Hollow Triumph (1948) Poster

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Let's Not Forget John Alton
bolddice23 June 2004
Yes, "Hollow Triumph" or "The Scar" is a very fine example of film noir. It is tough, gritty, full of duplicity, and identities that shift across screen time. But what really makes this film sing is the vivid low-key photography of John Alton. Yes, perhaps Sekely deserves some credit, but the look is all Alton. "HT" is shot the same year (1948) as two other excellently lensed films by Alton -- "Amazing Mr. X" and "He Walked By Night." Dark sets lit with single light sources, bizarre angles and strong uses of deep focus compositions characterize Alton's work. Alton knew well how to get along with less light, creating the nightmarish worlds we see on the screen. This film's look reminds me of another great noir work -- Welles' 1958 "Touch of Evil" shot by Metty. But as I think of the two cinematographers, Alton seemed to best encapsulate the noir look -- seamy, wet, claustrophobic and dead-ended.

Of worthy mention here too, is: Henreid repeating the cigarette motif we saw earlier in "Now, Voyager," but here given a chain-smoking mania of its own, suggestive of insecurity and metaphoric of his attempts to "cloak" his identity, to shape-shift like a cloud of smoke into something new.
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8/10
Terrific hard-boiled double-identity thriller in the noir genre
robert-temple-17 November 2007
Paul Henreid produced this film in which he starred, eerily portraying a totally amoral man who does not see anything at all wrong with the occasional murder, as long as he 'needs to do it'. John Bennett delivers an equally powerful performance of a woman who, although not good, is certainly not bad, and it is curious that this study of a woman's fixation on a bad man through infatuation was made in the same year as 'Force of Evil' which showed an even more extreme form of that. It must have been 'beauty and the beast' year. The ingenious plot concerns a double-identity, so there are two major threads of intrigue going on at once. Needless to say, Joan Bennett is involved with both Henreids, but prefers the baddie because he is more spellbinding and, let's face it, far from boring. This is a well-directed, sometimes brutal, atmospheric thriller which is something of a lost classic. It is now available on DVD under its alternative title of 'The Scar', which is a most unfortunate title, as people don't like scars (even though there is one in the story). Joan Bennett was really made for these films, as she proved in 'The Woman in the Window' and 'Scarlet Street' for instance. There is something ambiguous about her, something hard that is soft, you can't quite figure her. That's just right for noir. You should never be able to figure noir, everything should stay in the shadows where it belongs. The thing about a good thriller like this is, the mystery goes beyond the story itself and becomes the mystery of people themselves, what is it that goes on inside heads, those impenetrable citadels of secrets.
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6/10
Remembering the dark, brooding mythos that was film noir
TigerMann26 January 2006
Paul Henreid and Joan Bennett star in "The Scar," otherwise known as "Hollow Triumph."

As a film noir, "The Scar" works on several different levels. And even though a major plot point in the story stretches the realm of possibility a bit too far, this forgotten little film deserves a better fate than its present public-domain, bargain bin video status.

The plot revolves around John Muller (Henreid), who organizes a major casino heist with a few of his pals. When the sting is botched, Muller runs as far away as he can with his ill-gotten gains. The casino's owner, a gangster (who bears an interesting likeness to Richard Conte) isn't planning on taking this robbery on his back. He dispatches two of his more intimidating thugs to locate him and ... well ... retrieve the stolen money. "Even if it takes you 20 years," he demands. In a desperate attempt to conceal himself from the vengeful clutches of the fore-mentioned gangster, Muller engineers a plan to impersonate a psychologist who, as it turns out, is a carbon-copy lookalike of himself. The only difference between the two is a rigid scar that outlines his left cheek. Can Muller find it within himself to kill the psychologist and begin living a double life? Will the gangsters guns find him first?

I have to admit, with the exception of a couple of protracted scenes, "The Scar" truly is a first-rate thriller. Steve Sekely directs, punctuating just about every scene with classic film noir iconography. Daniel Fuchs' script is also top-notch ... which may have served as a primer for his next project ... the indelible "Criss Cross" for Universal. (He also penned "Panic in the Streets," another great, oft-overlooked film noir starring Richard Widmark.) Joan Bennett's performance comes off as a trifle pallid ... but then again, this was Henreid's picture from the get-go. He commands every scene that he appears in with suave acumen, something that I missed from his performance in the overrated "Casablanca." I'll be the first to admit that I've not seen many of his other pictures. But Henreid really won me over with this film ... he deserves a far better acknowledgement than only as "the other guy" of "Casablanca."

