A wanted gangster is both king and prisoner of the Casbah. He is protected from arrest by his friends, but is torn by his desire for freedom outside. A visiting Parisian beauty may just tempt his fate.
Holed up in the labyrinthine trap of narrow cobblestoned streets and dark dead-end alleys in the bustling Casbah quarter of Algiers, the charismatic leader and elegant Parisian gangster, Pépé le Moko, is starting to reach the end of his tether. Under those pressing circumstances, and always homesick for his beloved Paris after two long years in the impenetrable district, Pépé and his loyal gang find themselves in a constant cat-and-mouse game with the local police and the sly, manipulative detective, Inspector Slimane, trying hard to be one step ahead of them. But, as if that weren't enough, a chance encounter with the dazzling coquette, Gaby, will expose the Achilles' heel of the love-smitten lord of the Casbah, who is now eager to dice with death only to be with her. Is she Pépé le Moko's last chance to leave his squalid criminal haven?Written by
There are two cast lists in the title credits. The first one only list the 8 main players as follows: Jean Gabin, Mireille Balin, Gabriel Gabrio, Lucas Gridoux, Gilbert Gil (as Gilbert-Gil), Lino Noro, Saturnin Fabre and Fernand Charpin (as Charpin). Then a full cast list details all male players along with their respective character names, followed by the female cast (also with the names of their characters) See more »
In a scene after Pierrot's death, Pepe is getting progressively drunker and his suit coat opens to reveal more of his shirt. His shirt has the monogram of "JG" on the pocket; clearly the monogram of the actor (Jean Gabin) and not the character. See more »
Film noir from the French, before they invented the phrase
"Pepe Le Moko" is an early film noir, coming several decades before the French themselves invented the term to explain atmospheric American crime films. And it is one of the best, a film ranking right up there with the work of Melville, Becker, and other top post war directors.
This is being billed in the US now as a sort of lost film. Actually, it wasn't lost. Hollywood simply bought the rights and kept it off American movie screens so it could release its own remake of it in 1938, retitled "Algiers." That wasn't a half bad film, made enjoyable for the most part because it was a very off-beat story, had great atmosphere and featured the breathtakingly beautiful Hedy Lamarr in the role of Gaby.
At first, when looking at this French original, you wonder why it seems so familiar. Then you realize that the Hollywood version is almost a shot for shot remake, copying almost everything. Everything, that is, but the performance of Jean Gabin.
Hollywood's version, which stared Charles Boyer, always seemed a little contrived, primarily because Boyer was just not very convincing as the tough Paris gangster who pulls a bank heist and flees to Algiers, where he takes up permanent residence in the Arab quarter, the Casbah. Boyer just didn't seem like the gangster type.
Gabin, who had played rough characters before and would go on to play many others, is perfect as the smart, charismatic, but sometimes brutal Pepe.
It is ironic that the French, so in love with gangster films that they copied American cops and robbers films of the 30s, actually made one of their own in that era that wound up being copied by the Americans.
This one is well worth seeing.
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