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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

The Great Impostor (1961)



Reviews and Comments

Based on the real life of Ferdinand Waldo Demara Jr., The Great Impostor tells a clever little tale of a man who refuses to accept that he should be content with less than his dreams. He discovers a talent for faking credentials and pretending to be other people. Lacking the patience to work his way up the professional ladder in the conventional manner, he takes a few shortcuts here and there as it suits him. The interesting moral question here is that, since he usually does good in the positions he obtains dubiously, is he really doing wrong?

Not everything in this film comes together as cleanly as it should. For one thing, the movie's story is (obviously) significantly condensed from the real life story, and it shows. Although many episodes of his life were cut out entirely, what remains still feels rushed, and we are often unsure of why he wants to pursue some of the things he sets his sights on. A longer running time to flesh out the details would have been nice.

However, I don't want to come down too hard on this film. What's here is generally very good. Most is lighthearted -- one funny scene has Demara called upon to pull a tooth, something he's never done before in his life. But another scene, with Demara posing as a prison warden, is tensely dangerous. Altogether, it makes a fine film and an original one at that.