More than anything, I think "The Scar" (or "Hollow Triumph" ... whatever) is a classic example of just how absent-minded popular culture really is. More than ever, movie-goers expect a film that is saturated in bloody action, quick-cuts, and talentless actors. There's not a lot going for movies, today. And thankfully ... most of what's out there will have been long-forgotten by the popular culture consciousness in a few years. I think that modern pop culture has unfairly labeled film noir as being movies lavished with shadows, dames and guns. And while all of these are inherent to the genre, they forget the cold, black heart that beats beneath its surface. "The Scar" thrives on this kind of energy. It's a classic example of what made film noir great ... and why we'll never see anything like it ever again.
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7/10
surprisingly good melodrama "noir"
funkyfry19 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Having never heard of this film and finding it on a bargain DVD a friend lent me, I entered the film experience with an open mind and zero expectations, beyond the "film noir" description on the box (which is often misleading anyway). Well, this definitely qualifies as "noir" in my book, and a pretty good one at that. I'd never heard of the director, Steve Sekely, but photography by John Alton is a great sign. Paul Henreid and Joan Bennett – OK, not my favorite stars but not too shabby either. Henreid also produced, which piqued my interest.

Bennett takes no major steps forward in my esteem with this film (though she's fine, nothing wrong with her performance), but it sure does raise my opinion of Henreid, who I've seen to somewhat underwhelming effect in "Of Human Bondage," "Casablanca," and "Meet Me in Las Vegas." I've always felt like he's just eye candy for the ladies, but in this film he really carries the story with a lot of screen presence and authority. He's in a very different role from some of those milquetoasts – here he's a daring, ruthless criminal who steals another man's identity after a botched casino robbery. There is so much delicious irony in the fallout – first he accidentally puts the scar on the wrong cheek (one of those highly improbable plot twists I'm inclined to accept simply because it serves the story so well), and then he discovers that the man whose identity he stole has a mountain of gambling debts… and the bill is due. The character isn't very appealing but Henreid does pull it off, carrying the improbable story with pretty much sheer charisma. In the past I always felt his roles were the type where I'm supposed to like him even though he's a bit of a stiff, but quite the opposite is true here.

I wish I could remember some of the great dialog between Bennett and Henreid in the second half of the film – the script is stronger than the plot summary would indicate.

Alton's photography here is spectacular, really noteworthy, comparable to the best work in the style of the times. Note how he uses the shadows particularly to cover Henreid's face when he's coming up with his scheme, as if to say that the physical mutilation of the scar will simply fulfill or consummate the spiritual darkness that's already upon him. Another thing that really impressed me, and speaks to the skill of the director, is the odd "slice of life" vignettes thrown in, ostensibly perhaps for comic relief but generally letting the audience breathe and adding a weird touch to the drama. For example there's a great bit with Alvin Hammer as a garage worker who dreams of stardom as a ballroom dancer. This character's dream may be absurd (he looks all of about 5'8") but it throws into strong relief the fact that our "hero" really has no dreams at all and is in an even worse position – all he can do is run in fear and hide like an animal.
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9/10
Sekely directs an often forgotten noir masterpiece
KuRt-335 June 2002
Hollow Triumph is a very good film noir that's often missing from Essential Noir lists, usually only because it's not very well known. Now whereas we could debate for hours whether this movie deserves a place in those lists or not (or debate on which noirs absolutely need to go in those lists), why don't we just take a closer look at the film?

THE STORY SO FAR... Johnny Muller is a criminal, planning to rob a casino with the help of a few friends and two cars. The robbery doesn't go too well and only the car with Johnny and 'Marcy' manages to escape. They hide as it's all too clear that the casino people will do all to get their money back. Hiding wasn't a bad idea, Johnny finds out: one day the newspaper shows a picture of 'Marcy' shot on the streets. No points for guessing who's behind it. Johnny is looking for a way out and finds one when a man on the streets takes the gangster for Dr. Bartok, a psychiatrist. Johnny pays a visit to the doctor's office where even Bartok's secretary mistakes Johnny for her boss, till she observes the one difference that can distinguish the lookalikes: Bartok has a scar on his cheek. Johnny takes a picture of Bartok and uses all his surgical knowledge to copy the scar on his cheek. Unfortunately, due to a mix-up at the photo lab, the photo's printed the wrong way round and Johnny finds himself with the scar on the wrong cheek. But who really pays that much attention to people's faces?

SO IT'S A FILM NOIR THEN... Yes, it is. We have the gangster looking for a way out, the femme fatale (the secretary) with no faith left in mankind and we get a hard-boiled vision on life: who really cares about good and bad? Who really observes other people? Ask yourself the question: would you notice a scar moving to the other side of a person's face? That person is still there, the scar's still there and let's face it: scars can't move, can they?

WHAT MAKES THIS FILM SO SPECIAL? Not the beginning, I found it a bit weak, but a very good climax at the end of the film somehow makes us forgive that.

First, let's look at the cast and director. The director Steve Sekely (born in Hungary as István Székely) made 50 films. His career started in Hungary in 1930. Nine years later he moved to the USA. Most of his films are quite unknown, the biggest exception being an adaptation from a John Wyndham novel: The Day of The Triffids (1962).

Starring as John Muller, we find one Paul Henreid, a man you might recognise from Casablanca (where he played Victor Laszlo) or as the lead in the film classic usually watched for the wrong reason, Of Human Bondage. The femme fatale is often essential to a film noir, which makes the choice of Joan Bennett as Bartok's secretary a very good deal. She didn't only play the lead in Max Ophuls's film noir The Reckless Moment, she was also in the three noirs director Fritz 'Metropolis' Lang directed in the forties: Scarlett Street, The Woman in the Window and - save the best for last - Secret Beyond The Door. In Hollow Triumph she may not play the lead, but she's still an essential part of the movie.

But what makes this movie so special is... the lighting technique. Director Steve Sekely observed how one lamp can light (parts of) a room and took all sorts of lights (from natural exterior light to big Hollywood spots) to light his movie in such a way Hollow Triumph is a lust for the eye. The light (or absence of) is also a motiv in the film (e.g. during the robbery disabling the lights is an essential part of the plan, but it's the presence of light that exposes them when they want to drive away). But Sekely uses all those forms of light in such a subtle way it doesn't bother you when you're watching the film. On the contrary, it even adds to your viewing pleasure.
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8/10
Powerful Ending
Space_Mafune6 February 2003
An escaped robber named Johnny Muller (Paul Henreid) in a desperate attempt to hide from the hired killers chasing after him decides to take the place of a look-a-like psychoanalyst named Dr. Bartok. The only difference is a scar Bartok has on his face...Johnny carries out his plan with surprisingly success except for one small detail. Along the way to becoming Dr. Bartok, Johnny meets and unexpectedly falls in love with Bartok's secretary Evelyn, who has lost faith in mankind, in one of the greatest film noir romances ever put to film.

The best thing about this unlikely Film Noir film is its superb ending...with the close-up on Evelyn's face at the end and an ending we are aware of but she is not.
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8/10
Ironical Film-Noir
claudio_carvalho24 August 2017
The educated criminal John Muller (Paul Henreid) is released from prison and reunites his gang. He plots a scheme to heist the casino owned by the dangerous and powerful mobster Rocky Stansyck, but the holdup goes wrong. Two thieves are captured by the Stansyck's gangsters and they disclose the identities of Muller and his partner Marcy (Herbert Rudley) before being murdered. Marcy travels to Mexico and Muller hides in a city. Soon Marcy is killed in Mexico and Muller is jumpy. One day he is followed by a man and he learns that the man is the dentist Dr. Swangron (John Qualen) that tells that Muller is the doppelganger of hie neighbor, the psychoanalyst Dr. Bartok, and the only difference is a scar on the face of Bartok. Muller visit's Bartok 's office and meets his secretary, Evelyn Hahn (Joan Bennett). He also studies and prepares to impersonate Dr. Bartok. Will his plan work?

"Hollow Triumph" is a great film-noir with an ironical story of an intelligent gangster that decides to pose of psychoanalyst ans assume the identity of a man that is identical to him. He succeeds but he does not know who he is impersonating and he will find in the end. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): "A Cicatriz" ("The Scar")
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8/10
Zingy Noir With A Pulpy Ending
secragt14 April 2003
Lovers of noir will want to check this unusual entry featuring Casablanca's Victor Lazlo (Paul Henreid) in a rare heavy role. One of those cautionary tales which amply illustrates how it's often better to stay on your own shabby lawn than to traipse across the seemingly greener grass of the neighbors. A tad slow at times but it builds to the nice and twisty (if inevitable) climax.
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6/10
The next time you cut a scar into your cheek, make sure you slice the correct side
Terrell-45 June 2008
Warning: Spoilers
"If you think I'm going to get myself mixed up with you, you're crazy. You're pretty good and you've got style, but first comes you, second comes you, third comes you. You're one of those egotistical smart alecks with big ideas. You think you've got a right to get away with murder, and I imagine you often do, but not with me."

