Based on a story which really happened during the Directoire years,the beginning of the story may seem a bit slow ,but it hits its stride in the second third and then you will be captivated till the very end.
Thieves attack the couriers of Lyons,steal the money and kill the coach driver.
Then begins a strange case of mistaken identity.Because he resembles one of the criminals,a man who's done nothing is recognized by witnesses ("I could tell it was him from the sound of his voice" ,a blind man affirms).His wife (a wonderful Dita Parlo,the female star of "la Grande Illusion")will pull all the stops to save him ,and however ,he used to cheat her !Her unfortunate intervention is deeply touching and we side with her.
The trial is a good moment but it is dwarfed by the final scenes: around the guillotine,the crowd is having a wild time ,even the true culprit is watching (to be sure his "replacement" is dead.) Maurice Lehmann had a very clever idea to end his movie: after the innocent's head has rolled in the sawdust,we see it made of clay:we are in a wax museum where the judge feels deep remorse.Time has passed ,and the truth is known,but it's too late.
Claude Autant-Lara used to work with Lehmann at the time (he co-signed "Fric Frac" with him two years later) and his anti bourgeois anarchist touch can be felt when the wrong man inveighs against the society and their justice.
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