The Face of Marble (1946) An Odd John Carradine Obscurity with an “Identity Crisis”

The Face of Marble (1946) Directed by William Beaudine (Ghosts on the Loose and Bela’s The Ape Man and Billy the Kid VS Dracula)

Screenplay Michel Jacoby Original Story William Thiele and Edmund Hartmann.

Since I’d like to be a John Carradine completest I was very thrilled to get the chance to finally watch The Face Of Marble. Carradine whom I adore so much that I could virtually watch the man eat a tuna sandwich with a cup of coffee and I’d be content because Carradine has such a wonderfully sublime complexion.

Expecting such as the case with The Man Who Turned To Stone, that the horrific side effects of the unusually well intended Dr Charles Randolph’s experimenting with re-animation of dead people, that said dead people would appear to have well…. FACES OF MARBLE!!!!!!!!! not Faces of Pallor.

The guy looks more like he belongs in a German 80s New Wave music video.

I’m not saying that I didn’t enjoy the film, as it had some interesting atmospherics and again, Carradine always brings something wonderful to the table. It’s just that this offering from Monogram Pictures, sort of suffered from a severe identity crisis!

The Face of Marble didn’t know what kind of film it was supposed to be. Frankenstein, The Man They Could Not Hang, Isle Of The Dead, The Hound of the Baskervilles, I Walked With a Zombie, Ghosts On The Loose, Dracula, The 4D Dog? or a variation on White Zombie. And even though it predates The She Creature the end of the film is pretty much the same with footprints in the sand that lead into the ocean, the waves breaking against the shore with no sign of Elaine or Brutus.

The character of Maria reminds me more of the superstitious old women Madame Kyra who suspected the beautiful Ellen Drew of being a “Vorvolaka” a Greek sort of succubus or vampire in Val Lewton’s Isle of the Dead (1945)

John Carradine plays the kindly Dr Charles Randolph who has moved to an isolated house on the coast somewhere to pursue his experimentation in reviving dead bodies. Unlike most mad scientist’s who are narcissistic Megalomaniacs Dr Randolph is more like the kindly altruistic humanitarian type that Boris Karloff often played who is truly looking to help mankind with his discovery. He is assisted by a clean-cut young man Dr. David Cochran played by Robert Shayne. Dr Randolph isn’t even one of those tyrants who forces David to work with him, by threatening either his death or worse the life of his girlfriend. At one point he accepts David’s wishes to go home with Linda. So Randolph doesn’t fall into the evil mad scientist trope, just an altruistic good-natured scientist who wants to help all of humanity by bringing them back to life if let’s say they drown or fall out of a building, you know help a poor dead person out.

Dr Cochran is too blinded by his work with Dr Randolph to notice that Randolph’s wife Elaine played by Claudia Drake, has fallen madly in love with him. Elaine had suffered a horrible brain injury a year ago, and Dr. Randolph was the only one who was brave enough and brilliant enough to pull her from the clutches of death, having performed a miraculous surgery on her. For that, she married him and it’s been a year since.

Dr Randolph was probably one of the best brain specialists in the world but he never had time for women until Elaine came along.

Now she lives in the house tucked away on the cliffs by the sea, with her fanatically devoted maid Maria played by Rosa Rey. Who was in Fritz Lang’s very cool Secret Beyond The Door (1947)

Maria is a superstitious zealot who practices a type of jungle magic or voodoo. The factual accuracy as far as which deity she was always swaying over the flames praying to in her secret rites is very unclear to me. She had more of an Eastern European Gypsy aura to her. I tried to make out the name of the Goddess but Maria sounded more like Bela Lugosi’s Aunt Olenka and looked more like Maria Ouspenskaya…

Rather than a jungle priestess (so I’m not sure who the hell she was always making references to), Maria spent a lot of time peeking around corners and listening in on conversations when she wasn’t swaying over the flames that is.

Maria is the true antagonist in this film and not Dr. Randolph, because of her meddling and mysterious form of matchmaker planting a doll in the likeness of Elaine in David’s coat pocket or under his pillow, creating a love spell, and essentially interfering in Elaine’s marriage to Dr. Randolph and David’s engagement to childhood sweetheart Linda Sinclair played by Maris Wrixon.

