A collection of artifacts from an archeological dig in Egypt are brought to the famous Louvre museum in Paris, and while experts are using a laser scanning device to determine the age of a ... See full summary »
Arthur Bernede's "Belphégor: The Mystery of the Louvre" was a 1927 "criminal adventure" novel along the lines of FANTOMAS and JUDEX (which the author co-wrote with Louis Feuillade) that spawned a silent serial, a comic strip, a French TV mini-series in the mid-1960s, and a 2001 movie with Sophie Marceau & Michel Serrault. The four-part TV adaptation (72 minutes per episode) was a big hit with viewers at the time and it's reputed to be an "important landmark in the history of television":
"Think of co-incidence as an island: drain the water and they're all connected to the mainland". That's what an old man at a rummage sale tells a young college student in Part 1 and when the vendor commits suicide at the same time a guard in the Louvre is murdered after a phantom is spotted near the statue of Belphegor ("god of deceit and malice"), the student takes the geezer at his word and sneaks into the museum at night to connect the dots. He also gets seduced by a sophisticated femme fatale (Juliette Greco) and teams up with the Police Commissioner's teen-aged daughter to try and catch this "ghost" who comes and goes at will, impervious to bullets. The Commissioner's told by important people to drop the investigation and his daughter is kidnapped and released as a warning to do just that. In Part 2, the student finds a secret passage under the museum where Belphegor is being brought to life a la Frankenstein but when the police follow, the catacombs are flooded. The student turns up a few days later and refuses to speak of what he saw, saying only that the investigation should be dropped. What the hell's going on?
In Parts 3 & 4, the college student attempts suicide and the Commissioner uncovers a clue in Cagliostro's former abode which leads to a secret society of Rosicrucians guarding the secrets of Paracelcus, a sixteenth century alchemist whose recipes for gold and radium are hidden in the Louvre and could prove disastrous to mankind...
"The Phantom Of The Louvre" is a good/bad "supervillian" who's more like the Golem than Fantômas and his "mystery" is closer to THE DA VINCI CODE-meets-PHANTOM OF THE OPERA than it is to JUDEX but it's got the same kind of fantastique "thrills, chills, and spills" its more famous predecessors have. The body count may be low and there's more surprise than suspense as the story picks up momentum in the second half with plenty of chases, cliffhangers, and revelations right up to the tongue- in-cheek ending that pokes fun at what's gone before. Akin to a krimi, it's way ahead of anything American TV was doing at the time and the on- location black & white photography in around Paris make the mini-series an eye candy time capsule, as well. The only cast member I recognized was Juliette Greco, the next-to-last mistress of that ol' studio system satyr Darryl Zanuck in his dotage.
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