The most dreamlike of all films by a strict application of internal logic, the dreamer knows what he’s dreaming. Magritte approves this, “let Juve enter the dreams of Fantômas,” etc. No devices give him away, everything makes perfect sense to the dreamer, or will upon waking.
“À l’ombre de la guillotine” is a routine policier, slow, martial is its measurement of beaten time. Blake Edwards begins his study for The Pink Panther with the elevator doublure. It ends, Feuillade’s entrée, with its purpose achieved. Valgrand, the actor, drugged and in his Fantômas makeup, is marched to the guillotine.
“Juve contre Fantômas” has as its final image a snake in the heating vent and Fantômas in the rainwater cistern.
“Le mort qui tue”, the dead man who kills, is Jacques Dollon, “céramiste peintre”, drugged, framed and extinguished for the skin of his hands, worn as gloves by Fantômas.
“Fantômas contre Fantômas” pits Inspector Juve against the Press, he is Fantômas! Since he is unsuccessful, of course. The Pink Panther, To Catch a Thief, etc.
“Le faux magistrat”. Out of a Belgian prison comes Fantômas to preside as a judge in France. His last official act is to release himself—as Inspector Juve!
Le Noël du poilu
“Among the pioneers of cinema there was Méliès and there was Feuillade.” (Truffaut)
A marraine de guerre arranges it all like a fairy tale, the wife and daughter in occupied territory, the corporal without Christmas leave from the trenches, meet in her home, with lots of toys for la petite.
Poetry of railway and motorcar, quiescent hell of the war, thought and care in civilian life, grandeur of cinematography, excellent French acting, mystery of Feuillade’s art.
Kafka may easily be imagined leaving after the first couple of episodes in tears of laughter to write his comic masterpiece Der Prozess. He missed the tale of Juan Moreno and his gang briefly vying for supremacy with the Vampires, the destruction of Dr. Nox and the supervenience of the real Grand Vampire, Satanas, the comedy of mortician-turned-philanthropist Mazamette, and the daily or weekly efforts of journalist Philippe Guérande to foil the gang, whose exploits can be discerned in the headlines, not to mention Irma Vep the saloon singer.
The Gaumont re-release is tinted but careless of projection speeds. The fine musical score is an assemblage by Robert Israel for pit orchestra (popular airs and dances, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Chopin, Schubert, Debussy and one of Schönberg’s Sechs Kleine Klavierstücke). The translations are poor and introduced as replacements for a letter or a newspaper article, rather than given in subtitles (which is the case properly with Gaumont’s Fantômas) if you please, even though the Vampires are descried on a Gaumont screen in a notable scene among so many others, with the influence of Daumier visible throughout the series.
The marvel of all marvels, a mystery in every shot, an enigma, puzzle or rebus, “that’s settled,” and because nothing is ever settled it goes on under a new title with every installment, “When the Child Appeared” and “The Water Goddess”.
Franju has the analysis.
The scene is laid in the Midi, fantastic and strange in its way. A little girl and the Licorice Kid lose a ball over a garden wall and find her grandfather, ex-banker Favraux, who finds “Love’s Forgiveness” after many misadventures.
The two-masted Eaglet sails slowly across the blue-tinted screen. Judex and his bride have “a long honeymoon... where the nights are silver and velvet.”
As Jonathan Rosenbaum says in the Chicago Reader, “there’s not a better show in town.”