39 user 22 critic

Reign of Terror (1949)

Robespierrre, a powerful figure in the French revolution, is desperately looking for his black book, a death list of those marked for the guillotine.



(story and screenplay), (story and screenplay) (as Aeneas MacKenzie)

Watch Now

With Prime Video

Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Certificate: Passed Crime | Drama | Film-Noir
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

Mexican and American federal agents tackle a vicious gang exploiting illegal farm workers in southern California.

Director: Anthony Mann
Stars: Ricardo Montalban, George Murphy, Howard Da Silva
Adventure | Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

A New York City detective, traveling by train between New York and Baltimore, tries to foil an on-board plot to assassinate President-elect Abraham Lincoln before he reaches Baltimore to give a major pre-Inauguration speech in 1861.

Director: Anthony Mann
Stars: Dick Powell, Paula Raymond, Adolphe Menjou
Side Street (1950)
Certificate: Passed Crime | Drama | Film-Noir
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

A struggling young father-to-be gives in to temptation and impulsively steals money from the office of a shady lawyer - with catastrophic consequences.

Director: Anthony Mann
Stars: Farley Granger, Cathy O'Donnell, James Craig
T-Men (1947)
Crime | Film-Noir | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

Two US Treasury agents hunt a successful counterfeiting ring.

Director: Anthony Mann
Stars: Dennis O'Keefe, Wallace Ford, Alfred Ryder
Raw Deal (1948)
Crime | Drama | Film-Noir
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

Joe Sullivan has taken the rap for Rick who double-crosses him with a flawed escape plan and other means intended to get rid of him.

Director: Anthony Mann
Stars: Dennis O'Keefe, Claire Trevor, Marsha Hunt
Desperate (1947)
Crime | Film-Noir | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

A young married couple flee both police and a gangster out for revenge.

Director: Anthony Mann
Stars: Steve Brodie, Audrey Long, Raymond Burr
Drama | Film-Noir | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  

Flamarion, expert marksman, is entertaining people in a show which features Connie, beautiful woman and her husband Al. Flamarion and Connie fall in love and decide to get rid of the ... See full summary »

Director: Anthony Mann
Stars: Erich von Stroheim, Mary Beth Hughes, Dan Duryea
The Furies (1950)
Drama | Romance | Western
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

A firebrand heiress clashes with her tyrannical father, a cattle rancher who fancies himself a Napoleon; but their relationship turns ugly only when he finds himself a new woman.

Director: Anthony Mann
Stars: Barbara Stanwyck, Wendell Corey, Walter Huston
Crime | Drama | Film-Noir
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  

A lonely, mentally unbalanced woman invents a fictitious daughter and has the "daughter" write to a Marine stationed in the South Pacific. When the soldier returns back to the States, he ... See full summary »

Director: Anthony Mann
Stars: William Terry, Virginia Grey, Helene Thimig
Railroaded! (1947)
Crime | Drama | Film-Noir
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  

A beautician and her crooked boyfriend attempt to rob the bookie operation located in the back room, but when the plan goes wrong, they frame an innocent man.

Director: Anthony Mann
Stars: John Ireland, Sheila Ryan, Hugh Beaumont
History | Romance | Western
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  

Crude and uncivilized backwoods trapper Jed Cooper and his two partners sign up as scouts in a remote Oregon army fort, manned chiefly by untrained rookie soldiers. Jed, flirting with the ... See full summary »

Director: Anthony Mann
Stars: Victor Mature, Guy Madison, Robert Preston
Crime | Film-Noir | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

This film-noir piece, told in semi-documentary style, follows police on the hunt for a resourceful criminal who shoots and kills a cop.

Directors: Alfred L. Werker, Anthony Mann
Stars: Richard Basehart, Scott Brady, Roy Roberts


Complete credited cast:
François Barras
Grandma Blanchard


Robespierre, a powerful figure in the French Revolution and the subsequent Reign of Terror, is desperately looking for his black book, a death list of those marked by him for the guillotine and a key to help him eventually emerge as the country's dictator. He hopes his agents will recover it, but, if it falls in to the wrong hands, it would mean his political ruin and death. Written by duke1029

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

24 February 1950 (Finland)  »

Also Known As:

The Black Book  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The title was changed to "The Black Book." Which is how it was listed when shown on TCM. See more »


Charles D'Aubigny: [to Madelon] Just because I refused a kiss, you'd have me killed. Since when have you put such a price on your kisses?
See more »


Edited into Amérique, notre histoire (2006) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

France's First Revolutionary Dictator
18 March 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

The question will never be really answered: What was the exact set of goals of Maximillien Robespierre, lawyer from Arras, France, who was (from July 1793 to June 1794) the central figure of public attention in France and the apparent dictator of the country? We won't know because he failed in the end - in possibly the most satisfactory fall from power of any dictator in modern history. His secrets died with him.

