Fantômas makes it as the emperor of Crime. First is the robbery at the Royal Palace Hotel. Then he abducts Lord Beltham. As Fantômas' fame increases actor Valgrand creates the rôle of ... See full summary »
Fantômas makes it as the emperor of Crime. First is the robbery at the Royal Palace Hotel. Then he abducts Lord Beltham. As Fantômas' fame increases actor Valgrand creates the rôle of public enemy No.1 on stage. Eventually Inspector Juve, with a little help from Fandor, arrests Fantômas and he is soon sentenced to die on the guillotine. But... Written by
Fantomas is a kind of French Moriarty, an arch-criminal, leader of a huge rag-tag band of villains, who can evade arrest by two policemen holding each of his arms simply by shaking his wrists and knocking them both out. I ask you, what chance has an honest copper got? The film actually seems quite ambivalent about him at times, and you suspect there is a sneaking admiration for him on the filmmakers' part, despite his incredibly ruthless streak (in one episode he uncouples a train carriage and sends its passengers to their death so that they can't act as witnesses against a robbery he has committed on board; in another incredible sequence he leaves a fellow villain stranded inside a church bell to await certain death the next time it is rung).
The story lines of this French pre-WWI serial are fairly simplistic and don't stand up to even cursory scrutiny but, as a time capsule from a bygone age, the films are fascinating. Louis Feuillade's style of direction is basic to say the least and, for such a renowned early name from French cinema, something of a disappointment. The camera never moves, and every shot appears purely functional and nothing more. Perhaps I'm missing something, or perhaps I'm expecting more than I should from a piece of work nearly one hundred years old, but his style makes things drag at times. The film only really comes alive when Feuillade takes his camera outside to capture scenes of both rural and urban France. The film makes as much use of letters as it does intertitles to drive the story on and, considering the hindrance of it being a silent film, it's a device that works quite well.
Fantomas will only be of interest to the movie buff rather than the film fan. The art of storytelling has moved on or, given the impression of advancement that gives, perhaps changed is a better word and even the most patient of filmgoers will find that the pace drags at times. Nevertheless, given its place in film history, it's an important film that is worth checking out.
And it's also worth watching just for the final get-out-of jail card played by the wily Fantomas
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