Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Some more forgotten French flicks

We have been looking at a handful of French film noirs from the late '50s/early '60s, some directed by actor Robert Hossein, who also features in some. These kind of popular French thrillers never got shown much outside of France, not being arthouse or 'New Wave' enough?

Delon and Belmondo may have been the flashy French actors, with Trintignant scooping up those 'arty' roles (Z, THE CONFORMIST, LES BICHES, MY NIGHT WITH MAUD) as well as popular crossover hits (UN HOMME ET UNE FEMME) while the less-flashy Maurice Ronet and Hossein played all sorts of roles in all kinds of movies, (Ronet label), and then there were Jacques Perrin, Jean Sorel, Jean-Claude Brialy and Gerard Blain (Gerard Philipe and Henri Vidal both died in 1959, while older guys like Yves Montand grew in stature) .... I also have Hossein to see in WARRIOR'S REST with Bardot, and he has starred with Loren, Vitti and so many others. He has been still acting too until recently, in his 80s. He and Jean Sorel are a terrific team in that Duviviver discovery I liked a few years back: CHAIR DE POULE (HIGHWAY PICKUP) - Hossein, Sorel labels.
Hossein & Loren in MADAME SANS GENE- we have not seen it since 1961.
THE WICKED GO TO HELL (LES SALAUDS VONT EN ENFER) is a stunningly effective thriller directed by Hossein, who also plays a small part, from 1955 -  BASTARDS GO TO HELL would be a better translation, as we watch two brutal criminals in jail: Henri Vidal and Serge Reggiani. They make their escape after some drama featuring a theatrical comrade (who sings, dances and stripteases) whom one assumes is gay, but his wife comes to visit demanding a divorce whereupon he promptly hangs himself! Our two opportunists see their chance and shoot their way out of prison and escape in a car - so far, so brutal. But there is more to come - Serge gets his leg infected and can barely walk as they struggle over an endless rough terrain and finally arrive at an isolated beachside shack, where we find lovely Marina Vlady (all of 17) as the model living with an artist - whom our thugs promptly shoot. An odd menage forms between the girl, mainly silent and with few lines, and the two guys who bicker among themselves as Eve - a suitable name - comes between them and plots her own revenge. Finally the guys get the car repaired and prepare to leave, but things do not pan out quite as they intend, with the local quicksand also making an appearance .... This is smart, brutal, funny in parts.
Marina Vlady (sister of Odile Versois) is a fascinating presence here. She married Hossein and they had 2 children, but the marriage only lasted 4 years.
Henri Vidal cast against type is a splendid tough guy - what a shame he died aged 40 in 1959, he was married to Michele Morgan. (We have seen him in other movies here, French label: Clement's LES MAUDITS, ATTILA with Loren, and coming up will be 2 with Bardot: UNE PARISIENNE and DANCE WITH ME, and a 1959 Romy Schneider comedy AN ANGEL ON EARTH, which also has the young Belmondo.

LE MONTE-CHARGE (SERVICE ELEVATOR or PARIS PICKUP!) is a splendid thriller from 1962, by Marcel Bluwal. Hossein is a released prisoner, on his own and walking the streets on Christmas Eve, seeing all the happy people around him. He eats a solitary meal in a restaurant and notices an attractive woman (Lea Massari) with her young daughter. Does she also notice him and decide he will be suitable for her scheme? They get talking and he helps her carry the sleepy child home, where she invites him in and pours a drink ..... the audience wonders where we are going with this scenario - who is plotting against whom? and how the service elevator play a part? It has a lot of suspense and unexpected twists as we try to second guess what is going on ... a dead body turns up - her husband - there is a lot of Couzot or Duvivier influence here. It is set in a large factory, closed for the holidays, but with that elevator to the private apartment. IMDb says "startling surprises, revelations and numerous cinematic pleasures". If only my copy's sub-titles did not run off the screen .... so could not be seen.

LE JEU DE LA VERITE - a brilliant 1961 thriller, directed by Hossein, with gleaming black and white images and an all-star cast: Jean-Louis Trintignant, Francoise Prevost, Nadia Gray, Paul Meurisse, Jean Servais, Daliah Lavi among the dozen society people gathered at a writer's mansion. Its like an Agatha Christie whodunit, as they mingle, make small talk, but each has something to hide, and someone gets murdered .... Hossein plays the detective who enters to solve the case as each suspect is grilled. Fascinating viewing then.


Two more French thrillers, both starrring Danielle Darrieux:

MARIE-OCTOBRE – Its been a pleasure discovering Julien Duvivier’s French thrillers, like CHAIR DE POULE or Gabin in VOICI LE TEMPS DES ASSASSINS. Here we have Danielle Darrieux heading the cast of Duvivier's 1959 mystery. This plays like another Agatha Christie who-done-it as Marie (her code name) gathers together her wartime resistance group, all now doing well and prosperous, as she has just found out that one of them is a traitor who betrayed their group to the Nazis 15 years earlier, resulting in the death of her lover. Who was it? Who will break first? Each one of the group comes under suspicion, even Marie herself, and their faithful retainer Victorine. It is intriguing and entertaining if a little talky and confined to one set. The cast is the thing here, some of France’s finest: Paul Muerisse, Lino Ventura, Serge Reggiani, Bernard Blier, and Paul Guers, who is now a priest. Darrieux is fabulously glamorous and sophisticated here (she runs a fashion house).

MURDER AT 45 RPM (MEURTRE EN 45 TOURS). Interesting French 1960 thriller by Etienne Perier, from a story by Boileau & Narcejac, so we know nothing will be what it seems. Danielle Darrieux is the star here, effortlessy chic and in command as the popular singer whose obsessive husband Jean Servais writes and composes her hits. She and her piano player Michel Auclair are in love and Servais knows and delights in tormenting them. He continues tormenting them after his supposed death in a car accident … as the lovers each think the other killed him. But is he really dead? This is a satisfying re-tread of those familiar themes from LES DIABOLIQUES or VERTIGO, Nice period detail too as the lovers get those disks with messages on which they play on those period record players. 

Soon: Darrieux in some French classics: LA RONDE, MADAME DE... Here's a memory of her 1967 LES DEMOISELLES DE ROCHEFORT, a Jacques Demy favourite - see Demy label. (also new editions of those 2 early Chabrol classics: LE BEAU SERGE and LES COUSINS.)


  1. A lot of French films of that period are forgotten today because of the French New Wave which rebelled against commercial films. Everyone focuses on the New Wave films of the period. I think a great forgotten French film would be Roger Vadim's BLOOD & ROSES

  2. And yes it's a shame Henri Vidal died so young.

  3. I saw BLOOD AND ROSES as a kid and found it visually striking, its one to try and see again.