Marcel Aymé (pronounced 'Ah-may') was France's equivalent to Thorne Smith. Aymé wrote fantasy stories which, like Smith's, tended to feature unobtrusive men whose lives are irrevocably changed by an unexpected encounter with the supernatural, not always ending happily but usually with a bit of sex along the way. There are also distinct similarities between Aymé's works and the stories of James Thurber. Some of Aymé's best stories, intriguingly, were written during the Nazi occupation. (This is especially evident in his bitter story 'La Carte'.) My own favourite Aymé tale is 'La Grace', about an ordinary man - a decent individual, but hardly a candidate for sainthood - who suddenly finds himself equipped with an unwanted halo. Desperate to get rid of this inconvenience, he proceeds to commit every imaginable sin ... but can't get rid of that halo.
The TV production 'Le Passe-muraille', a one-off comedy, adapts Aymé's story of the same name, his best-known tale. Its title would roughly translate into English as 'The Passer-Through-Walls'. This same story was adapted into the musical 'Amour', which flopped quickly on Broadway in 2002. It's not hard to see why: 'Le Passe-muraille' is a charming bit of froth, without the substance or plot line to sustain a full-length evening.
Monsieur Dutilleul (Michel Serrault) is a typical Aymé hero: an obscure little clerk, a Parisian version of Cosmo Topper or a less imaginative version of Walter Mitty. One night in his flat, with the lights out, Dutilleul finds himself in the wrong room and can't account for how he got there. After some experimentation, it dawns on him that he can walk through walls. He never does learn how or when he acquired this ability.
Being a creature of habit, Dutilleul goes to see a doctor (Jean Obé), who blithely prescribes pills for this unusual condition. More as a failure of nerve than a desire to retain his new ability, Dutilleul accepts the pills but does not swallow them. Shyly at first, Dutilleul experiments with his newfound power to walk through walls.
There is a very funny scene in which Dutilleul is summoned to his boss's office and slated for a minor matter. Returning to his own office to lick his wounds, Dutilleul has a clever idea. He sticks his head through the intervening wall, confronting his boss in the form of a head on the wall, like a taxidermy trophy. 'Sir, you are an idiot!' Dutilleul remarks, then recedes into the wall again. When the apoplectic boss rushes to Dutilleul's office, everything is of course normal ... and Dutilleul feigns innocence.
As Dutilleul becomes bolder in his ghostly ventures, he commits daring burglaries ... eventually frightening all of Paris, as rumours spread of a super-thief known only as Garou-Garou (roughly, the Werewolf). Of course, it dawns on Dutilleul that his new ability can benefit his sex life.
Like the original story, this television comedy is quite funny until the ending, at which point (again like the original) it becomes quite bitter. The special effects in the wall-walking sequences are very poorly done - 'Twilight Zone' did this sort of thing much better, more than a decade earlier - but this does no harm to the story's basic enjoyabilty. A nice bit of singing by Jean-Marc Recchia at the end. I'll rate this telefilm 8 out of 10.
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