At the " Temple " Shrine
There are connoisseurs of thrillers just as there are connoisseurs of good wine. If you are addicted to the thriller you get a very fine palate for it in time, and you distinguish between the refined bouquet of an intellectual detective problem and the roughness of the flavour of home-brewed gangsterdom.
Between the brain-cudgelling of detection films and the blood-curdling of the tough gangs, there is another type of thriller, which is still a rare product of this country, but is more appreciated by our Aryan brothers on the further bank of the Rhine-it is the psychological thriller.
Morbid, the English audiences call these psychological experiments, shrugging their shoulders as they walk past the cinema that shows such pieces.
Many people will shrug their shoulders outside the doors of the Academy this week because it is showing one such morbidity-the psychological thriller. Yet by doing so these people will miss much because Die Ewige Maske (The Eternal Mask ) may be in German, may be propaganda for psycho-analysis -but it is not morbid (even though it deals with death and with mental processes) and is not for one instant dull or incomprehensible.
You Will Understand
Foreign pictures are not incomprehensible (pictures are in a universal language, how can they be misunderstood? and there are always ample English sub-titles to aid comprehension).
Nor need the special appeal to medical men, or the propaganda for psychoanalysis, worry the entertainment seeker. The point of this film is not its science but its drama and its superbly sensitive photography.
Set almost wholly within a modern hospital, the problem presented is that of a young doctor (Mathias Wieman) who discovers a valuable serum for the cure of meningitis. While an epidemic of this disease rages, he is forbidden to use his new serum because it has not been sufficiently tested. He disobeys orders, his serum fails, his patient dies, and he himself is utterly unnerved by his failure.
Mental Processes Filmed
The rest is an impression of his mentally deranged mind. Picture succeeds picture of real and imaginary adventures of the doctor as he lies in bed suffering from loss of memory. Unrealities and realities cannot always be distinguished, and there is rare imagination in the direction of such a difficult subject.
Those endless corridors, arched and dim; those formless images of halfknown things; those shapes of quivering light known so well to any who have experienced a prolonged state of semiconsciousness, are given concrete existence in this. genuine thriller of mental rather than actual excitements.
The contrast to the solemn and high purpose of The Eternal Mask is the slender piece of sentimental comedy called The Littlest Rebel, in which Shirley Temple gives no one else a chance even to appear before the camera. The New Gallery are showing this efficient bit of goods off as a heroine in the American Civil War, and Shirley blithely moves through scenes of espionage and bloodshed as though she were attending a children's party. Not that we are actually introduced first-hand to bloodshed and casualties in this picture. In spite of war all about us, I only remember seeing one death and that was peacefully accomplished in bed.
Shirley Never Grows Up
Devotees at the " Temple " shrine will be happy, though, for their Shirley does not change with the growth of years.
Just in case The Eternal Mask was a bit too much for you thriller addicts, here is a true slice of excitement in a conventional mould. Exclusive Story at the Astoria won't let you down at all. It's a newspaper story, full of gangsters and their rackets-this time with a new racket -the " numbers " game, a variation of the lottery theme.
It's good stuff in its way, this film, but the way has been trodden by too many feet to be anything but a public highroad by now.