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The Champagne Murders (1967)
"Le scandale" (original title)

6.2
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A champagne tycoon's (Furneaux) partner (Ronet) suspects his partner's gigolo husband (Perkins) of murders he's been framed for.

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
Christopher
...
Paul
Yvonne Furneaux ...
Christine
...
Jacqueline
Annie Vidal ...
Blonde
...
Mr. Clarke
Catherine Sola ...
Denise
George Skaff ...
Mr. Pfeiffer
Christa Lang ...
Paula
Marie-Ange Aniès ...
Michele
Suzanne Lloyd ...
Evelyn
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Dominique Zardi
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Storyline

A champagne tycoon's (Furneaux) partner (Ronet) suspects his partner's gigolo husband (Perkins) of murders he's been framed for.

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Release Date:

31 March 1967 (France)  »

Also Known As:

The Champagne Murders  »

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2.35 : 1
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User Reviews

 
THE CHAMPAGNE MURDERS {Edited U.S. Version} (Claude Chabrol, 1967) ***
23 June 2010 | by (Naxxar, Malta) – See all my reviews

Despite the mixed reception it enjoys among both critics and fans of the director, this film can now be seen to have been the one to virtually inaugurate Chabrol's major period; it was actually made in conjunction with Universal, a studio with which his idol Alfred Hitchcock was still tied at the time and, to further stress that connection, he utilized one of the stars from the latter's recent work (Anthony Perkins in the first of two pictures he did for the French director). This co-production arrangement – which even saw eminent American film critic Derek Prouse and character actor Henry Jones figuring among the writers and supporting cast respectively! – resulted in two separate versions: the English-language one running 98 minutes and the French being slightly longer at either 107 or 111, depending on the sources. Unfortunately, the former seems to be the more readily available cut which, incidentally, also fails to give credit to Chabrol's regular scribe Paul Gegauff for his contribution to the clever screenplay!

Though Chabrol had previously dabbled in the thriller genre (including one in color, WEB OF PASSION [1959] that would make for a perfect thematic companion piece), this stylish film – which also brought on a sudden blossoming of his then-wife Stephane Audran's talents, in what initially appears to be a dual role – set him out as European cinema's foremost purveyor of folies bourgeoises (to cite a later, albeit much maligned, title I have been unable to track down for this comprehensive tribute). Even so, this first 'mature' attempt proves a bit uneasy as a whole – owing, in part, to the language barrier but, also, the strained decadent milieu at its core (to get an inkling of the film's overall effect, if Hitchcock had made LA DOLCE VITA [1960], it would have looked something like this!). In fact, the psychological aspect of the narrative (the hero suffers a head injury and undergoes repeated shock treatment, which makes him seemingly prone to blackouts) is rather downplayed in favor of some dreary business dealings which, eventually, descend into blackmail and murder.

With the protagonist made to be an alcoholic playboy – I particularly enjoyed the Bunuel in-joke where the inebriated hero smashes a TV set just as a screening of LA MORT EN CE JARDIN (1956) is about to start! – it was inevitable that Maurice Ronet, who had virtually cornered that particular market ever since playing the suicidal lead in Louis Malle's LE FEU FOLLET (1963), would assume that role here and he went on to win a Spanish acting award for his sterling efforts. In retrospect, given his pedigree, one would have expected Perkins to be the victim of any potential conspiracy but he emerges a schemer here instead…which he does very well, mind you, except that in the last sequence we realize he had an accomplice all along who is even more ruthless than he is!

Actually, the revelation with respect to the latter comes across just as 'shocking' as the one at the climax of Agatha Christie's "Witness For The Prosecution" (superbly filmed by Billy Wilder in 1957); that said, death and disguise also come into play at the finale of Chabrol's subsequent release, LES BICHES (1968; also with Audran). Then again, such an audacious open-ended closing shot as one finds here could hardly have been anticipated!

Apart from Audran – not to mention a glossy look (courtesy of the ubiquitous Jean Rabier) which was soon to become a trademark of the Chabrol style – the film boasts a number of other attractive females (including Yvonne Furneaux as Perkins' wife, whose lust for power proves her undoing, Catherine Sola as Ronet's tennis partner and, both as unwitting pawns in the game of murder, voluptuous artist Suzanne Lloyd and Christa Lang, who had previously worked with Chabrol three years earlier in his espionage pastiche THE TIGER LIKES FRESH MEAT and would go on to marry iconoclastic American film-maker Samuel Fuller).


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