The Comte de Gonzague schemes against his cousin, the Duc de Nevers, even though he is the Duke's heir and will inherit his estates. The Count has kept secret the existence of the Duke's ...
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Pedro Armendáriz Jr.
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Louis de Funès,
The Comte de Gonzague schemes against his cousin, the Duc de Nevers, even though he is the Duke's heir and will inherit his estates. The Count has kept secret the existence of the Duke's bastard, recently born. When the Duke learns of his child, he journeys to wed the mother, a baron's daughter, in her father's isolated chateau. The occupants of the castle are surprised and murdered by the Count and his men. The only ones to escape are the Duke's friend, the skilled swordsman Lagardère, and the infant, a girl, now the rightful heiress to the Duke's vast fortune. The Count believes the pair to have drowned, when in fact they have been concealed by a travelling troupe of Italian players. Twenty years pass. The Count has discovered that the two survive and seeks to have them slain. But Lagardère gains the confidence of the Count, and employment as his bookkeeper, through his clever disguise as a hunch-back... Written by
De Broca, who had made the marvelous swashbuckler CARTOUCHE (1962), returns to the genre after 35 years with this unexpectedly old-fashioned and highly entertaining romp.
Daniel Auteil is the unlikely hero, who is also called on to show his versatility as an actor by dressing up as the titular character. He's supported by a good cast: Vincent Perez as a womanizing aristocrat, Fabrice Luchini as a somewhat reticent villain and Philippe Noiret as a Regent; lovely Marie Gillain is Auteil's improbable love interest (she was raised by him after being saved from death's clutches).
The film's theatrical milieu brings forth obvious comparisons with SCARAMOUCHE (1952) but the sumptuous décor, Philippe Sarde's rousing score and a plot-packed narrative keep one watching. In fact, it was so well-received at the time of its release as to be nominated for several international film awards!
De Broca is a distinguished French film-maker but, unfortunately, very little of his early work is available for reassessment; I've only watched 5 myself (including this one) and all proved to be well worth watching.
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