Dapper Inspector Vorobechik ('Wens' for short) is assigned the case of a serial killer who leaves a calling card on his victims; Monsieur Durand. Wens' mistress, struggling actress Mila Malou, determines to get publicity for herself by helping him. Learning that Durand is one of the eccentric tenants of a boarding house at No. 21 Avenue Junot, Wens takes a room in the guise of a Protestant minister; only to be followed by Mila who hardly seems like a minister's wife! Suspects are arrested, but while each is in jail, there's another murder... Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Police inspector Wens is on the case of mysterious serial killer 'Monsieur Durand'. As he determines the killer lives on a boarding house, he goes there undercover... Only to be followed by his mistress, determined to help him.
Quite a fun and effective detective thriller, more on the vein of Sherlock Holmes than a film-noir. Quite a bit of Hitchcock too, with a lightheartedness and comedic tries to go with the tension creating scenes; plus Pierre Fresnay does an excellent job as Inspector Wens, being witty and charming.
The plot is good, the mystery develops nicely and never gets dull, and the explanation is satisfying; however, Henri-George Clouzot's use of his mistress, Suzy Delair, as a comic relief character was a really bad move. She is both irritating and completely meaningless, serving no purpose to the story; I actually fast-forwarded her singing scenes.
A problem that I often find in Hitchcock's formula, though, is that the comedic attempts tend to fall flat and the indecision of whether he wants a thriller or a comedy undermines the end result. Thankfully Clouzot seemed to understand it, as he never made such a heavy use of Hitchcock's mood-lightening tactics again.
Overall, despite the drawbacks created from its silliness and Suzy Delair's abysmal performance, "L'assassin habite... au 21" is still a nice, fun detective thriller. A good start to Clouzot's career and early proof of his talent.
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