Who?

Tagged: Film

Film (1974; vt The Man in the Steel Mask). Hemisphere/Maclean & Co. Directed by Jack Gold. Written by John Gould (Jack Gold), based on Who? (April 1955 Fantastic Universe; exp 1958) by Algis Budrys. Cast includes Joseph Bova, Elliott Gould and Trevor Howard. 91 minutes. Colour.

Released long after being made, and publicized not at all, this taut, efficient little metaphysical thriller, hinging on questions of what constitutes Identity, deserved rather better. A key US scientist (Bova) is terribly injured on the East German border and later returned, fixed up by the Russians, in Cyborg form with a metal face and hand. Or is he a planted double agent? Gould plays the US security man who sees to it that the cyborg is constantly watched. With a series of Cold-War riffs, a rather good subtext is set up about the human-seeming machine of the state apparatus (on both sides) versus the machine-seeming human (with more human feeling than he putatively had before, as shown in a touching scene with the ex-wife). The prosthetic "monster" finally rejects secret scientific work; instead he retires, quite alone, to a farm. The mask is never removed, not even metaphorically, and the mystery is only solved (for alert viewers) through ironic indirection. Gold is known mainly as one of the UK's better television-drama directors. [PN]

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