The film opens with a flash of lightning near a seaside house on the edge of a cliff. A sleeping Great Dane by the fireplace. A woman in repose and another figure bringing in more wood for the fire. The music is typical 30’s hybrid vaudeville/ominous. The kind they used for cartoons of that day, It sounds like a big bad wolf is stalking an unawares maiden in the woods. What was ominous for that time, sounds almost farcical now with the exaggerated horns and oboes.

A clap of thunder wakes the sleeping Elaine as Maria her maid puts an afghan over her. “Yes my little one you are cold…don’t worry about the doctor going down by the shore, the great spirit Tonga looks after him? Who is Tonga, obviously a deity that Marie prays to?

Elaine says “Oh Maria, is this some more of your voodoo magic?” Maria says “In the jungles, it is said” but Elaine challenges her “Whatever it is that is said I don’t believe it!…besides this is not the jungle, this is” She’s interrupted by Maria who says “Tonga’s everywhere.”

Shadrach, The black servant comes running in “I saw the master bringing around a dead body It must be the devil come around collecting the dead.”  Yet another superstitious character, of course, nonwhite.

So just a brief summing up of the story in a nutshell. Dr Randolph one of the world’s greatest brain surgeons discovers a way to revive the dead. Dr David Cochran his trusted assistant has developed the “formula” that aids in this process that involves the following:

A contraption called the Wescott Gage, something called a Hesler Tube, some spiral glass tubes that light up with inert noble gases like that of neon that arc between metal rods. A huge wall of knobs that you turn when you need to increase the electrical charge, some tubing, and a flask with “the formula” that you use as a transfusion into the arm of the dead subject. And of course, always, increasing the voltage!

The atmospherics at times were not bad, although if this film was held up to comparison with film noir, I would call it more “film opaque” as most of the scenes were in undiscernible pitch blackness. So I apologize profusely for the dark images. That’s actually how I had to view the film myself.

The first subject the doctors try their experiment out on is a sailor from a fishing boat that sunk, and as he washed up on the shore, it was very convenient for them to use his body to test out their theory. There is a thunderstorm raging outside the laboratory, but unlike Frankenstein where the electrical secrets of heaven helped bring the monster to life, the thunder and lightning here were neither needed nor served to impede the experiment. It was just there for the sake of adding atmosphere to the picture.

As the thunderstorm is hammering outside the lab Dr Randolph comments on the sailor’s “reflex in the muscular reaction” he calls to David  “Give it the full charge!”

This essentially means with these scientists dabbling in esoteric ventures that scientists ought not to do, literally full charge translates into turning a few knobs and watching the really cool arcs of light between two metal rods.

At first, Dr. David Cochran goes from basking in the reflective glory of the great experiment to suddenly worrying about the authorities.

Dr Randolph assures him “Certainly if there’s the slightest chance of bringing a man back to life!” But David worries “What if we fail? The good doctor Randolph says “I’ll take full responsibility!”

“We’ll increase the voltage on the Hesler Tube and that should do it… throwing it away would be a catastrophe for science!” and Dr. Randolph reminds David that he’s the one who pioneered the formula.

So this experiment having to do something with a transfusion of some kind and little glass tubes that encircle the dead person’s head while increasing the electrical energy is underway and Dr Randolph remarks “I couldn’t lose this opportunity he was washed ashore right at my feet.”

The sailor starts to come alive, slowly his black eyes flutter open as his head in between two curly glass tubes that spark flashes of noble gassy light from the electrical current passing through his temples.

Once the drowned man on the table starts to awaken, Dr. Charles Randolph looks so strange. David says “But look at that face, it’s a face of marble!” Dr. Randolph says “Yes but the scientific fact remains that we’ve conquered death”

Unfortunately, Randolph’s wife Elaine wanders into the laboratory just at the wrong time and sees the unholy goings-on and screams once she realizes what her scientist husband has been doing all this time with these clandestine experiments.

David goes to her and speaks to her like a child.”Now don’t worry about that and leave us like a good girl.” I have no comment about this demeaning remark at this time. She listens to David and slinks away from the laboratory.

The storm causes a transformer to blow, I guess that is this Wescott Gage they talk about. The dead sailor with the face of marble? He looks more like a guy with the face of Revlon Cover Up Foundation, suddenly clutches the back of his neck and drops to the floor like a flounder. Dr. Randolph checks his pulse “he’s dead quite dead, beyond help now”

Later on that night, Elaine goes to David’s room “It’s something sinister, frightening, David you must stop him!”

