JustJimAZ

The Masks of The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh

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I was recently made aware of Dr. Syn, Alias the Scarecrow - a Disney movie based on the 1915 Dr. Syn novels of Russell Thorndike.

The movie is a pretty straightforward Scarlett Pimpernell / Zorro / Green Hornet story of a masked vigilante who is a respectable part of society but is also secretly the wanted man. It's a fine movie for the family to enjoy if you can find it. However, what I loved are the masks and costumes.
The masks are used by The Scarecrow and his loyal henchmen, Hellspite and Curlew:


Unlike Robin Hood or Zorro, this creepy crusader was made a fearful figure, conceived to horrify the corrupt officials he battles. The Scarecrow's mask is actually a painted dishtowel.


“I struck upon using a dishcloth because it was readily accessible,” recalled English makeup expert Harry Frampton with typical British understatement. “After some stitching and painting, it took on an eerie quality. Then I gave McGoohan a shapeless slouch hat, with straw sticking out from under it. But after putting it together, the real straw looked too fine. It didn’t photograph right. We replaced it with thicker, manufactured champagne straws, imported from France.”

“The makeup people took a cast of my head,” added McGoohan, “and then they molded the mask to the cast so that wearing it was completely comfortable—nothing was glued to [my skin] so it was very comfortable.” To compliment the macabre mask, Frampton placed a three-foot board across McGoohan’s shoulders under a dark and tattered coat. The ragged cloak then formed a shroud-like cape that dramatically flowed behind the ghoulish Scarecrow as he rode across the midnight marshes.

It's interesting to me that he says nothing was glued to his skin, because when he speaks in the movie, it certainly does look glued down. It's a great look, and I'm surprised Disney didn't make more films or promote this more, because it has the potential to be iconic.



I could find no such in-depth info on the mask of Hellspite.

It looks like it's made of sheer cotton, so it completely hides the eyes a'la Spiderman. It's painted with s ghoulish skull that I was surprised to see in the film, actually. If I were recreating it, I might start by putting a painter's sock on backwards to see how the visibility is. If it's not good, Cheesecloth would probably do well. It kind of looks like painted cheesecloth in the pictures.

Curlew's mask is, to me, the most bizarre. I got through the whole movie never understanding what I was looking at. Of course, some of that was because I was watching a low-res transfer from a VHS - probably recorded off television in the seventies. Some of it was my ignorance of what the heck a "curlew" is.


I understand the mask featured real feathers and non-fogging lenses. I think it would make an interesting abstract mask on its own. Combined with the other two, it's just a bit odd to me. I guess the connection is that the curlew is a bird like a sandpiper and it lives on the coast. The Scarecrow was a smuggler and they got their shipments on the beach, so there is the connection. Watching the film, I actually thought it was a mask made by tying a flour sack in a knot at the open end, bunching it all up and putting a nose and eyes on it.

I like the coats they wear as well. Very period and pirate like. The Scarecrow's, being the most tattered, and with that board on his shoulders, is my favorite. It suggests he just hopped down off his perch in the field. The character himself is interesting as well. At one point, Dr. Syn actually asks the general hunting The Scarecrow to provide him personal protection from the Scarecrow. It's very Zorro / Green Hornet in the way The Scarecrow is portrayed as a criminal actually doing good, and the way his alter ego appears to be on the side of the authorities. Anyway, good movie for the family, and cool masks I hope you enjoyed.

Updated 05-27-2019 at 03:14 PM by JustJimAZ

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