B&W, 1948, 83 mins. 13 secs.
Directed by Steve Sekely
Starring Paul Henreid, Joan Bennett, Eduard Franz, Leslie Brooks, John Qualen
Kino Lorber (Blu-ray & DVD) (US RA HD/NTSC), Film Detective (BD-R) (US R0 HD)

The ScarThe ScarLargely shepherded into existence by producer and star Paul Henreid (Casablanca and Now, Voyager), this stylish indie noir is one of the key visual achievements of legendary cinematographer John Alton, the maestro of light and darkness from such Anthony Mann classics as He Walked by Night, Raw Deal, T-Men, and Reign of Terror. Based on portions of a novel by radio writer and performer Murray Forbes called Hollow Triumph (a title this film has also borne in theaters and on home video), it's an atmospheric, fatalistic little gem that manages to turn a highly unlikely premise into a tightly wound, effective crime thriller.

After turning to the wrong side of the law and doing time behind bars, failed aspiring doctor John Muller (Henreid) finds himself backed into a corner following a botched casino heist that incurs the wrath of ruthless gangsters. An attempted camouflage at a mundane desk job proves frustrating, and possible salvation arrives when he realizes he looks just like Dr. Bartok-- except the latter man has a noticeable facial scar, which John attempts to emulate in a plot turn that pushes the film closer to medical horror. The ScarFrom there he decides he's home free by bumping off the doctor, cutting things off The Scarwith his secretary and presumed lover, Evelyn (Dark Shadows' Bennett), and starting off anew -- but this being a noir, things aren't bound to go smoothly at all.

Downright spooky in its surreal plot twists and air of psychological anguish, The Scar is a great showcase for Henreid in what may be his darkest role(s), a fine change of pace from the usual suave European roles he was known for at the time. Bennett is also extremely well used in a part that only comes into play in brief bursts throughout the film; a compelling presence in multiple film noir classics by Fritz Lang, she's just as compelling here.

The Scar has turned up under both of its best known titles (it was also circulated in some territories as The Man Who Murdered Himself) from a variety of PD labels over the years including Mill Creek. The first Blu-ray was a BD-R edition from Film Detective, featuring a reasonable transfer from an imperfect, somewhat debris-laden print that still marked its best presentation at the time. The ScarHowever, it's easily outdone by the 2017 Kino Lorber release on both Blu-ray and DVD, a new HD scan that brings out The ScarAlton's cinematography in all its dark, sinister glory. A bit of damage is still evident at times, but for the most part it's a very rich and clean presentation that should satisfy any fan of the film. It's also easier than ever to appreciate how the film's style anticipates the noir-influenced cinematography of '60s crime and horror TV shows while also pointing the way to later paranoid identity switch films like Seconds and Shattered. The DTS-HD MA English mono (2.0) track sounds impressive as well, with optional English subtitles provided. Bonus trailers are included for other Kino Lorber noir titles (99 River Street, Boomerang, Cry of the City, Shield for Murder, He Ran All the Way), but the big new extra here is an audio commentary by noir expert and film historian Imogen Sara Smith, who strikes a fine balance between film criticism (especially the film's repeated doubling motifs) and historical info about Henreid, Bennett, Alton, and the film's director, Steve Sekely, who's probably best known for the feature film version of The Day of the Triffids. Note that both the release year (1945) and running time (72 minutes) on the back of the packaging are erroneous.

Reviewed on May 15, 2017.