with delightful performances and a good measure of suspense amid the laughter and breezy pacing and character developments. The period Art Deco set designs are almost worth the price of admission, and the laughs are still fresh years after the original release, while the plot will prove a revelation to fans of such television heroes as The Saint. And it has the added advantage of showing us an array of actors who, apart from the two stars, are so little known outside of England yet so good in their roles.