Maria is watching from the shadowy corners like a minion from the cult of “The Matchmaking Crone Society” Elaine is begging David to leave and stop helping Charles with his experiments. Maria is elated that her ” little one” is in love with David.

Dr. Randolph and David bring the sailor back to the beach and alert the coast guard that the body has washed ashore. The next morning over breakfast the headline in the local paper says Sailor found on the beach. Maria serves the men and looks strangely at David, who tells Randolph that she doesn’t like him very much, in which Randolph says:

“Oh, she’s a strange sort of person, devoted to my wife almost as much as her dog Brutus. She’s always practicing some strange kind of mysterious jungle rite, I don’t know how Elaine puts up with it.” Then David shows him a little doll  “Do you suppose she had anything to do with this, I found it under my pillow this morning.”  He hands him the doll. “I wouldn’t be a bit surprised, Maria seems to have taken an interest in you my boy.”

“This is known in the jungle as Quandrava. The 3rd Goddess of Veeda, hot hands, and all that sort of mumbo jumbo. I lived in the jungles long enough to know what these things mean. It’s supposed to make you fall in love”

Then David tells Randolph  “But I’m already in love sir” “You are, with whom?”  “A girl from home her name is Linda Sinclair.”

Maria is attending to Elaine in her room who is remarking about how the scar from her accident hardly shows now. Maria says “I wish the pain was completely gone my little one tossed all night”

Maria now confronts Elaine with the fact that she sees that she’s in love with the young doctor Cochran “Have you told the young Dr?”

“He’s always buried in that messy old laboratory, I believe he’s been avoiding me lately.”

Maria comforts Elaine, “From now on he’ll think only of you!” and tells Elaine that “Maria has arranged that” and “Maria seeks only her little one’s happiness.” She saw it in the fire that Elaine has given her heart to David”

Shadrach the servant tells Dr Randolph that Inspector Norton is there to see him. I’ll talk about Shadrach played by Willie Best later.

David says “Dr I have a hunch it concerns us and the body.” “Oh, there goes that imagination of yours, my boy, the inspector’s an old friend who’s dropping in to pay respects.”

So Dr Randolph’s old friend Inspector Norton (Thomas E Jackson) pays a visit to his good friend and basically accuses Dr Randolph in a very friendly and diplomatic way, of murder.

“We found the body of the fisherman, it was reported that he was washed off his boat and drowned, the coroner’s examination shows, now get this, that the man had undergone a terrific electric shock- you’ve been conducting secret scientific experiments And this morning you bought a new Wescott Gage. You told them that your old one had been burned out. That instrument could stand an awful lot of power before being burnt out Dr, like enough power to electrocute a man”

Calmly smoking his pipe Dr Randolph says “You haven’t accused me of murder” “I said I suspect murder” Dr Randolph comments that with Norton duty outweighs friendship, so he figures out that it’s Norton’s ulterior motive of inducing him to reveal the nature of his experiments.

“Just in hopes of clearing you,” says Inspector Norton. Dr Randolph says “Give me a few days more my record will be free to be examined at will” “And in the meantime I’ll just keep trying to convict you.” The entire meeting is quite jovial and innocuous.

In the meantime, David finds another doll that looks like Elaine in his coat pocket in the lab. As Maria is coming down the stairs with a tray, she sees David putting the doll in a big flask of acid. She gets so upset she drops the tray and passes out falling down the stairs.
When she comes to, she says “The fetish you have destroyed it!!” David asks “The fetish?”

“Veeda will not forgive … there will be a calamity in this house, death, violent death,  there’s a curse of Veeda when the fetish is destroyed. You tried to destroy the magic of Veeda!”

I am not sure if it’s Veeda, Freda, Aveeda, Evita. Who cares, she’s pissed right!

Next to be experimented on is Elaine’s faithful dog Brutus a Great Dane, who for Dr. Randolph was the ideal subject being the largest animal they could find, of supreme intelligence and exactly the subject they need at the moment, and of course, once he’s been raised back from the dead, Elaine will get him back.

David is worried about the last experiment and its horrifying consequences. Dr Randolph tells him “The man obviously received some kind of blow, he was deranged, insane his actions proved it…
Think of how many lives we can save with our process. it’s worth any risk” David chimes in
“provided they’re not dead too long”

David consents to try and revive Brutus so he grabs 100cc of the “revised formula” and they bring Brutus back but he’s morphed into a crazed killer, a mad dog, and when Dr Randolph tries to shoot him, the bullets are useless, they pass right through him. Then Brutus moves through the closed and very solid window pane. Passes right through it!!! and the dog actually appears transparent.?? Not, however, marble.

How this relates to being made of marble is beyond me. Brutus was transparent not marbleized! I went through a phase in the 80’s when I bought cans of faux marble paint and ruined several good antiques because I got obsessed with marbleizing everything. But that’s not relevant to this story, so sorry about the tangent. Anyways

Charles, Dr. Randolph lies and tells Elaine that he’s left the dog at the vet for observation.

It’s David’s birthday so Dr Randolph sends for David’s fiance Linda, as a nice surprise. Linda got the telegram as a birthday present and shows up at the house. We can tell that Elaine is jealous with contained fury.

Maria starts bowing and waving her arms again over a raging fire, she does her incantations and prayers in a different language. Elaine hears Brutus howling outside. Both David and Charles lie and say they don’t hear him. Brutus is obviously howling outside, and again Maria is holding a secret rite.

Then later on that night, Brutus walks through the walls and nearly attacks Linda. Linda tells Elaine that a monster dog was snarling and about to leap at her, but when she points to the bedroom, there’s nothing there. She insists “he came right in through the closed window, he had a mad gleam in his eye, frothing at the mouth”

If this scene was just a bit less dark, the image was very haunting!

So Elaine offers Linda her own bedroom so she won’t be frightened.

Inspector Norton shows up again and asks where the doctor’s dog is. “The farmers are pretty sure it’s his dog.”  Their stock has had their throats ripped out and drained of their blood!

Dr Randolph utters “Hemo Mania.. Blood Craze… something is missing from the animals blood and he attempts to satisfy it by the blood of other animals.”

Norton asks “is that fact or superstition?” “Oh plain scientific fact”

“How do you account for this then, one of the men swears he fired 3 bullets into that dog and it went right through him and didn’t have any effect. ”

So again I inquire wouldn’t that make him the face and body of transparency?but I digress again.

“He just turned around and walked through the closed barn door. Explain that!” “Science is supposed to have an answer for everything but who can say where facts end and superstition begins.” Norton repeats to himself with curiosity “Hemo mania, the blood craze” and leaves.

Elaine is furious about Brutus. Charles admits that he experimented on her beloved dog but something went wrong. He can’t even finish the sentence. She says “How could you it’s inhuman, fiendish!”

At the same time Linda asks David to take her home that day, he agrees for the next day, so they’ll have to spend another night.

Elaine sleeps in Linda’s room again, because she doesn’t think Brutus would harm her.

That’s when the meddling Maria puts a jar with a gas like substance in Linda’s room, not realizing that Elaine is the one sleeping in the bed. The fumes kill Elaine.

Charles is crushed. David tells him “Control yourself Dr., we still have a chance to save her. Pull yourself together I need your help.”
But Charles reminds him “That man on the beach, do you remember what happened to him?…he was not of this world he was neither dead nor alive.” he continues “I’d rather that she were really dead than that way”
David says “That’s a lot of superstitious rot you’re a doctor you know that’s not so,.there’s more to it than anyone knows than any man is given to know if you won’t help me I’ll do it alone. I haven’t lost faith!”
David prepares the formula, the electricity surges through the tubes, and coils rattle, they even let Linda stay and watch. For a serious necromantic scientific endeavor, it’s all very tame.

This must be her face of marble…It just looks like she’s been in the root cellar for months is all.

Now she just looks like she’d be fun at yuppie 80s cocktail parties.

Elaine begins to open her eyes. Linda looks on in wonderment. But at first her face “the face of marble again”, Charles turns away. This time David gives her something to relax the cranial nerves. Charles says it won’t work. David exclaims!!! ” won’t it!”

But when she awakens she calls for David, “Where are you?”  she is comforted, “David here everything is alright now.” But the reality that his wife is in love with young Dr. Cochran hits him. Charles seems a little dejected even though he has managed to bring his wife back from the dead.

David says”Do you know what this means you’ve discovered something that will benefit all mankind the greatest discovery” But all Charles knows now is that his wife is in love with David.

Linda tries to tell David, but he doesn’t believe it. Poor Charles is heartbroken.

