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HOLLOW TRIUMPH

           

For Hicksflicks.com, March 14, 2014

The 1948 black-and-white film noir thriller "Hollow Triumph" (aka "The Scar") is one of those public-domain titles that deserves better than it has received in its sporadic home-video life.

Its first VHS release came in 1998, followed by a 2008 DVD release, which appeared to be merely a dub of the VHS. In both cases the picture lacked clarity and the sound was less than perfect.

But this new DVD from Film Chest, a company that has been restoring public-domain movies for higher-quality releases, is the best yet and allows viewers to see why "Hollow Triumph" holds up as a superior effort.

Paul Henreid, best known as Ingrid Bergman's husband in "Casablanca," produced "Hollow Triumph" and stars as John Muller, a sociopath who mounts a casino robbery, which puts a target on his back.

              

To save his skin, Muller goes underground, taking on the persona of a working stiff but he eventually becomes bored. Then he meets someone who pegs him as a dead ringer for a local psychoanalyst (also played by Henreid), except for a scar on the doctor's face. Muller decides to scar his own face, kill the good doctor and impersonate him. But he makes a serious mistake in the process and also underestimates the complications of a stranger's life.

From the midway point on, the plot takes a series of switchbacks, none of them illogical but all of them unexpected, and "Hollow Triumph" holds the audience in its grip until the surprising finale.

This isn't a traditional film noir plot, since Henreid's character is the sinister one, and the woman he becomes involved with, the psychoanalyst's secretary (Joan Bennett), is not a femme fatale. But it crawls out of its crime-melodrama roots to become something darker and more complicated, ultimately making its own path through film noir trappings.