Skip the Last Five Seconds of Behind the Mask (1946)
Behind the Mask (aka The Shadow Behind the Mask) is an amiable, terribly silly comedy murder mystery that kills the fun just as its winding down. Accepting that male and female roles were different in the 1940s, its misogynistic ending is still hard to take.
Life would probably be a lot more complicated if you, like Lamont Cranston (The Shadow), not only had a comic-relief butler, but also a comic-relief fiancé with a comic-relief maid. However, Behind the Mask convinced me that I really do need a comic-relief household staff. Incorporating many of our favorite comedy murder mystery ingredients—costumes, mistaken identity, rich people, dumb detectives, bloodless murders, a cute couple, and the wrong guy fingered for the murders--Behind the Mask has Cranston (Kane Richmond) framed for the murder of a blackmailing newspaper reporter, on the eve of his wedding to Margo Lane (Barbara Reed).
Cranston has an advantage that most amateur sleuths don’t—his uncle is the police commissioner. Make that “doting uncle” who won’t allow the police detectives to insult his rich playboy nephew. Since Cranston engages in a number of illegal activities (for example, breaking and entering) in order to solve murder mysteries, it’s vital to have uncles in high places.
A bookie operation that takes bets via jukebox and a blackmail ring that sets up incriminating situations then photographs their victims are among the underworld types that Cranston and company mix with in order to clear his name. Of all the people they meet, the most interesting has to be the dead newsman’s secretary—she is the most beautiful character in the movie, and the very best dressed, wearing a luxurious fox jacket and designer cocktail dress to stop by and help Cranston uncover some evidence (also attempting to seduce him, and succeeding at enraging Margo, resulting in a cat fight). Do newspaper secretaries get paid so much more than corporate secretaries?Continued on the next page