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Supercriminal/man of thousand faces Fantomas (Jean Marais) terrorizes
Paris and leaves the police baffled. Only one man, reporter Fandor (Jean
Marais again), doesn't believe in the existence of Fantomas, so he cooks
up a fake interview with Fantomas for his newspaper, in which the real
Fantomas comes off as a bit of an idiot. Needless to say, Fantomas is not
amused, so he has Fandor kidnapped, and he "persuades" him to
write another, more "pleasing" article within two days time. But
as soon as he's released from Fantomas' clutches, Fandor is taken into
custody by the police and questioned by chief of police Juve (Louis de
Funès) for two days, while his newspaper writes another scathing
Fantomas-article. Fantomas is of course not amused again, so he again
kidnaps Fandor, plus his girlfriend Hélène (Mylène Demongeot), whom he
plans to seduce before Fandor's eyes, just to have his revenge on him.
Also to have his revenge on him, Fantomas commits crimes posing as Fandor,
to crush his reputation. Then he commits crimes disguised as Juve, too ...
sees to it that Fantomas' girlfriend Lady Beltham (Marie-Hélène Arnaud)
gets wind of him trying to seduce Hélène, so out of jealousy, Lady
Beltham sets Fandor and Hélène free - but sabotages the brakes of their
getaway car ... well, they survive, but Fandor is thrown into the slammer
together with Juve, because they are both suspected to be Fantomas. And
then Fantomas abducts them from the prison because ... well, because it's
time for an action scene most probably.
Anyways, the finale is an
extended chase scene by car, motorbike, train, helicopter, speedboat,
submarine, and of cours rubber dinghy. And ultimately, our heroes manage
to defeat Fantomas, but he manages to make a getaway ... to return for the
Fans of the classic Fantomas-novels and
films will probably have come to hate this broad comedy based on their
hero immediately upon release, as it makes a fool not only out of their
hero but out of the entire cast of characters they have come to love - and
the jokes are not even spot-on, as the Fantomas-lore seems
to be re-invented to go in tune with the then blossoming Eurospy genre,
which meant dumbed down plots in favour of action setpieces, special
effects, extravagant sets and costumes and the like - and you know, within
genre confines, this Fantomas is pretty decent, the action's well
executed, the sets are nice, the hero's likeable and able to play it
tongue-in-cheek, Louis de Funès gives able and quite hilarious support,
and the thing's rather well-paced, too ... there's just one thing: The
film isn't all that funny. Oh, and another thing: The story sucks -
instead of relying on proper buildup and the like, it just seems like a
hanger for action scenes, lacks any real premise, and seems to end not
because all relevant plotpoints are resolved but because its 100 minutes
of running time are used up.
Now don't get me wrong, this is not a
terrible movie, some of the action's pretty good and there's at least the
occasional cuckle - but it has just got too much room for improvement to
come off as an at least decent supervillain comedy.