That's Evelyn Hahn (Joan Bennett) speaking. She's standing under an awning while the rain buckets down. She's just had an evening out with John Muller (Paul Henreid), a man she met when he came to the office of Dr. Victor Bartok because he'd heard he looks just like Bartok. Bartok is a psychologist and Evelyn Hahn manages things for him. And Evelyn Hahn, unknowingly, has Muller pegged. He's a smart, me first, anti-social criminal who thinks he should have the best. Now he's on the run because a gambler he tried to rob is after him. After seeing Bartok, Muller realizes he's got an escape hatch handy. The two are as identical as twins, except that Bartok has a scar on his cheek. A little boning up on psychology, a little practice mastering Bartok's handwriting, a little self-inflicted scar-making with a scalpel, and a little murder...and Muller becomes Bartok.

Getting to this point has been interesting, but now we have the rest of the movie to get through. Some of it holds up. Muller begins to learn that Dr. Bartok has some secrets of his own, including high stakes gambling. The Doctor was anything but a sympathetic man, and was unreasonable enough to have his scar on the other cheek than the one Muller gave himself. (A mirror and a flipped negative for a photo caused the problem.) Evelyn notices but stays quiet, which makes us wonder.

But then suddenly we learn Evelyn, a woman we like, has had a rough time of it with past relationships. She says she doesn't feel sorry for herself, but, of course, she feels sorry for herself. "What's the use," she says, "because you can never go back and start again, because the older you grow the worse everything turns out. You don't see it happen to you, it just happens. You wake up one morning and anything goes and that's alright, too." Huh? This comes to us out of the blue. Like the coincidences in the plot and the journeyman storyline (Meeting an identical-looking stranger? Faking psychology counseling? Fooling the real doc's office manager?), the change in Evelyn becomes nothing more than slack story telling. With this development we're hip deep in soap opera noir, made even more irritating because it wastes Joan Bennett. With no idea Evelyn Hahn was going to become Stella Dallas, we have no emotional commitment to her fate, along with no illusions as to what fate has in store for Muller. Although the movie ends with what is supposed to be ironic justice laced with tragedy, Evelyn's teary eyes just make us shrug.

The Scar (aka Hollow Triumph) features great John Alton cinematography. The movie is always a pleasure to watch. Alton often was able to make a B movie look like it might have A movie potential. Paul Henreid, who produced the film, wanted to shed his image of being nothing but a sympathetic nice guy. He does a fine, assured job as Muller, a self-centered, manipulating egoist for whom murder is just another solution to a problem. Briefly seen is Leslie Brooks, a scheming fixture of low budget films, as gorgeous arm candy with Muller/ Bartok. To see a real noir mellerdramer, watch her as the star of Blonde Ice, made the same year.

Joan Bennett, however, has almost nothing to do. One can't help wondering why she took the role unless possibly as a favor to Henreid. To see just how good she was, watch her in Jean Renoir's The Woman on the Beach, made the year before with Robert Ryan, and Max Ophul's The Reckless Moment, made the year after with James Mason.
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Victor Laszlo is a crook
SonOfMoog5 November 2004
Paul Henreid is in every single scene of this movie, and it's hard not to think of him in his most famous role, and to impose that image onto this picture. Henreid's thick accent is a distraction that really robs this movie of some of its charm.

But, the plot twists make up for everything. One takes place in a photo shop, and its significance is immediately apparent. The other is the ending which caught me totally by surprise. I can't say anymore for fear of spoiling it for those who haven't seen it, but I will pause to note how no other commentator here has bothered to note the *irony* of how Laszlo .. er Muller .. er Bartok met his end.

Joan Bennett is terrific here, as a cynical, vulnerable, rather sarcastic secretary who shows herself to be an astute judge of character, though not as hard-hearted as she'd have us believe. Leslie Brooks .. the exquisitely eye-lined Leslie Brooks .. is wasted here.

This is a tedious, hum-drum movie except in the moments when Henreid and Bennett are together on screen, but that wonderful ending is one of the best you'll ever see. 7 out of 10.
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6/10
Hollow Indeed
sol-kay30 September 2008
Warning: Spoilers
**SPOILERS** The movie is a lot like "The Killers" involving a robbery gone wrong. The film has the surviving hood John Muller, Paul Henreid, of a blotched robbery on the run from both the police and the mobster Rocky Stawsyc, Thomas Browne Henry, who's gambling den he and his friends ripped off.

