Robespierrre, a powerful figure in the French revolution, is desperately looking for his black book, a death list of those marked for the guillotine.Robespierrre, a powerful figure in the French revolution, is desperately looking for his black book, a death list of those marked for the guillotine.Robespierrre, a powerful figure in the French revolution, is desperately looking for his black book, a death list of those marked for the guillotine.
Another Brilliant Anthony Mann Film
I watched REIGN OF TERROR, aka, THE BLACK BOOK a while back and I just loved it! It's one of the most unusual films I have come across and an equally strange hybrid of genres or sub-genres. The great Anthony Mann takes a film that would probably play mostly as a colorful, sweeping, epic piece dealing with the French revolution and turns it, with the help of cinematographer John Alton, into a dark, shadowy and claustrophobic film noir/adventure/spy/suspense tale period piece featuring excellent performances from a cast that includes Robert Cummings, Richard Basehart and Arlene Dahl. The plot is pretty simple actually, Cummings plays an operative of the newly formed republic who infiltrates the inner circle of dictator wannabe Basehart. You see, Basehart thinks Cummings is a regional tyrant as bad as he is called the "butcher of Strasbourg" and he wants Cummings to find his black book which contains the names of friend and foe alike who will eventually be lead to execution once Basehart becomes dictator. However, if the book falls into the hands of his enemies, Basehart is dead meat. Cummings is assisted in his quest by the lovely Dahl. Even though the plot may be thin, the suspense and action are on high as danger and one confrontation after another awaits around every dark, gloomy and shadowy Parisian corner. The look of the film is outstanding. Atmospheric, gritty and dark with shadows everywhere in the great noir tradition. Mann's camera is everywhere as we receive his trademark high angle shots, low angle moments and jarring and disjointed facial close-ups. A truly unique and highly entertaining film with a look and feel that just has to be experienced. I loved it and would recommend it highly to anyone with even the slightest interest in the work of the wonderful Anthony Mann.
- Aug 22, 2004
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