Hollow Triumph (also known as The Scar) 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 such 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?
Hollow Triumph a.k.a. The Scar is a sadly overlooked noir. While it’s not going to make it to the top 20 of Best Noirs Ever it has essential noir qualities and is quite a good film. It should definitely be part of your Essential Noir Top 100 (possible even Top 50).
The director, Steve Sekely,is best known for directing The Day of the Triffids and doesn’t have too many noir credentials, but all that is made up by the actress in this film: Joan Bennett played in a lot of noirs in the 40s (incl. The Reckless Moment, Secret Beyond The Door and Woman in the Window) and had a career that lasted many decades (her final movie performance was in Dario Argento’s Suspiria). Paul Henreid played in over 50 movies, his best-known performance is probably Victor Laszlo in Casablanca.
Hollow Triumph (a.k.a. The Scar)
Directed by Steve Sekely
With Paul Henreid, Joan Bennett
It is currently out on Region 1 DVD, it is part of the Classic Film Noir box with 9 movies (incl. D.O.A., Detour and The Hitch-Hiker).