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Le Collectionneur des Cerveaux
Les Robots Pensants / Schach dem Roboter

France 1976
directed by Michel Subiela
starring Claude Jade, Francois Dunoyer, André Reybaz, Roger Crouzet, Thierry Murzeau, Gisèle Casadesus, Raoul Guillet, Jean-Claude Sachot, Jean-Pierre Granet, Jacques Rocchesani, Yves Marc, Claire Heggen
screenplay by Michel Subiela, based on the story Les Robots Pensants by George Langelaan, music by Vladimir Cosma

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Penny Vanderwood (Claude Jade) is a renowned pianist from England, but performing in Paris at the moment, where her deceased husband was from. After one of her performances, she meets the Comte de Saint Germain (André Reybaz) who was so touched by her playing that he wants her to play for and inspire his ... robots (?). At first, she thinks he's just a hopeless eccentric, but then she learns that he has one of his chess robots playing an exhibition tournament against a chess master. That, and the fact that her late husband was a chess grandmaster himself, makes her curious, so she goes to watch the tournament - and thinks the robot plays just like her husband while the robot ... weirdly enough gets distracted by her presence - and her presence alone out of all the people in the auditorium.

Together with Lewis (Francois Dunoyer), a young English diplomat, Penny proceeds to investigate the Comte and his backgrounds, as she believes her husband is still alive and remote-controlling the chess robot from afar - but however thorough they investigate, they can't find any indication of foul play when it comes to the robot, nor any sign that Penny's husbans is still alive - well, other than that his grave is suspiciously empty. Eventually, Lewis gives up on their investigations - true, he might be secretly in love with her and would probably die for her, but what he does here is nothing but nurturing her obsession over her dead husband. So Penny decides to pay a visit to the Comte himself to find a few answers ... and he proves to be the most perfect host ever ...

A few days later: Lewis hasn't heard from Penny in an awful long time, and it seems she has disappeared from the face of the earth - so he hooks up with his best friend Diego (Thierry Murzeau), they do a bit of investigating and finally come to the conclusion that it might be the best idea to break into the Comte's mansion at night. There they ... receive help from the chess robot, who's really the brain of Penny's husband transplanted into an automaton. Lewis and Diego have to learn Penny is the next in line for a brain transplantation - but they manage to her rescue just in time, and once they have left, the mansion conveniently burns down to the ground ...


There are several good ideas in this movie, and for a while, its unexcited, low-key approach to the story at hand actually works. But eventually, the whole thing comes off as too wordy, too stagey in direction, the scarce action scenes could have done with a little more polish, and the whole thing sadly lacks atmosphere.

That all said, the film is still far from a disaster, the story and buildup are actually pretty good, as is the cast, it's just that as a whole, the movie never lives up to its promise.


review © by Mike Haberfelner


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Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD