Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, June 8, 2017


Rene Navarro and Renee Carl
FANTOMAS: IN THE SHADOW OF THE GUILLOTINE (aka À l'ombre de la guillotine/1913). Director: Louis Feuillade.

The evil genius Fantomas (Rene Navarre) has stolen gems from one terrified woman, Princesse Danidoff (Jane Faber), in a hotel, and is now responsible for the murder of Lord Beltham. Inspector Juve (Edmund Breon) is determined to bring the master criminal to justice. Juve determines that Fantomas is actually Mr. Gurn, the love of Lady Beltham (Renee Carl), and Gurn is arrested and set to be executed. But with the help of Lady Beltham, and the unknowing complicity of the actor Valgrand (Andre Volbert), who plays Fantomas on the stage, Gurn will outwit both Juve and the guillotine. This is the first in a series of short silent films based on the novel Fantomas and subsequent volumes. This film eliminates the grisly murder of the Marquise, as well as the dismaying fate of Valgrand. Beautifully remastered, Fantomas is essentially a curio, well done if basically static, and enlivened by a pastiche musical score. Back in the day, it was probably great fun for French audiences to see scenes from such a popular work of fiction enacted on the screen. Less so today.

Verdict: Interesting curio. **1/2.

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