Pierre Chenal's last hurrah-although not his last movie-,it's easily the best of the four thrillers he made when he was back from Argentina."Jeux Dangereux" the precedent year suggested a return to form for a director who made interesting film noirs in the thirties and a masterpiece in the forties ("La Foire Aux Chimères" ).All promises were fulfilled in "La Bete A L'Affut" .
There are two apparently distinct plots:
-A cop's widow (Françoise Arnoul) is through with love and she spends her time collecting money for the orphans of the Police,abetted by a bunch of snobs and false friends.Unfortunately the person who was in charge of the money is assaulted and the money is gone..Might this respectable notable of the town be the stealer,after feigning an aggression?
-A warden has two inmates do some repairs in his house.But he's got a too pretty wife .Two of the men are killed in mysterious circumstances and the survivor,one of the prisoners(Henri Vidal) takes refuge in the widow's desirable mansion. Love begins to grow between them but is the man a victim of fate as he claims to be?
The screenplay is particularly smart as the two stories meet in the last minutes.There's also a grandiose finale in a lighthouse ,with scenes to rival the best of Jacques Tourneur.Henri Vidal was perhaps never better than here and his pairing with sexy Françoise Arnoul was really a good one.The last scene was particularly harrowing when you know that Vidal was to pass away in December 1959,leaving Belmondo and Delon a clear field.
NB:Henri Vidal was disappointed with the roles he was given.He wanted to make movies with Carné,Clouzot,Allégret and Delannoy and his fine physique went against him.
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