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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>
This clever suspenser from the French Maigret novels is undone by first-time director Meredith. The plot revolves around the murder of a wealthy woman and her maid one dark Parisian night. A dandy living off his aunt wishes her dead in public and catches the ear of Radek, a desperate fellow who is very clever but also a bit loopy (cast Gary Oldman in the remake).
Radek engineers a fiendish scheme to implicate a simple tinker in the crime, collect his fee, and lead Inspector Maigret down the garden path. The details are delicious--if you can follow them--and the characters (the dandy, his wife, his mistress, the tinker and his wife, the inspector and his detectives, and the arrogant killer) are interesting enough for three movies. But Meredith allows the plot to get muddy and doesn't really pull the best performances out of his actors (including himself).
Radek's manipulation of the other characters is real genius (for example, he gets others to search for the murder weapon while the cops are tailing him). The Parisian setting is terrific, and the spectacular climax atop the Eiffel Tower is not to be missed, altho it's a bit contrived. The result is a decent film, but Hitchcock would have hit this one out of the park.
Note: The version I saw was from the 50 Mystery Classics DVD set. It's in color, but very faded. However, I actually found its desaturated look to be a pleasant medium between full color and black and white.
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