Cast & Crew
In 1938, a corpse is washed up on an Istanbul beach. An identity card found on the body identifies the man as Dimitrios Makopoulus, a notorious international criminal. Later, at a musicale, Colonel Haki of the Turkish police starts to tell Dimitrios' story to Dutch mystery writer Cornelius Leyden. Intrigued, Leyden asks to see the corpse. Haki complies and then continues his story in Leyden's hotel room: Haki first became aware of the criminal in 1922, when Dimitrios, a Smyrnan fig picker, killed a man after a robbery and let another man be executed for the crime. Most recently, Haki adds, Dimitrios worked in Paris as part of an international smuggling ring. Leyden decides that Dimitrios would be a wonderful character for a novel and leaves for Athens, where Dimitrios began his career. Meanwhile, the mysterious Mr. Peters also hears of Dimitrios' death. When he learns the body has already been destroyed, he also travels to Athens. Leyden, meanwhile, moves on to Sofia, where he is introduced to Irana Preveza, a former lover of Dimitrios. She tells him that years earlier, Dimitrios was involved in an assassination attempt and left the country using money borrowed from Irana. Despite his promises, Dimitrios never returned the money. Leyden returns to his hotel room and finds that Peters has searched it. Peters admits that he has followed Leyden from Athens and demands to know why he is interested in Dimitrios. Peters then proposes that Leyden continue his investigation and promises that there will be a financial reward. Leyden then visits with Wladislaw Grodek, a former spymaster, who hired Dimitrios to steal the charts of certain mine fields. Grodek recalls the following story about Dimitrios: In order to get the charts, Dimitrios callously plays on the insecurities of Karel Bulic, a homely clerk married to a beautiful woman. When Bulic is hopelessly indebted to a professional gambler, Dimitrios asks him to steal the charts in return for clearing his debt. Once he is in possession, Dimitrios double-crosses his employers and sells the charts to another government. Bulic later commits suicide. A curious Leyden now returns to Paris and meets with Peters, who is revealed to be Erik Peterson, a former member of Dimitrios' smuggling gang. Peters informs Leyden that the body he saw was not that of Dimitrios, who is alive and living in Paris. As the only person who saw the corpse and can confirm that it was not Dimitrios, Leyden is in a position to blackmail Dimitrios. Against his better judgment, Leyden agrees to Peters' blackmail plan. Dimitrios pays the men at a pre-arranged location, but later discovers where they are staying and shoots Peters. While Leyden struggles with Dimitrios, the wounded Peters grabs a gun and kills Dimitrios. Later, the police arrest Peters for Dimitrios' murder, and Leyden is left alone to write the story.
Lal Chand Mehra
Albert Van Antwerp
Ray De Ravenne
Leo F. Forbstein
Oliver S. Garretson
Michael D. Kadri
Jack L. Warner
The Mask of Dimitrios
The Mask of Dimitrios (1944) is usually considered the real directing debut of Romanian born Jean Negulesco (1900-1993); he was taken off of his first project, Singapore Woman (1941) mid-production, although he was still credited as its sole director. In 1940, Negulesco was working as a screenwriter at Warner Brothers when Jack Warner offered him and other writers and short film directors the opportunity to direct a low-budget feature film based on un-produced studio properties or remakes of previously unsuccessful projects. Negulesco proposed a new version of Dashiell Hammett's novel The Maltese Falcon, but the project was given to John Huston instead. Huston later returned the favor by recommending the novel A Coffin for Dimitrios. When Negulesco submitted the proposal, his new agent, Frank Orsatti, known for his extravagant behavior - described by Negulesco as "the Las Vegas Mafia approach" - flashed $10,000 in bills in front of Warner, challenging him to a bet that Negulesco would win an Oscar if he directed the picture. Although he didn't take up the bet, Warner was impressed enough by Orsatti's high-pressure tactics to give Negulesco the assignment. Working titles for the film were A Coffin for Dimitrios and A Mask for Dimitrios. Negulesco fought to cast the unconventional Peter Lorre in the lead, although he was usually relegated to supporting roles; Negulesco regarded Lorre as the best actor working in Hollywood. The Lorre-Greenstreet pairing, which proved so effective in The Maltese Falcon (1941) and Casablanca (1942), takes center stage in The Mask of Dimitrios, the fourth of their eight collaborations. Negulesco would use them again in The Conspirators (1944) and Three Strangers (1946).
The character of Dimitrios was inspired by the real-life figure of Sir Basil Zaharoff (1849-1936). Born in Turkey under the name of Basileios Zakharias and popularly known as "Mystery Man of Europe," Zaharoff was an international arms dealer, financier, intelligence agent and British knight. He was notorious for using doubles to cover for him and for refusing to allow himself to be photographed. Novelist Eric Ambler, whose book was the basis for this film, also wrote Uncommon Danger, which was adapted into the 1943 thriller Background to Danger. His numerous screenplays include The Cruel Sea (1953) - which received an Academy Award nomination - and A Night to Remember (1958). Shortly after the film was finished Faye Emerson, who plays Irana, made the headlines by marrying Elliott Roosevelt, son of the President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In 1966 a remake was planned (but not filmed), with Rock Hudson in the starring role.
Director: Jean Negulesco
Producer: Henry Blanke
Screenplay: Frank Guber, based on the novel A Coffin for Dimitrios by Eric Ambler
Cinematography: Arthur Edeson
Editing: Frederick Richards
Music: Adolph Deutsch
Art Direction: Ted Smith
Principal cast: Peter Lorre (Cornelius Leyden), Sydney Greenstreet (Mr. Peters), Zachary Scott (Dimitrios Markopoulos), Faye Emerson (Irana Preveza), Victor Francen (Wladislaw Grodek), Florence Bates (Mme. Chavez), Kurt Katch (Colonel Haki).
BW-96m. Closed captioning
by James Steffin
The Mask of Dimitrios
But to me the most important thing to know about an assassination is not who fired a shot - but who paid for the bullet!- Colonel Haki
A book is a lovely thing, a garden stocked with beautiful flowers, a magic carpet on which to fly away to unknown climes.- Mr. Peters
The film's working titles were A Coffin for Dimitrios and A Mask for Dimitrios. Composer Jerome Moross' name was misspelled as "Morross" in the onscreen credits. The film begins with the following written foreword: "For money, some men will allow the innocent to hang. They will turn traitor...they will lie, cheat, steal...they will kill. They will appear brilliant, charming, generous. But they are deadly. SUCH A MAN WAS DIMITRIOS." This film marked Zachary Scott's motion picture debut. Hollywood Reporter news items add the following information about the production: Former silent film star Pola Negri was considered for a part and Faye Emerson replaced Nancy Coleman in the role of "Irana." In 1966, Seven Arts planned to remake the film as a vehicle for Rock Hudson, but that film was never produced.
Released in United States 1983
Released in United States Summer July 1, 1944
Released in United States 1983 (Shown at FILMEX: Los Angeles International Film Exposition (A "B-Movie" Marathon) April 13 - May 1, 1983.)
Released in United States Summer July 1, 1944