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France, circa 1910: To claim her prize money from the National Lottery,
the Marquise de Langrune (Hélène Duc) takes the train to Paris,
accompanied by her good friend inspector Juve (Jacques Dufilho), who has
the distinct feeling that she will be robbed of her ticket by none other
than Fantomas, supercriminal and man of many faces. Nobody takes Juve very
seriously, mind you, because Fantomas is his pet obsession, nothing more.
Of course, the Marquise is murdered on the train, despite Juve's
protection, and the lottery ticket has gone missing. There are clues that
Fantomas might have had to do with it, too ...
A few days later, a
handsome stranger catches the princess Danidoff (Kristina Van Eyck) naked
(duh!) in her bathtub. He behaves all gentleman-like though, but hands her
his card - Fantomas.
Yet later, Gurn (Helmut Berger) is found on the
premises of Lady Beltham (Gayle Hunnicutt) and arrested on the spot. He is
really her lover, mind you, but she dares not admit it because she knows
for a fact that he has killed her husband (at her request). He is still
tried for the crime, eventually admits to it and is condemned to death by
decapitation. For some reason, inspector Juve thinks he's Fantomas
(several pieces of evidence in the Beltham murder suggested so), but he's
not taken seriously. In jail, Gurn gets special treatment because Lady
Beltham bribes his guards, and she just might be able to do a little more
for him, because you see, in Paris, there's an actor who looks just like
him ... so lady Beltham invites the actor to her place on the night before
the execution, drugs him, and with the help of the guards loyal to her,
she replaces Gurn with him just hours away from decapitation time.
who can't wait to see his nemesis beheaded, only notices after the head
has come off that the Gurn they executed wears makeup ... just like an
This first episode of a TV four-parter must have come
like something of a revelation for serious Fantomas-fans who
were disappointed by the slapstick Jean Marais-Luis De Funes films from
the 1960's, and perhaps rightly so - but really, this film, taken by
itself, isn't much to get excited about. Basically, it totally fails to
build Fantomas into the pulpy supervillain he was conceived as, tells a
way too down-to-earth murder mystery to create excitement, relies way too
heavily on far fetched plottwists and plot devices to remain believable,
and the "surprise" ending announces itself way too early in the
movie. The whole thing isn't totally without merit, some of the dialogue
is sharp and poignant at least, and in several instances, the film
enjoyably shifts towards caricature for a few moments, but as a whole, the
whole thing's hardly worth your time.