Out on parole Muller just couldn't adjust to the outside, of prison walls, world and quickly got back to business in robbing a gambling den in L.A. The den owner Rocky Stawsyc's boys end up catching two of Muller's partners in crime and then offing them off camera. It's now Mullen and his partner Marcy, Hurbert Rudley, that are left to split the money taken from the gambling establishment; a cool $200,000.00.

With the news of Marcy being gunned down by the Stawsyc Gang in far off Mexico City Muller knows that his days are numbered and it's only a matter of time before he himself gets iced. It's then almost by accident that Muller finds out that this big city psychiatrist Dr. Victor Emil Bartok, also played by Pau Henreid, is a dead ringer for himself! The only problem is that Brotok has a noticeable scar on his left cheek which Muller doesn't!

With nothing to lose and everything top gain Muller plans to murder Dr. Bartok and, under surgical conditions, scar himself in order to both impersonate him as well as keep the Stawsyc Mob from finding and gunning him down!

****SPOILER ALERT*** There's just one little problem which Muller will soon find out, to his both shock and amazement, and that's that Dr. Bartok has some very dark secrets of his own that will come to the surface later in the movie. It's that what Muller doesn't know about Dr. Bartok that will in the end lead to his demise!

Well thought out film noir that has a number of surprises in it that will keep you both interested and confused at the same time. Muller's murder of Dr. Bartok is done so haphazardly that it takes a few minutes to realize that he was actually killed! There's also the relationship that Muller has with the late Dr. Bartok's secretary Evelyn Hahn,Joan Bennett, that seemed to go nowhere.

Evelyn seemed to have absolutely no interest in Muller when she found out that he wasn't her lover Dr. Bartok but was still willing to check out of country to Honolulu Hawaii with him. This after an enraged Muller smacked Evelyn around so hard that he almost knocked out a couple of her teeth! It was the surprise ending that just about saved the movie with Muller finding out that he wasn't the only person in Los Angeles with gambling problems which, in him being so street smart, shouldn't have been a surprise to him at all!

P.S Look for a young Jack Webb the future Sgt. Joe Friday of the popular 1950's TV Cop show "Dragnet" as one of Stawsyc's hoods called Bullseye.
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9/10
Film Noire Identity Theft
filmalamosa16 May 2012
Film noir gangster the hero. Identical doubles that aren't twins with murder and identity theft. Suspend your disbelief and it is fun to watch.

I will let the other reviewers give you the detailed synopsis of this fun story. It is good trust me.

This movie would get a 10 if the ending had followed the rest of it. But even so this is terrific entertainment that keeps you on the edge of your seat through out.

Well shot well acted fun to watch see what happens when conventional goody two shoes preachy Hollywood ethics is (mostly) gone?

This is one of the best movies I have watched in a long time.

Recommend highly.
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A Bit About Mr. Henreid
joe-pearce-118 August 2011
I'm commenting here only about some of the rather silly comments expressed elsewhere about Paul Henreid. First of all, he wasn't "Hungarian/French/American", but Austrian/American, born a member of the Austrian nobility in Trieste and raised in Vienna. His original name was too long to reproduce here, but he first acted under the name of Paul von Hernreid. Several have mentioned his THICK accent, but he has almost no accent at all in most of the film, and what accent remains is so light as to be indeterminable (almost the kind of Continental European accent one can hear in Audrey Hepburn's speech when she's not making a determined effort to speak English with no accent at all); whatever the accent may be, it is certainly not "thick"! And his brother in the film is played by American Edward Franz, who very often played roles in which he had no definable accent but seemed to be speaking with one just the same(!). That is pretty much the way I heard him in this film, too. Others claim Henreid was trying to change his good-guy image, but he had already done that several times in films, most especially as Nazis in two English-made films (one of which being the quite notable NIGHT TRAIN TO MUNICH) prior to arriving in the U.S., and concurrently with this film he appeared in ROPE OF SAND as one of the most despicable villains of the late 1940s (at one point, he blinds Burt Lancaster by forcing his head into the sand, and then tries to run over him with a truck!). As with at least a few of the commentators, I usually find that Henreid lacks a certain amount of star charisma, but he seems to have more of it in this film than in any other of the thirty or so films I've seen him in. Ironically, it is in what is probably his least-known starring role effort. Too bad.
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8/10
Some craft, a disconcerting approach
Cristi_Ciopron20 January 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Interesting fatalistic story, ambitiously filmed, cool and stylish, restrained, Paul Henreid in maybe the role of his life, Joan Bennett as a strong girl (here's a noir without a femme fatal); what's especially interesting is the stylistic effect obtained by an ambiguous diction; THE SCAR is an eerie melodrama ,perhaps pervaded by a sadness subtler than what's usually available in such vehicles. Watch for two good performances, from the two actors I have named.

