The rich, amoral Zelie is married to Pierre Boucheron, "The Rat" - but her interest in another man is an open secret. Forced to defend his honour, the Rat takes refuge in his old domain of ...
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The rich, amoral Zelie is married to Pierre Boucheron, "The Rat" - but her interest in another man is an open secret. Forced to defend his honour, the Rat takes refuge in his old domain of the Paris underworld. But even here he has a rival - and when murder is afoot, the sinister Morel's ambition threatens to cost the Rat dear.... Written by
Ivor Novello obviously likes to take on roles that seem out of character. He wrote the original play (in collaboration with Constance Collier) with himself in mind for the lead and then played the role in their British movie incarnations, of which this is the third. I've not seen the previous two, but, all the same, Novello does not strike me as a credible "Rat". He seems much more at home in the movie's earlier scenes and yet even so, he often allows himself to be constantly upstaged by the other players, particularly Bernard Nedell, Isabel Jeans and even Gordon Harker (over-acting atrociously as the heavy of the piece, and obviously relishing every moment of it).
Director Graham Cutts also seems to be favoring everyone else, reserving some of his most creative endeavors not only for the chorus girls but two knockabout comedians who are given the benefit of many amusing face-to-face close-ups.
Mabel Poulton seems miscast as Lisette. It's a large role that obviously called for a younger and more charismatic girl. For some reason, Mabel always appears ill-at-ease in the limelight here. Admittedly, her clothes do nothing for her and although cameraman Roy F. Overbaugh occasionally throws an enormous amount of light in her direction to present some attractively incandescent close-ups, by and large she looks dowdy and out of place. In short, she presents as hardly a credible rival for the super-glamorous Isabel Jeans. It's true that the screenplay called for a distinct contrast between the two girls, such as glamor versus charisma, sophistication versus youth, world-weariness versus latent sexiness; but Mabel doesn't project any of these qualities.
This leaves our hero, Ivor Novello, with nowhere to go. His attraction to Lisette seems willful rather than wholesome, but Ivor gamely endeavors to make the best of the situation until the script comes to his rescue by involving him as suspect number one in a murder investigation. This involvement doesn't make any sense, as the police already have the fingerprints (and even this aspect is rather odd) of the real murderer. My guess is that this development was hastily written in while the film was actually shooting and wasn't properly thought through and worked out.
Unhampered by the restrictions of early sound recording (the music score was added after the film was completed), the director has done his best to hide these various key deficiencies by concentrating on the mise-en-scene: the painted chorus girls and the weird Caligari-influenced sets; and all the busy "business" with over-the-top Gordon Harker; and even the remarkably prominent comic relief episodes which are given center stage treatment. (Harry Terry, who had a long career in bit parts, never had it so good. Scotch Kelly, on the other hand, was never heard from again. This is his only film).
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