One night Maloin, a switchman at a seaside railway station situated by a ferry harbor, witnesses a terrible event. He is just watching the arrival of the last ferry at night from his ... See full summary »
One of the 30 (or 31 depending on whom you ask) produced by the Continental German firm during the occupation days in France ;the most prominent example is HG Clouzot's "le Corbeau" .
Why such a title? (Man from London) at a time when the German censorship was adamant: no hints at England !It was the reason why "L Assassin Habite au 21" was filmed in Paris whereas the novel took place in London! All that is "English" is the weakest link in Decoin's movie: the so-called English (Detective Mollison,Mr and Mrs Brown,Teddy) do not sound English at all,besides they never say a single word in their would be first language.The censorship was probably satisfied:anyway they could have called the film 'the man from Paris" ,the man in question being very Parisian Jules Berry.
But the movie is an exceptionally good film noir .A foggy atmosphere recalling Marcel Carné's "Quai des Brumes" (1938),a chanteuse wailing "Adventure likes Darkness...",and a Gabinesque character masterfully played by Fernand Ledoux.
Maloin has been working all his life for 2,500 measly Francs a month.One day he finds a case full of dough ,after watching a gangland killing."I 'd have to work a hundred years to make that!"he says.He could send his son to "Polytechnique" ,he could take his wife to the Côte d'Azur.He could escape from the third-rate position he holds in the harbor.He could leave behind his mean brother-in-law who's wearing suit and tie and is working in a bank (and thinks he's got it made).
But Maloin has an uneasy conscience:the film begins with lines of the Bible : "there are two roads: the wide one leads to perdition,the narrow one is not easy to follow,but it leads to happiness".His colleague always reads some pages of the good book before going to sleep.
A desperate movie,where man finds it hard to make ends meet ,but where you meet wistful prostitutes called Camelia in the low dives and generous human beings: the owner of the hotel,who does not want any money from Mrs Brown,the detective who tries to help the sinner.Decoin's follow-ups "La Fille du Diable" and "Non Coupable" won't feature such characters.Only darkness.
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