The Face At The Window 1939 REVIEW

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Tod Slaughter’s extraordinary performance makes The Face At the Window 1939 a must-see for British horror fans, says DAVID SAUNDERSON

The Face in the Window 1939
A scene from The Face at the Window 1939.

TITLE: The Face At The Window
RELEASED: 1939
DIRECTOR: George King
CAST: Tod Slaughter, Marjorie Taylor and John Warwick

Review of The Face At The Window 1939

The Face at the Window 1939 is a vintage thriller set in 1880s Paris, where a series of murders and robberies are committed by a mysterious figure known as The Wolf or Le Loup.

Now don’t get too excited by the idea of a wolf romping around the City of Love. There’s very little in the film about the Wolf, or indeed, the murders.

The Face at the Window 1939 stars John Warwick as Lucien Cortier, a bank clerk who is wrongfully accused of the crimes, and Tod Slaughter as Chevalier Lucio del Gardo, a Parisian aristocrat with nefarious intentions.

The plot revolves around Cortier’s quest to clear his name and del Gardo’s attempts to frame him, all while the real murderer continues his spree.

Tod Slaughter’s hammy yet captivating portrayal of the villainous Chevalier is the highlight of the film. His exaggerated gestures, rolling eyes, over-pronounced dialogue and wicked laugh make him a focal point of the film, providing a sense of theatricality that is both self-parodic and chilling.

Slaughter’s larger-than-life performance is often compared to that of Vincent Price, albeit more exaggerated, and is the singular thing I loved about this film.

Title screen for The Face at the Window 1939.
Title screen for The Face at the Window 1939.

The Face at the Window 1939 was produced during a transitional period for MGM, which had financed Tod Slaughter’s previous films but was moving towards “prestige” pictures. This led Slaughter and his team, including director George King, to shift to Beaconsfield Studios and British Lion for distribution.

Despite these changes, the film retains the essence of Slaughter’s earlier works, even reusing music from his previous film Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street 1936. The production values, although dated, are part of the film’s charm.

The plot is a blend of mystery, melodrama and horror, featuring elements like a love triangle and a mad scientist.

Yes, like most of the films of its type, the plot is filled with contrivances and stretches credibility at times. But the film is generally entertaining.

And while the film has been criticised for being a bit slow, it is also lauded for its unique blend of horror and comedy. But don’t be fooled. Despite the Wolf mentioned in the plot line, it’s nothing like films like The Werewolf of London 1935 or The Wolf Man 1941.

The Face at the Window 1939 stands as a testament to the era of “quota quickies” in British cinema, low-budget films made to fulfil legal requirements.

The Face At The Window poster highlights a key plot point which we have to wait the entire film to see.
The Face At The Window poster highlights a key plot point which we have to wait the entire film to see.

While many of these films were of poor quality, this one is a cut above the rest, largely due to Slaughter’s performance. It offers a glimpse into the Victorian melodramas that were popular at the time

The Face at the Window 1939 is a film that thrives on its vintage charm, melodramatic plot, and the extraordinary performance of Tod Slaughter.

The Face at the Window 1939 is a film that thrives on its vintage charm, melodramatic plot, and the extraordinary performance of Tod Slaughter.

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