After a botched hit on a casino, John Muller hides out in an office job, where he is mistaken for the psychiatrist Dr. Bartok. The doctor is a dead ringer for Muller, except for a hideous facial scar, which Muller inflicts on his own cheek. But a mistake compromises Muller's masquerade, and he makes one last attempt at escape before fate closes in ...
Every thriller needs a hook. The story has to have something whether it's an individual, a creature, or a catastrophic possibility that puts our lead characters in peril and gives us a reason to care about them. Sometimes said character's own worst tendencies are enough. A man who can't escape his own worst self can make for a solid enough thriller - under the right conditions. 1945's The Scar (also known as Hollow Triumph) is directed by Steve Sekely and stars the always reliable Paul Henreid as a career criminal who can't stop scheming his way into deeper trouble.
John Muller (Paul Henreid) has been in and out of prison his entire adult life. He's brilliant, he's got an education, he doesn't need to pull off petty cons or long shot robberies to make his bread, but he does. After his latest stint in the clink, he cooks up a harebrained scheme to knock over a mobster's casino. When the can't-fail scheme burns up in flames, he's got an army of armed goons searching for him. His only way out of this jam is through the esteemed Dr. Bartok - a man who he shares a remarkable resemblance with save for a long scar. After falling for Bartok's assistant Evelyn (Joan Bennett), Muller concocts a plan to supplant Bartok with himself - right down to replicating the scar on his cheek.
The Scar is a slick atmospheric production that relishes the intricacies of a criminal mind. The audience gets to sit back and enjoy watching Henreid's Muller come up with one slick scheme after another in order to get out of a jam. He's given one opportunity after another to get out of trouble and stay out of it, but his creativity and sharp mind won't let him. Boredom takes over and he relishes in his own brilliance - even when he hasn't thought through all of the angles. His own worst nature gets the better of him.
With a compelling leading turn from Henreid and a solid supportive outing from Joan Bennett, The Scar provides a solid bit of entertainment. It's not entirely successful, some of the schemes Muller cooked up during the 99-minute runtime felt a bit shortsighted, but overall it works. It's a piece of moralizing. "Crime doesn't pay." Thankfully the film doesn't overtly lay out its central theme nor beat the audience over the head with it. Even as a criminal and a murderer, the audience is invested in Muller as a character. You actually want life to work out for the guy. It may be a bit softer than most folks want out of a crime thriller, but The Scar delivers plenty of great material making it worth the time.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
The Scar arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Kino Lorber and their Studio Classics label. Pressed onto a Region A BD-25 disc, the disc is housed in a standard sturdy Blu-ray case. The disc loads directly to a static image main menu with traditional navigation options.
Billed as "Newly Mastered in HD," The Scar arrives with a solid 1.33:1 1080p transfer. Given the age of the film, the print sourced for this transfer is in pretty great shape. Speckling is apparent throughout and there are only a couple instances of severe scratches apparent. Detail levels are strong throughout with a few scenes that face some softness issues. The black and white greyscale of the film offers up some plenty of shadow separation, deep blacks, with even whites. Contrast is under control without any hyper whites or blown out scenes. It's not the greatest HD restoration one will find, but it's perfectly serviceable and fits the needs of the film.
The Scar is given a solid English DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono track to work with. The film's dialogue is front and center and comes through clearly without any interference. Scoring is sharp and moody lending a nice bit of dread to the atmospheric soundtrack. Sound effects help layer in the atmosphere nicely and come through clearly. All around, this is a fine track if not alto dynamic. There is a little bit of hiss and pop present in the early goings of the film but they're not intrusive. All around, for a film of this age, this is a fine audio track.
Like most of Kino Lorber's Studio Classics Releases, bonus features are a bit on the slim side, but the audio commentary with Film Historian Imogen Sara Smith is a great listen and the collection of theatrical trailers are a fun watch.
Audio Commentary With Film Historian Imogen Sara Smith
He Ran All The Way (HD 2:13)
Boomerang (HD 2:30)
Shield For Murder (HD 1:45)
Cry of the City (HD 2:33)
99 River Street (HD 2:13)
Crime thrillers are a dime a dozen, but with some great performances and a solid story with steady direction, The Scar is worth the money. Paul Henreid was always a solid performer with a terrific track record and he delivers another memorable turn here. It may not be the greatest crime thriller ever made, but The Scar delivers the goods where it counts. Kino Lorber brings The Scar to Blu-ray in fine order with a better than average A/V presentation and a solid audio commentary making up the meat of the bonus features. Definitely worth a look.