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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
An American freighter docks in Marseille and three sailors head for the
red light district for drinks and a bit of the old in-out, in-out. The
three hit a bar called the "KIT-KAT Club" to see if they can find both.
The one sailor, Jean -Pierre Aumont, sees a dazzling beauty at the bar
and dumps the "working girl" he is with. The beauty, Maria Montez,
(Aumont and Montez were married at the time) agrees to have a couple of
dances with Aumont. Aumont is completely smitten with Montez and off
they go to Montez's rooms.
Aumont's ship is leaving next day so early in the morning Montez walks Aumont down to the docks. They stop at a café for a last cognac. Out of francs, he pays the bill in US dollars which catches the eyes of waterfront thugs, Jean Roy and Marcel Dalio. Aumont asks Montez to wait for his return from sea. Montez just smiles as she has heard this tune before.
They leave the café, Aumont is jumped by the thugs, beaten unconscious and relieved of his cash and papers. They give Montez a smile and take off. Aumont wakes up in a hospital with a splitting headache. The police arrive and ask how he ended up there. All he recalls is that one of the men that mugged him was whistling a strange tune.
Released from the hospital, he goes to the KIT-KAT to look for Montez. He is refused entry since he cannot pony up the 150 franc cover. Out into the street he goes. His ship left a week ago, he is broke, and has no papers. He tries the American Consulate but is turned away because he cannot prove who he is. No papers, no money and no way to get a work permit. What a mess. Several days go by and things are getting worse. No place to stay and hungry. A young street peddler slips him some oranges and a few clues about possible work.
Speaking several languages, Aumont finds he can get work as a hawker for the nightclubs. By directing sailors etc to the clubs he gets a piece of the cover. Every night he takes his wages and hits the KIT-KAT looking for Montez. She is never there. Aumont hears from the boss that Montez had struck gold and has a rich sugar daddy. Aumont does not believe it because he 'knows" she loves only him.
One night while walking the club's gypsy fortune-teller, Lilli Palmer, home, he hears some strange whistling. He pulls Palmer into the shadows and has a quick look down the alley. Sure enough, here come the two thugs who robbed him. Aumont ambushes the pair. Dalio escapes but Roy is killed when he cracks his head open on the pavement following an Aumont punch.
Palmer grabs Aumont and quickly rushes him to the gypsy camp where he is hidden in case the Police come. Palmer has a crush on Aumont which of course Aumont does not notice. The Police soon grab up the second thug, Marcel Dalio, once his dead partner Roy is found. He tells them about Aumont and that he will find him for the Police. The detectives give Dalio 5 days to deliver Aumont or they will charge Dalio with the murder.
Aumont learns from the young orange peddler that his ship has returned to Marseille. He pays the ship a visit and finds that the ship is leaving for the States that night. He signs on for the trip back. He also arranges with some of the crew to smuggle the orange peddler on board. He wants the kid to have a better life in the U.S. than he has here.
Aumont tells Palmer he is leaving. Palmer sighs and tells him it is best he leave because the Police had searched the camp that morning. Aumont grabs the kid and smuggles him on board with some wine casks. He returns the truck to the merchant and starts back to the docks. Needless to say he does not make it.
Just outside the docks he sees Montez sitting in an expensive car. The car takes off before he can reach it. Does he get on the ship or go after his true love? He makes for the KIT-KAT where he finds Montez showing off her prize mark. Montez ignores Aumont when he approaches with a big grin on his face. "But it is me darling!" Spouts Aumont. "Who?" Is Montez's answer. Aumont is stunned.
Also in the club is Dalio who grabs a phone and drops dime to John Law on Aumont. One of the bartenders warns Aumont that Dalio had ratted on him. Aumont exits in a hurry just as the cops arrive. He waits in the dark outside of Montez's rooms for her return. Montez shows and Aumont forces his way in.
Aumont says. "How can you ignore me after you said you loved me? Don't you remember?" Montez laughs and responds. "I don't even recall your name!" Needless to say that was the wrong thing to say. Montez quickly finds hands tightening around her throat. Finished, Aumont lets her lifeless body slip to the floor. He then slowly walks out of the apartment and into the arms of the just arrived Police.
The rest of the cast includes, Pierre Bertin, Roger Blin, Gregoire Aslam, Jean Marie Simon and Lita Rico.
Montez was in "Tangier" and "Portrait of an Assassin". Dalio worked both sides of the Atlantic with bits in "Grand Illusion", "Shanghai Gesture", Casablanca", Pepe Le Moko", "To Have and Have Not", "Snowbound", Razzia Sur La Chnouf" and "Portrait of an Assassin".
The director was Francois Villers. The d of p was Jean Bourgoin. His work includes, "Maneges", Dedee d' Anvers" and "Mr Arkadin".
The story and screenplay was by Aumont and Michel Arnaud.
This movie came ten or fifteen years too late ;its atmosphere is that
of the years before WW2,with shades of "Quai Des Brumes " and "Pépé Le
Moko" (the gates at the harbor are pure "Pépé").Jean -Pierre Aumont,one
of the romantic young leads of the thirties ("Lac Aux Dames" "Hotel Du
Nord" ),plays a tough Canadian sailor called Eric (Why Hans the
sailor?well see the movie and you'll know why)whose ship puts in at
Marseille.What does a sailor do in these circumstances?He looks for
girls and ,you would never guess it ,he meets the women of his dreams
,a beauty called Dolores(Maria Montez) .It's a mirage ,for the girl is
only in it for the money.But he hangs on to his dream.It's his downfall
and although a generous gypsy (German Lilli Palmer ,a highly talented
actress who is totally miscast) reads in the cards the sad fate that
awaits him and tries to save him in spite of himself ,the die is cast.
If you want to know the etymology of the word "tzigane" ,it is the film to watch:it means ,should we believe Tania,"liar" and it dates back a very long time ,when Jesus Christ was crucified.
Aumont wrote the dialog ,and he cast his then -wife (and very limited if very attractive actress) as the femme fatale ;as she has little to do ,she's pretty good.It's one of the two movies Montez made in France,the other one being "Portrait D'Un Assassin",a more successful attempt at a film noir
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