Man of a Thousand Faces Blu-ray Review

Written by Robert Gold

Blu-ray released by Arrow Video

Directed by Joseph Pevney
Written by R. Wright Campbell, Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts
1957, 122 minutes, Not Rated
Released on October 29th, 2019

James Cagney as Lon Chaney
Dorothy Malone as Cleva Creighton Chaney
Jane Greer as Hazel Hastings Chaney
Marjorie Rambeau as Gert
Jim Backus as Clarence Locan
Robert Evans as Irving Thalberg
Celia Lovsky as Mrs. Chaney



Using his remarkable skills as a make-up artist and his ability to radically change his appearance from one film to the next, silent screen star Lon Chaney became known as “The Man of a Thousand Faces”. A versatile actor, he frequently portrayed interesting characters, many of which were physically demanding, requiring harnesses and weights to contort his face and body. His performances in the horror classics The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923) and The Phantom of the Opera (1925) brought sympathy to the grotesque and afflicted, creating tragic monsters that continue to resonate with audiences a century later.

The path to stardom was filled with hardship and heartache as he dealt with troubles in his marriage and family life. Chaney came from humble beginnings, the son of deaf parents in an age when disabilities were often feared. As a young man he began working as a vaudeville performer, struggling to makes ends meet. His first wife, Cleva, quickly became pregnant and worried their child would be deaf. To their relief, young Creighton (aka Lon Chaney, Jr.) was fine, but the couple remained unhappy and following a public scandal, divorced a few years later.

Chaney’s longest relationship was with his manager Clarence Locan, who helped him find success in Hollywood starting as an extra and character actor and where he honed his craft as a make-up artist. It was during this time Chaney connected with rising producer-turned-studio-exec Irving Thalberg. He later married longtime friend Hazel Hastings and regained custody of his son, who had spent years in foster care. Through hard work and dedication, Chaney became one of the biggest stars of his era until his early death in 1930 at the age of forty-seven.


In 1957, Hollywood paid tribute to Chaney’s life and career with the biopic Man of a Thousand Faces, starring James Cagney (White Heat) in the title role. Directed by Joseph Pevney (The Night of the Grizzly), the melodrama guides audiences through the events that defined the man in a straightforward manner that is both informative and entertaining. Cagney’s multifaceted performance hits the right tone and keeps the viewer engaged throughout. The supporting cast is equally strong, particularly Dorothy Malone (Written on the Wind), whose Cleva is a force of her own. Jane Greer (Out of the Past) also shines as Hazel, the woman who brought Chaney so much warmth. The wonderful Jim Backus (Rebel Without a Cause) does a fine job as Clarence Locan and future mega-producer Robert Evans (The Godfather, Chinatown) is energetic as Irving Thalberg.

The screenplay written by R. Wright Campbell, Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts delivers a lot of information in a well-structured manner and Pevney keeps things moving at a steady pace. Bud Westmore (This Island Earth) has the daunting challenge of recreating Chaney’s iconic make-up effects and while not entirely successful, he captures the spirit of the work. Man of a Thousand Faces succeeds in its goal of honoring the revered actor and genre fans will find a lot to like in this respectful tribute.


Video and Audio:

The original camera negative has received a 2K scan and restoration and is presented in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio. This transfer brings a new clarity to the image and features detail absent from all previous releases.

The mono audio recordings are preserved in an uncompressed DTS-HD MA 1.0 track that is in great shape. This is a dialogue-heavy film and levels are crystal clear without any signs of hiss, pops or other distortion.

Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.


Special Features:

In his audio commentary, film scholar Tim Lucas delivers a wide range of information about the life and times of Lon Chaney. He provides a fact-based narrative of events and points out where the film took dramatic license. Other topics include trivia and insight into the production and some notes on the cast and crew and locations.

The Man Behind a Thousand Faces (21 minutes) is a video appreciation from film critic Kim Newman, who offers a look at the silent era of cinema and its stars. The focus, as expected, is on Chaney and his films with a career retrospective highlighted by Phantom of the Opera and The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

There are two photo galleries, the first dedicated to a collection of production stills (82 images), and the second presenting a series of international poster art and lobby cards (18 images).

The original theatrical trailer has been included.



Movie: Cover
Overall: 3.5 Star Rating

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Robert Gold
Staff Reviewer
Robert's favorite genres include horror (foreign and domestic), Asian cinema and pornography (foreign and domestic). His ability to seek out and enjoy shot on video (SOV) horror movies is unmatched. His love of films with a budget under $100,000 is unapologetic.
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