In Paris, a down and out medical student Johann Radek (Franchot Tone) is paid by Bill Kirby (Robert Hutton) to murder his wealthy aunt. A knife grinder (Burgess Meredith) is suspected, but ...
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In Paris, a down and out medical student Johann Radek (Franchot Tone) is paid by Bill Kirby (Robert Hutton) to murder his wealthy aunt. A knife grinder (Burgess Meredith) is suspected, but Radek keeps taunting the police until they realize that he is the killer. The police and Maigret (Charles Laughton) are led on chases through the streets and over the rooftops of Paris and finally up the girders of the Eiffel Tower. Written by
Herman Seifer <email@example.com>
I think many reviews mistakenly treat the film as a complex who-done-it with the plot details confusingly handled and thoroughly patronise director Burgess Meredith without understanding the films true intention. The film is something quite different and perhaps unique.
Franchot Tone (Radek)is really excellent as the manic ego-maniac murderer and here's the different and intriguing part - he doesn't try to keep a low profile and evade the investigating policeman, Maigret (Laughton also superb) but instead turns to continually hound him, dog his footsteps, is constantly at his side talking, discussing the case provoking and challenging him. Maigret must live with this intolerable situation in the hope that Radek will betray himself and that he (Maigret) will not betray his own thoughts or the current state of the investigation. Such is the odd relationship that they start to discuss the case as if Radek is a fellow detective. Laughton must keep the game going, keep satisfying Radek's vanity whilst listening, reasoning and trying to trap him.
It concludes with a superb chase with something much more - psychological exchanges between Radek and Maigret as to what and where the final moments will be and who will witness them. Radek's wish to in a way triumph, Maigret's humanity in his desire to save the innocent not glory in the death of the guilty but that justice should be done, that he properly acquits himself of his professional duty - to keep his superiors off his back.
The story is not I think not a portrayal of reality but a fantasy. It's detective's nightmare of an adversary who is not elusive and secretive but obvious and ever-present, taunting him, boastfully out-thinking him. In real life no murderer taunts the detective to this excruciating degree in effect exposes himself to questioning. I think it is the nightmare of a harassed detective might have when faced with contradictory and insufficient evidence and the sense that the truth and the criminal are tauntingly close but never ever quite close enough.
A shame about the colour (some parts appearing like sepia) but these days it is fairly easily improvable. The film is a classic - probably if it had been in black and white it might be seen as such
Seen thanks to Talking Pictures TV
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