Paul Henreid achieves a masterful and nuanced characterization.

I sometimes wondered if the directing is a little below the script; I tend to think that the script is anyway served, by the effect of underplaying already mentioned. The story itself is made to look odd.
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7/10
Surprising Existential Noir
mstomaso23 August 2008
John Muller (Henreid) is a smart, good looking, nihilistic criminal. He gets out of jail and immediately hatches a plan for a heist, bringing together his old gang. The plan works, but not very well, and his identity is revealed to the mob boss he has ripped off. Muller runs and begins stalking a new identity. Muller is anything but likable, but somehow, his characterization is sympathetic enough to allow the audience to at least consider redemption as an option. As Muller's plan is set in motion, elements of his past creep back into his life and threaten him. But the biggest threat is the most sympathetic, well-portrayed, and engaging character in the film - Joan Bennett's Evelyn.

Hollow Triumph, or The Scar, is not typical noir. It includes relatively few of the clichés of the genre, and incorporates an unusual amount of realistic human emotionalism. Although the film may be predictable at times - especially for those steeped in noir traditions - it also presents many surprises along the way.

Paul Henreid (Casablanca, Dead Ringer, etc) produced and starred (dual role) in this compelling noir. Henreid and veteran B-film director Stephen Sekeley put together a creative team and cast with great talent and comparatively little star power, ending up with a relatively obscure, but excellent example of the genre. John Alton's cinematography is standard noir and awesome. Bennett and Henreid are superb, and the script, though sometimes hyperbolic, helps create memorable characters and story.

Recommended.
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"Almost" only counts in horseshoes.
GManfred28 March 2009
An 'almost'good B but with one too many plot contrivances and script lapses for any more stars. At best it kills almost 90 minutes (if you pause a couple times for refreshments) on a rainy day or if you are recuperating from something which is not painful.

I am really enjoying this boxed set of old Noirs, even if you come across one that needs some rewriting or reediting. I like Paul Henreid and Joan Bennett but there is precious little chemistry between the two, and they are not helped by some lameness in the script (if, as mentioned above you are recovering, sorry about the 'lame' crack). There is a neat twist ending which nearly saves the day but the disbelief had long since been unsuspended. Still, it's fun to find character/ bit players in the cast - for instance, Jack Webb shows up as a hit man in what must be his first picture after high school graduation.

Give it a try if you get the same boxed set for Christmas. It may work better for you. It almost worked for me.
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8/10
No-one Can Deny Their Fate
seymourblack-123 May 2013
Warning: Spoilers
"Hollow Triumph" (aka "The Scar") is a dark thriller about a conceited criminal, a bungled heist and an incredible sequence of events that lead to an extremely ironic conclusion. The moral of the story is that no-one can deny their fate and that any attempts to do so will inevitably prove to be futile. This is a movie that's thoroughly absorbing and enjoyable to watch but one that also contains its share of bitterness and tragedy.

John Muller (Paul Henreid) is a college educated con-man who, in the past, studied at a medical school and for some time after practised without a licence as a psychiatrist. When he's released from a prison sentence, the warden arranges for him to be given an office job at a medical supply company in L.A. in the hope that it will encourage him to settle down to an ordinary life and go straight. John has no such intentions and before taking up his job reconvenes his old gang and convinces them to take part in a high-value casino heist.

The heist doesn't go according to plan and only John and his old friend Marcy (Herbert Rudley) escape. Marcy is terrified because casino owner Rocky Stansyck (Robert Browne Henry) is a vicious gangster with a reputation for hunting down anyone who crosses him. After the two men share their stolen money, Marcy heads off to Mexico and John leaves to take up his job in L.A.

Shortly after beginning his new job, John discovers that he has a double called Dr Victor Bartok who's a successful psychologist and learns that the only obvious distinction between them is that Bartok has a prominent facial scar. John goes to Bartok's office where he meets the doctor's secretary, Evelyn Hahn (Joan Bennett). Although she's involved in a relationship with Bartok, Evelyn also strikes up a friendship with John which he uses to gain access to a number of Bartok's documents.

John gets fired from his office job and then goes on to make a scar on his own face before murdering Dr Bartok and assuming his identity. Despite cutting the wrong cheek, no-one seems to notice and John seems to have made himself safe from being killed by Stansyk's men.

Paul Henreid is extremely good as Muller and Bartok and convincingly conveys Muller's over-confidence and his disdain for anyone who sees any merit in being employed in a routine job. Joan Bennett is also excellent as Evelyn whose experiences with love have left her terribly disillusioned and the extinguishing of her last hope of happiness is a particularly poignant moment.

Despite its lack of box office success, "Hollow Triumph" is a very well written movie with some memorable lines and also John Alton's wonderful cinematography.
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Fate Rules
dougdoepke2 November 2011
If you can buy the premise—a hunted guy finds his exact double and takes over the double's life—the rest follows pretty effectively. Writer Dan Fuchs is much underrated and a prime contributor to Hollywood's noir period. The screenplay is more cynical than usual for the genre. Catch how many times comely secretary Evelyn (Bennett) complains about never expecting anything from life; or the guy talking about people being so self-absorbed they don't even know the color of their wife's eyes; and, of course, there's that desolate ending.

Then too, the self-absorption is underscored by the fact that no one even notices that Muller/Dr. Bartok's scar has changed location on his face. Not even those closest to him. The exception is the humble old charwoman, which is why the arrogant Bartok embraces her in a sudden moment of appreciation. I also like the little garage guy's big dream of becoming a sleek ballroom dancer. He has no chance, of course, but it helps him cope. Except for the contrived premise, it's quite a provocative and, at times, touching screenplay.

Frankly, Henreid's a little too impassive in the title role to grab attention. However, the script's pretty strong, so I don't think it really hurts the movie, but it doesn't help, either. Alton's expert noir photography helps lift the visuals to a compelling level. At the same time, I doubt that fate has had a stronger role than in this film, along with an ending among the most devastating in all noir. All in all, the production remains a solid noir entry.
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7/10
At the height of noir is this contrived but visually intense Henreid vehicle
secondtake11 March 2011
Hollow Triumph (1948)

Maybe Hungarian/French/American actor Paul Henreid (of "Casablanca" fame) knew by 1948 that he was not going to be an American movie idol. So here he went all out and produced this film and starred in two (two) of the leading roles. No one could stop him. And it almost works. There is no making up for his styrofoam abilities, but he is serviceable, at least, and the photography (by John Alton, a noir great, see "The Big Combo") makes it worthwhile alone. Joan Bennet is not cast well, I suppose, but she has her own kind of cheerful innocence that works fine.

Not to trip over myself with superlatives. This is a decent movie with maybe an overly clever (and highly implausible) plot getting mostly in the way. And yet, with all these issues it still is involving. It partly succeeds because it uses the best of the era--great Hollywood studio machinery top to bottom--so it looks and feels very professional. And there are some terrific location scenes that are worth the ticket alone. Hungarian director Steve Sekely was and is little known and yet he clearly makes the most of what little he had to work with here...enough to wish we could get his pre-war Hungarian films on DVD for a look. Probably lost to American audiences forever.

This is officially a B-movie, produced at a smaller studio, but it feels very professional and really A-movie in technique (thanks largely to Alton, I think). If you like noirs, and you like brooding dark and eventually depressing material, I wouldn't hesitate to watch this, but keep in mind the caveats.
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6/10
A New Life With The Same Problems
bkoganbing29 September 2008
Hollow Triumph finds Paul Henreid cast in the dual role of small time crook John Muller, recently released from prison and dreaming of a big score and his doppleganger, psychiatrist Dr. Victor Emil Bartok.

Henreid the crook has been released and no sooner than he's out than he refuses to heed the warnings of his older brother Eduard Franz and go straight, but that he reassembles his old gang for a robbery of the gambling palace owned by Tom Browne Henry.

Paul's the only one who gets away, but Tom's a mean dude when crossed and Henreid has to find a way to disappear. Providentially the psychiatrist appears on the scene and Paul's found a way. It's his idea to kill the psychiatrist and assume his identity.

That unfortunately brings some additional complications, most of them in the person of Joan Bennett, the secretary of psychiatrist who falls for the crook big time. She proves his undoing as many a woman has.

Henreid produced as well as starred in this film for the short lived Eagle-Lion studios, a hands across the sea project that was the brainchild of J. Arthur Rank and Universal Pictures. He does well in the kind of role his old rival from Casablanca Humphrey Bogart would have done. Bennett also did well in a part that makes her kind of the ultimate winner here.