Charles finds the jar on the floor and smells it. David comes in to tell him not to worry that there is nothing going on between him and Elaine. Then Charles hands David the jar.” Smell it… it’s the root of the Tarishi plant, used in the voodoo death ceremony”

David says “Maria?”, “Yes Maria!!!!” she overhears them talking then David finds the ritual knife that Charles has taken down from his collection of jungle oddments and they struggle as he was going to kill Maria, “I’ll kill her I tell you I’ll kill her,” David says  “Are you mad?” But Charles is enraged “She’s a fiend, she tried to kill Elaine” David takes Charles up to his room to rest.

So a scientist who experiments with the dead is beneficent, but a superstitious foreigner is a fiend. Need I say more…

Shadrach comes in and looks at the knife and goes “Hhm Hmm”

Charles paces, then Elaine awakens in a trance as Maria summons her to use the knife on her husband Charles. Brutus starts to howl outside her window. Elaine calls for Brutus in her sleep waking sleep. He walks through the walls again. Elaine stabs her husband Charles and kills him.

And then Maria starts swaying in front of that infernal fire again, doing some kind of rite. When Inspector Norton comes to investigate the murder Maria lies and tells him that Dr Randolph found out about the affair between David and Elaine. Elaine doesn’t even remember having killed Charles.

Since David’s fingerprints are on the knife from when they struggled, he is taken into custody.

Linda tells Elaine that Maria is behind it. “But she worships me. She’d do anything for me” Linda starts to tell Elaine that she was dead, “It was Maria, she almost slips…that caused your accident”

Elaine refuses to believe it -“She didn’t know you were sleeping in that room, she wanted to kill me”

Maria is listening at the door. Eventually, David is cleared, and Maria succumbs to some jungle magic retribution having meddled in affairs that she shouldn’t have. And

If I didn’t know that The She Creature (1956) was made after this I’d add that to the list of films that this movie incorporated. At the end of the film, you only see the footprints of Elaine and Brutus in the sand eventually disappearing into the waves crashing against the shore.

This film was schizophrenic and confused. It’s like Monogram didn’t know what kind of picture it wanted to make so it threw in so many unrelated elements that didn’t connect the story.

I did enjoy the scenes in the lab, and the look of the spectral Great Dane passing through the walls was very eerie. If they had stuck to the idea that the experiment had created a sort of altered molecular structure that turned the bodies into phantoms, that would have been more plausible than starting out exclaiming that the man’s face was marble when it didn’t look marble, and then wander off in all different directions with Mad dogs who pass through walls and have blood lust, and a whole bunch of Voodoo thrown in, it’s just a film with an identity crisis.

Some of the imagery in the film was very interesting if only a) they could have stuck to one premise and b) that it wasn’t shrouded in total blackness at times. As far as the character Shadrach is concerned I’ve seen this exaggerated stereotype in a bunch of films from that era, that depicted Black men like “Stepin’ Fetchit”– as buffoons, scared silly, eye-popping comic relief set against the storyline that was supposed to be a horror tale. They would utter ridiculous lines like “Feet don’t fail me now.” In fact, Willie Best played this iconic type of character in several pictures, like Ghosts On The Loose.

Willie in Ghosts on The Loose.

The name Shadrach stems from Hebrew/Christian origins in the bible, a character who had total devotion to God. It was also a name that was given or used by Slaves. More interesting info here.

The stereotypes of nonwhite folk and their cultural taboos and fears are rampant. Shadrach’s eyes pop out wide when he’s expressing himself which is such an overreaching stereotype of the “Jim Crow” burlesque character of that era. Shadrach is the one character in the film who is either always looking frightened or dumbfounded.

“I saw something out there as big as a monster and carrying a dead body, it almost got me, a great long tail”  Maria interrupts him  “Stop chattering  you damn fool” Then he adds “I seen them take that dead body right into the doctor’s laboratory.”

When the one superstitious immigrant has to tell the other superstitious character that he’s a fool, you know it’s awful.

William Beaudine was responsible for the inane vampire western Billy the Kid vs. Dracula. He’s been called One-Shot Beaudine which puts him in extreme contrast with the likes of Lewton or Lang.

Robert Shayne who played David was in The Neanderthal Man and How to Make a Monster Willie Best who played the always antsy Shadrach was in The Monster and the Ape Man

Thomas E. Jackson was in Doctor X and Valley of the Zombies

I still have to say even considering the fact that The Face Of Marble is a dark (and I don’t mean that figuratively), film with multiple personality disorder, because I love John Carradine so much, I was able to get through it and had a few instances of genuine “Oh cool” moments.


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