'Man Of A Thousand Faces: Special Edition'
(James Cagney, Dorothy Malone, Jane Greer, et al / Blu-ray / NR / (1957) 2019 / Arrow Films UK)
Overview: 'Man Of A Thousand Faces' is the life and career of vaudevillian and silent screen horror star Lon Chaney, including his contentious relationship with his neurotic wife and his premature death.
Blu-ray Verdict: Over the years it's been quite interesting to see the difference of opinion between people/fans about this cinematic work of art, 'Man of a Thousand Faces.'
Personally, I fall into the category of loving this particular film and furthermore, I think it was James Cagney's finest piece of thespianism. How he was overlooked in the Oscar sweepstakes for this performance is beyond me though.
It's so far from anything Cagney had ever done before. And he got to use all his talents, acting and musical, as the beginning had Lon Chaney on the vaudeville stage doing his pantomime act.
Lon Chaney's was born to deaf mute parents and learned to sign to communicate with them. That led to his interest in pantomime, a stage career in vaudeville and finally silent movies.
The film plays fast and loose with the facts of Chaney's life, but I think it captures the spirit of the man who created for the silent screen so many tortured souls.
Dorothy Malone and Jane Greer play wives one and two. Dorothy Malone had just come off an Oscar the year before in Written on the Wind. This is a marvelous follow up part for an actress that for ten years was thought as little more than ornamental.
Jane Greer is also good as the wise and patient second wife who knows she's playing second fiddle to the relationship of father and son.
Irving Thalberg is played by Robert Evans, whom Norma Shearer spotted by the pool at the Beverly Hills Hotel and promoted him for the role of her dead husband. Roger Smith plays Chaney's son. He was "discovered" by Cagney in Hawaii and promoted for the role of Chaney, Jr.
Others in the cast include Jim Backus as the press agent, Marjorie Rambeau as the old-time actress, Marjorie Bennett as Vera the maid, and Celia Lovsky as the mother.
However, one thing I didn't appreciate was that the film seemed to exploit Chaney's parents. Creating problems that did not exist in real life. For example, when Chaney's first wife meets them, she has no idea they are deaf, but this was simply not the case in real life.
Thus, it just felt cheap and like they were capitalizing on their deafness for the sake of a plot gimmick.
But, and regardless, 'Man With A Thousand Faces' - whether accurate or not - was, without a shadow of a doubt, a loving tribute to Chaney that was instrumental in a revival of interest in his films. This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs via a brand new Blu-ray (1080p) HD presentation and comes with the Special Features of:
Brand new restoration from the original negative by Arrow Films
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
Uncompressed Mono 1.0 PCM audio soundtrack
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
New audio commentary by film scholar Tim Lucas
The Man Behind a Thousand Faces, a newly filmed look at Lon Chaney and his legacy by the critic Kim Newman
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys
+ FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Fully Illustrated booklet with a newly commissioned essay by Vic Pratt of the BFI
'Man With A Thousand Faces' Original Movie Trailer