Hollow Triumph, released in the USA as The Scar is a stylish noir thriller, the kind that if someone like Fritz Lang had directed would have been a classic.
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7/10
Under rated
hengir28 October 2006
Warning: Spoilers
A fine and under rated film noir for many reasons except one, which is that the Paul Henreid character impersonates another one called Dr Bartok but with a huge scar on the wrong cheek. One doesn't mind suspending belief but this was a bit too much. Indeed the scar plot point itself could have been dispensed with as the outcome was not due to Dr Bartok's looks but his behaviour. The scar thing felt gimmicky, which is a shame as it mars an engrossing thriller.

Henreid is better than he is in most of his films, giving a deep and interesting performance and he is matched by Joan Bennett. Their scenes together are splendid, indeed the dialogue in the whole film is very well written. The film is supported by some magnificent photography, the real epitome of film noir. The whole atmosphere has that doomed and helpless quality which is great, if you like that sort of thing! This is well worth discovering. The director Steve Sekeley never did anything better.
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6/10
Could have been a whole lot more effective but Henreid is good...
Doylenf29 September 2008
Warning: Spoilers
It occurred to me, while watching HOLLOW TRIUMPH (or THE SCAR), that the script would have been a lot more interesting if the JOHN QUALEN character (the dentist) had been a sly blackmailer. The scene where he has a private talk with bad guy Henried and says something about how he notices small details could have evolved into a blackmailing scheme that would have added interest to the story.

*****POSSIBLE SPOILER AHEAD***** Another factor: Whenever we have someone impersonating someone else in a Hollywood film, it always turns out that they should have known more about the person's background--because there's always a deadly enemy who wants his justice, thereby leading to a predictable ending. In other words, I knew PAUL HENRIED would never be getting on that boat to make his escape with JOAN BENNETT. It's all in the details.

On the plus side, the film is effectively photographed in film noir style, is brisk and well paced, features a good central performance by PAUL HENRIED and at least gives JOAN BENNETT a chance to look good in all of her close-ups. But Bennett's part is severely underwritten and implausible when you stop to think about it. She gives it some gusto but is never completely convincing.

All in all, a fairly good thriller with a few loopholes--such as why didn't anyone but a cleaning woman notice anything strange about the placement of the scar? Even his wife (LESLIE BROOKS), busy with her compact and make-up, failed to notice. Come on.

Not bad, but could have been a whole lot more effective.
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4/10
Not A Memorable 'Noir'
ccthemovieman-121 July 2006
It's hard to write 10 lines of copy about this so-so film noir. There just isn't a lot to say about it. It is not memorable enough to add to your collection, and I have a considerable amount of noirs.

Paul Henreid plays a tough guy in here. He's not one I would think of to play this kind of role, but he's fine with it. He's a fine actor, anyway.

Everything, including the cinematography, is okay-but-not memorable. One thing that stood out: the abrupt ending. That was a surprise. It was also a surprise to see this under the heading "Hollow Triumph." I've never seen the film called that. It's always been called "Scar."

If you read about a "tense film noir," etc., don't believe it. "Tense" is not an accurate adjective for this film.
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6/10
A crook replaces a lookalike doctor
blanche-230 September 2008
Paul Henried plays a double role in "Hollow Triumph," a 1948 film also starring Joan Bennett. Henried is John Muller who, the minute he gets out of prison, hatches a robbery plot of a casino with his old gang. None of them want to go along with it, but Muller bullies them into it. It doesn't go as planned. The owner of the casino, Stansyck, is known for hunting people down who wrong him even if it takes years, so Muller is now a marked man. When he's stopped on the street by a dentist who believes him to be Dr. Victor Bartok, Muller begins to hatch an idea. They look exactly alike - except for a scar on Bartok's left cheek.

"Hollow Triumph" or "The Scar" as it's also called is a very entertaining movie even with a preposterous plot. One small point is the casting of Eduard Franz as Muller's brother. Were they separated at birth, with Muller brought up in Germany and his brother raised in the U.S.? Or did someone cast Eduard Franz thinking that because of his name, he had an accent? Paul Henried does a good job in his dual role, though we really don't see a lot of Bartok's personality. Joan Bennett is good as an embittered woman who believes she's unlucky in love.

Seeing "Hollow Triumph" in 2008, one thing sticks out: a guy filled his gas tank for a dollar.
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