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Fantômas - À l'Ombre de la Guillotine

episode 1
Fantômas: In the Shadow of the Guillotine

France 1913
produced by
Ramon Bosetti for Gaumont
directed by Louis Fueillade
starring René Navarre, Georges Melchior, Renée Carl, Edmund Breon, Jane Faber, Volbert, Naudier, Maillard, Yvette Andréyor
screenplay by Louis Feuillade, based on the novel by Marcel Allain, Pierre Souvestre

Fantomas, Louis Feuillade's Fantomas

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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It all starts with a daring heist, in which a stranger later identified as Fantomas (René Navarre) steals the jewelry of the Princess Danidoff (Jane Faber), then manages to get out of the almost hermetically sealed off hotel she stays at by switching disguises numerous times.

The police is left baffled by this daring crime, but inspector Juve (Edmund Breon) eventually links all of it to another crime, the disappearance of Lord Beltham, which seems to be just as inexplicable as the jewel heist. While everyone else is looking for Beltham's body though, Juve tracks down his luggage to a certain Gurn (yup, it's René Navarre), who's somehow involved with the Belthams ... and is actually Lady Beltham's (Renée Carl) lover. In one of Lord Beltham's trunks, Juve finds ... the deceased Lord Beltham of course - and from there on it's no problem to arrest Gurn, have him convicted of the murder, prove he's Fantomas, and have him sentenced to death by the guillotine. Happy ending?

Not by a longshot, because Lady Beltham is not only Gurn's lover, she's also very resourceful, so she bribes two of Gurn's guards into obedience, finds an actor (Volbert) who resembles Gurn, seduces him and then has him replaced for the real Gurn in the night before his execution. It's only minutes before his decapitation that Juve, always a sceptic at heart, realizes the man led to the guillotine is not the real Gurn/Fantomas, and he saves the actor just in time. And thus, Juve's obsession with Fantomas begins ...


At the time of this writing, Fantomas - À l'Ombre de la Guillotine is a straight century old - and it still holds up remarkably well, also (and especially) when compared to later Fantomas-adaptations. The reason here is not so much Louis Feuillade's fetishistic approach to his material (which is rather subdued compared to his later films) but his ability to tell a story with the then very limited techniques cinema had to offer, to build up tension and suspense, and to treat his pulpy source material with respect.

Nice one indeed!


review © by Mike Haberfelner


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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



Stell Dir vor, Deine Lieblingsseifenoper birgt eine tiefere Wahrheit ...
... und stell Dir vor, der Penner von der U-Bahnstation hat doch recht ...
... und dann triffst Du auch noch die Frau Deiner (feuchten) Träume ...


Und an diesem Tag geht natürlich wieder einmal die Welt unter!!!


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