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Les salauds vont en enfer (The Wicked Go to Hell) is directed by Robert Hossein and Hossein co-adapts the screenplay with René Wheeler from the Frédéric Dard play. It stars Marina Vlady, Henri Vidal and Serge Reggiani. Music is by André Hossein and cinematography by Michel Kelber.
Two escaped convicts hole up at a beach house and get more than they bargained for...
1955 was the year that Robert Hossein starred in Jules Dassin's brilliant crimer, Rififi, it was also the year where he began his directing career with this splendid slice of Frenchie film noir. Pic is very much a two parter, first part focuses on our two protagonists in prison. Standard prison noir rules are adhered to, with the shadows of the bars suitably oppressive, the murky confinements of the surroundings offering up a feeling of sorrowful pessimism. There's even a strong narrative thread that says one of the men may be a rat, which is a problem since they share a cell together! But they want out, and we want them out because we feel their claustrophobia in that there dank miserable prison.
Then the story goes outside, it's all airy, with sunshine even, but this is noir so darkness is never far away. It's here where we are introduced to our femme fatale, who comes in the form of Eva, played as crafty and sensual by Vlady. A turn of events has brought the three of them together, and as the story plays out there's a whole ream of human traits, foibles and wiles on show. It's all very deliciously sly, a trinity bouncing off of each other with a blend of mistrust and sexual energy. Which shunts us uneasily, yet in eager anticipation as well, towards the finale. Hossein (who also plays a part in the film) knows his noir, and he knows that the best noirs do not cop out at the end. Thus we have, well, the ending here.
The only misstep here is the musical score. Scored by Hossein's father, it's far too old school for the play on show, it would be more at home in a silent chiller of the 20s, or some Tod Slaughter twirling moustache horror of the 30s. A shame, for even though it isn't a film killer, a better and more tonally aware composition would have elevated this nifty noir to a grade higher. Also be advised that the subtitles don't hang around, read quickly folks! 8/10
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