|Jean Gabin as Pepe|
Master thief Pele le Moko (Jean Gabin) has taken up residence in the twisted, dangerous byways of the Casbah in Algiers, where he hides out from the authorities even as he feels like he's a prisoner. His girlfriend is Ines (Line Noro), but he develops a romantic yearning for Gaby (Mireille Balin), the kept woman of a rich, corpulent tourist. But will Ines' jealousy interfere with his plans to flee to his beloved Paris with the woman of his dreams? The characters of Pepe le Moko are not that dimensional or bright, but the film's intensity, especially at the climax, partially compensates, and one can certainly feel pity for Ines. There is something quasi-tragic about a man meeting fate because of his feelings for a woman who is, by any standard, a tramp, but this has always been a popular theme in movies from any country. The best scene in the movie has the old and fat Tania (Frehel) beautifully singing a sad song of lost youth and regret as Pepe listens. Fernand Chapin is the informer and turncoat, Regis; Gilbert Gil is young Pierrot, who comes to a bad end; and Lucas Gridoux is Slimane, the friendly police inspector who intends to arrest Pepe as soon as he leaves the protected territory of the Casbah. Pepe le Moko is no different from a Hollywood movie in that it never seems remotely real. Devoid of much sex appeal, Gabin makes an unlikely lover boy, but his performance is fine,and Noro is especially affecting as Ines. Based on a French crime novel, there were at least two American remakes, Aligers with Charles Boyer and Casbah with Tony Martin! Duvivier also directed such interesting American films as Flesh and Fantasy and Lydia. His last film was the unfortunate Diabolically Yours in 1967.
Verdict: Despite its flaws, this has a certain power, especially in the well-played finale. ***.