Robespierre has been painted as the great "green-eyed" monster of the Revolution. That was the phrase used by Thomas Carlyle in describing Robespierre in Carlyle's classic history of the revolution. A prissy, powder-wigged figure, who never found a kind word to say about anybody who was in power - and so undermined several rivals while he grew more powerful. He did give lip service to the Revolution's ideals, but apparently was more in love with the concept of mankind, than in individual men and women. He spoke about a cult of pure reason (an idea he gathered from the philosophes, especially Jean-Jacques Rousseau)and even held a festival for the cult shortly before he fell from power. Not really much to say about his program, except that his proscription made the Reign of Terror what it was.

But was he blown out of size? Some historians in the 20th Century feel that he was not all powerful. He was elected head of the Jacobin Club, and he was a member of the Committee of Public Safety - with eleven other men. The Committee was actually a committee set up with extraordinary powers by the National Assembly, and was supposed to run the war effort against Europe, and keep a lid on the problems on the home front. The historian R.R. Palmer (in "Twelve Who Ruled") makes a good case that Robespierre was not the only one with authority, but that all these men did valuable work. In particular, Louis Lazare Carnot, an amateur who turned out to be one of military history's most amazingly, unexpected geniuses. Carnot built the great French Revolutionary armies that were to be the weapon that Napoleon and his marshals used to conquer most of Europe.

But it was Robespierre (along with his two closest allies on the Committee: Robert Couthon and Antoine St. Just) who was the most fanatical in searching for hidden internal enemies. Their standards are the model for later similar "witch hunters", like Heinrich Himmler, Laventi Beria, and Senator Joseph McCarthy - you find a weak point, spread a lie, and then pound the lie into everyone until it becomes the truth. Robespierre did this with the Royal Family, the Girondists (moderates), General Lafayette (fortunately in an Austrian prison when denounced), General Dumouriez (who decided to surrender himself for safety sake to the Prussians), and then the radicals. He did not have to go after all his rivals. Jean Paul Marat would be stabbed by Charlotte Corday (the Girondists later said they wished she had consulted with them, they would have pointed out another target). But he did confront and destroy his right of center moderate rival Georges Danton, and later his far left rival Hebert.

There are, oddly enough, very few films dealing with this story. Robespierre does show up at the end of "Marie Antoinette", and is Chauvin's boss in "The Scarlet Pimpernel". The various versions of "A Tale Of Two Cities" do not need him (he's not in Dicken's novel). Only two films deal with him that I am aware of. A French film, "Danton", deals with his duel to the death with the great moderate and orator (played by Gerard Depardieu), and how Danton warns the country of the dangers of Robespierre's policies and personality but is unable to avoid being proscribed and executed.

Then there is this film. Directed by Anthony Mann, it paints a dismal view of the Paris of the months of May - June 1794, and how Robespierre finally is brought down. Played (very well) by Richard Basehart, his Achilles heel is a book of names of allies and enemies, and when he will destroy them to achieve total power. Robert Cummings and Arlene Dahl, with a cynical assist from Arnold Moss (as Joseph Fouche, Napoleon's future secret police chief) demolish Robespierre by getting the book into the right hands.

Did the book exist? We don't know. Stanley Loomis, in his interesting "Paris In The Terror" shows that it did not need to actually be in existence. Robespierre always had a proscription list in mind, and had he been smart he could have revealed it and reassured many who would not have stood in his way. But he was too arrogant and refused to do so. Fouche, who was an enemy of Robespierre, spread the word to almost every member of the National Assembly that they were on the hit list. Robespierre was shouted down when he tried to finally explain his plans, and was shot in the mouth just before he was arrested. On July 11, 1794 ("Thermidor" on the French Revolutionary Calender), he, Couthon, St. Just, and a dozen close associates were all guillotined. Although conservative, reactionary "White Terror" occurred in 1795, it was short and not as wholesale. Robespierre's Reign of Terror cost about 14,000 lives in France...and don't forget it was planned to continue for quite a while afterward. As Loomis writes in his study, the Terror died with him.

24 of 29 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for: