24 juin 1944. Le temps est morose sur New York. Tout comme le moral de notre passant cinéphile. Même les néons de Broadway n’y change rien. Une bonne toile devrait lui changer les idées. The Mask of Dimitrios lui promet dépaysement et intrigues. Et ce n’est pas ce grincheux de Bosley Crowther qui va lui gâcher son plaisir.
Critique d’époque :
« One might be excused for expecting the combination of Warner Brothers and an Eric Ambler yarn to result in something somewhat more exciting in the mystery thriller line than the film called « The Mask of Dimitrios« , which came to the Strand yesterday. For the Warners are proved masters of such grisly tales as Mr. Ambler writes and the latter’s « A Coffin for Dimitrios, » peg for this picture, was a pip of a book, we hear. But, unfortunately, this screen adaptation is no great credit to either accessory to the act. When they dropped the coffin out of the title they dropped a lot that went with it out of the film.
In telling the picaresque story of a mystery writer on the trail of a Levantine bum whose career of crime in the Balkans has stimulated the writer’s awe, the film wallows deeply in discourse and tediously trite flashbacks. This Dimitrios scoundrel, whom the writer seems to think such a fascinating rogue, is never proved to be much more than a vermin with a record that is cheap and banal. And the mystery built up around the research into his past is just plain dust in your eyes. Seldom has this reviewer waited so patiently – and in vain – to be surprised.
To be sure, the Warner schemists have poured some scabby atmosphere into this film and have been very liberal with the scenery in picturing international haunts and Balkan dives. And they have run in a cast of old familiars to play assorted conspirators and muggs. Peter Lorre plays the writer- not very effectively, be it said, for the role calls for humored insouciance, which he does not give to it – and Sydney Greenstreet plays a mysterious meddler in his archly pontifical style. As the object of every one’s attention, Zachary Scott, who makes his debut in this film, presents the rascally Dimitrios as a blue-steel American gangster type. And Victor Francen, Steven Geray and Faye Emmerson are good in minor roles.
This sort of worldly melodrama calls for refinement in cinematic style, but the writing and direction of this picture betray a rather clumsy, conventional approach« . Par Bosley Crowther pour le New York Times.
Conventionnel, maladroit, peu respectueux de son matériau de base (le roman, s’entend). Bosley Crowther n’y va pas, une fois de plus, avec le dos de la cuillère pour descendre en flamme un film noir. cette fois-ci, c’est The Mask of Dimitrios qui en fait les frais.
Personnellement, j’ai apprécié cette poursuite de la figure romantique du gangster à travers les Balkans. Ma critique par ici.