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Reign of Terror (1949)

Robespierrre, a powerful figure in the French revolution, is desperately looking for his black book, a death list of those marked for the guillotine.

Director:

Anthony Mann

Writers:

Philip Yordan (story by), Æneas MacKenzie (story by) (as Aeneas MacKenzie) | 2 more credits »
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Robert Cummings ... Charles D'Aubigny
Richard Basehart ... Maximilian Robespierre
Richard Hart ... François Barras
Arlene Dahl ... Madelon
Arnold Moss ... Fouché
Norman Lloyd ... Tallien
Charles McGraw ... Sergeant
Beulah Bondi ... Grandma Blanchard
Jess Barker ... Saint Just
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Storyline

Robespierre, a powerful figure in the French Revolution and the subsequent Reign of Terror, is desperately looking for his black book, a death list of those marked by him for the guillotine and a key to help him eventually emerge as the country's dictator. He hopes his agents will recover it, but, if it falls in to the wrong hands, it would mean his political ruin and death. Written by duke1029

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

15 October 1949 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Black Book See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Walter Wanger Productions See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The failure of the original copyright holder to renew the film's copyright resulted in it falling into public domain, meaning that virtually anyone could duplicate and sell a VHS/DVD copy of the film. Therefore, many of the versions of this film available on the market are either severely (and usually badly) edited and/or of extremely poor quality, having been duped from second- or third-generation (or more) copies of the film. See more »

Goofs

In a conversation with D'Aubigny, Robespierre states that he turned 36 years old in the month of May. However, during their Reign of Terror, the French revolutionaries changed many things, including the calendar. They discarded the traditional Gregorian calendar (January, February, etc.) in favor of a new, decimal-based system, and called it the French Republican Calendar . There were still 12 months, but now each month had 3 10-day weeks (for 30 days) and all of the months were re-named. What would have been the month of "May" in the Gregorian calendar was changed to "Prairial" in the new calendar. ("Prairial" translates to prairie or meadow.) So being a good revolutionary, Robespierre would have used this new calendar and not the old one when referring to dates. He should have said he "turned 36 years old in Prairial" and not "May." See more »

Quotes

Madelon: It's so dark in here.
Madelon: I can hear in the dark... speak.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Bowser Makes a Movie (2005) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Mann, Alton view French Revolutionary adventure through film noir's lenses
31 October 2003 | by bmacvSee all my reviews

Out of the chaos and carnage of the French Revolution, Anthony Mann fashions not a sweeping historical epic à la A Tale of Two Cities but a tight and shaded suspense story. His gifted collaborator is director of photography John Alton, whose preference for the murky suggestively limned with light was never so evident as in his work here, in country inns and the cellars of bakeshops and the cobbled pavements of torchlit Paris.

The plot centers on Robespierre (a peruked Richard Basehart), who has embarked on a spree of mock trials and executions of his rivals in preparation to having himself proclaimed dictator; he's just disposed of Danton. A less than adulatory element loyal to the ideals of the newly formed Republic, but not to its current leaders, aims to stop him. One of their operatives (Robert Cummings) infiltrates Robespierre's inner circle by posing as the `butcher of Strasbourg,' a regional tyrant as bloodthirsty as Robespierre himself.

But in the circle of men closest to the power of the state, trust is a commodity in short supply; they watch their own backs and scheme to stab each others'. It's Cummings' job to negotiate this maze of duplicity and locate Robespierre's `black book,' in which he records neither his amatory conquests nor vintages he's sampled but his next victims. Exposure of this book will mean Robespierre's downfall. With the aid of proto-Bondgirl Arlene Dahl, Cummings races the clock in a round of near-fatal wild goose chases.

Reign of Terror remains a costumed adventure – a chase movie – but Mann paces it swiftly and slyly. And, fresh from some ground-breaking work in film noir, he and Alton give it a compellingly sinister look. Most period pieces are lit as if on the equator at high noon; this has to be the inkiest costume movie ever filmed (even Charles McGraw, as a bearded soldier of the Republic, goes all but unrecognizable). The darkness doesn't limit itself to the lighting – the script, by Aeneas MacKenzie and Philip Yordan, rustles with ambiguous motives and queer twists. There's even an ironic note of premonition sounded at the end, when the slimy survivor Fouché (Arnold Moss), asks the name of a young soldier. `Bonaparte,' comes the answer. `Napoleon Bonaparte.'


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