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This was a solid little melodrama about the Parisian underworld, its
denizens and visitors. Anton Walbrook plays Jean Bucheron aka the Rat,
a cat-burglar with a heart of, well, at least bronze, maybe silver. A
friend on death-row, about to go to his rendez-vous with la guillotine,
sends for Jean to ask him to take care of his daughter, the innocent
young Odile. By "take care of", the friend means "keep your hands off
of", which Jean manages to do, for awhile. Besides keeping his own
hands off, Jean is also called upon to fend off a persistent madam (who
seems to have no goal in life but to recruit Odile) and some sort of
Zelia, a wealthy woman played by Ruth Chatterton, goes on a little police-escorted slumming trip with her odious boyfriend, and they end up at Jean's usual haunt just in time to interrupt his plans to kill his ex-partner in a knife fight. Zelia decides she wants to meet the handsome young knife-fighter and asks the chief of police to introduce her. The chief of police says "you don't want to meet him, he's a very unpleasant character" and Zelia responds "but I know so many pleasant characters already..." She needles Jean into dancing with her, and later that night he cat-burgles his way into her boudoir, more to finish their conversation than to steal her pearls.
The two get chummy and evidently go on dates all over the place, though we only see the notes arranging the dates and not the dates themselves. Meanwhile Zelia's god-awful fiancée has taken a shine to Odile, which results in a murder, which results in legal trouble for Jean. Then it's time for the big courtroom scene, where everyone plays a game of Oneupsmanship Of Lies, with a trip to the guillotine for the winner.
At long last, the BFI has restored the surviving elements for this rare
British talkie and it has been released on DVD
http://networkonair.com/shop/2169-rat-the-5027626430641.html The main
reason for watching the film is Anton Walbrook who gives a wonderful
performance (as always) in the title character. Ruth Chatteron left
Hollywood to make this, but it was to prove her penultimate film. At
one point she says her age is 34 when in fact she was ten years older
in real life.
At 70 minutes, the pace is brisk and there are some well-known faces in the supporting cast.
Well worth getting this one - a rare little gem.
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