Tonight, Peter Lorre stars in the 1941 horror film The Face Behind the Mask, which airs on Talking Pictures TV from 10:55 p.m. The film follows a twisted immigrant watchmaker who has been unable to find work following facial injuries he sustained in a fire, and how he uses his unique skills for criminal purposes. Initially, the horror was poorly received by critics, with The New York Times noting that it “can be safely presented as just another bald melodramatic exercise in which Lorre’s talents are once again stymied by hackneyed dialogue. and conventional manipulations of the plot”.
Contemporary reviews, however, demonstrate the film’s impact, including Lorre’s acting credentials, with critic Leonard Maltin praising it as an “extremely well-made” film “on a low budget”.
Hungarian-born Lorre’s story is a blockbuster one, as, being of Jewish descent, he and his family were forced out of Germany when Nazi leader Adolf Hitler came to power.
He has often been praised for his ability to play the villain, notably when he was the first actor to play a James Bond villain in the 1954 television version of Casino Royale.
But what is often overlooked about Lorre is his appearance in the 90s Disney movie Aladdin, as one of the impersonations the Genie does during a hilarious first encounter between the two characters.
The Genie, played by the late Robin Williams, is often considered one of the greatest characters to grace the screens of a Disney movie.
In Aladdin, which was released in 1992 and was the 31st film released by the Disney studio, a passage shows the Genie performing a series of hilarious impressions as he tries to get close to the street kid.
Among them are Arnold Schwarzenegger, William F. Buckley, Jr, Robert De Niro and Jack Nicholson.
But it’s often forgotten that Lorre appears as a creepy green monster in a print, in a nod to Williams’ love of his characters.
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Dave Itzkoff, who wrote Williams’ 2018 biography, Robin, noted how the creative process of finding characters such as Lorre for the iconic scene helped shape the Genie’s overall character.
Originally, Aladdin was intended to be a “cloak-and-cloak historical fantasy,” Slash Magazine reported this year, but co-directors Ron Clements and John Musker, along with composer Alan Menken, convinced executives that it was acted as “a more comfortable retelling of the Arabian Folktale”.
This helped shape the character of the Genie, who if the original plot had been developed would have seen him as a “hipster, a la Fats Waller and Cab Calloway” and inspired by jazz artists, it has been said. affirmed.
While Williams was slated for the role thanks to appearances in films such as Good Morning, Vietnam and Hook, it was unclear whether the star, who demanded millions in fees, would be up for a movie role. from Disney.
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Host Eric Goldberg was tasked with creating test footage for Williams to audition against and created a storyboard for the Genie’s song Friend Like Me.
Goldberg recalled how the test footage included lines from Williams’ stand-up comedy albums, which added to the Genie’s animation for brilliant viewing.
He said: “I think what probably sold him was the one where he said, ‘Tonight let’s talk about the serious subject of schizophrenia – No, we’re not! – Shut up, let him talk!
“What I did was animate the Genie pushing another head to argue with itself, and Robin just laughed.
“He could see the potential of what the character could be. I’m sure that wasn’t the only factor, but then he signed the dotted line.”
Williams died after taking his own life at his home in Paradise Cay, California in 2014. He was 63.
His autopsy revealed undiagnosed Lewy body disease.
Among the many moving tributes was then-US President Barack Obama, who said: “Robin Williams was an aviator, a doctor, a genius, a nanny, a president, a professor, a bangarang Peter Pan, and everything the rest.
“He came into our lives as an alien, but he ended up touching every element of the human spirit.
“He made us laugh. He made us cry. He gave his immeasurable talent freely and generously to those who needed it most – from our troops stationed overseas to the marginalized on our own streets.”
The Face Behind the Mask airs on Talking Pictures TV starting at 10:55 p.m. tonight.