Danielle Delorme 's character is one of the most perverse you can see on a screen:she almost makes us forget Jean Simmons in "Angel Face" .This girl is perversity flesh on the bone.Is she a victim (of her education? her sad background?)Delorme told in an interview that her part was "much too much",that she probably had excuses,that she probably suffered during her childhood: terse answer by the director:"evil people are evil,period." Duvivier's world is thoroughly noir:the three old women who are featured in the movie are evil too.
Germaine Kerjean's character is even more terrifying than the false ingenue :not only she probably broke her son's marriage (Gabin) but she has also continued to dominate him.When Gabin introduces her to Catherine,she simply says with a threatening smile :"she has a chilling way about her" ;actually this reply turns the audience 's heart into ice.this old shrew is sadistic to a fault:you should see her behead her chickens in her guinguette (cafe where you dance on the banks of the Seine)!You should see her thrash her daughter-in-law,yelling,when the whip comes down :"that will knock you into shape!!" Catherine's mother(Lucienne Bogaert) is a slut,the ugliest woman you have ever met,destroyed by alcohol and drugs .She epitomizes decay.She urges her daughter to kill her husband -who was also his twenty years ago-,and the way she plans the murder,lavishly detailed ,makes your flesh creep.
And there is Gabin's housekeeper (Gabrielle Fontan),a hypocrite spinster who never found love and thus is jealous of Catherine,who is young and beautiful.she moves in the house like a snake ,always on the look-out for some gossips about Catherine,the intruder.
The action takes place in three places: 1)Gabin's restaurant in Les Halles,now a thing of the past,where the scenarists take a slap at the Americans -who are far from being gourmets- and the dogs (there's humor in this somber story).
2)Catherine's junkie mother's room ,in a seedy house near decay,where she spins her web.
3)Her mother-in-law's guinguette,turned into a living hell by the owner.
The characters move from one place to another,as an almost unbearable tension rises and takes all the characters in a bloody violent final by the misty banks of a glittering Seine.
This movie contains scenes that will leave you at the edge of your seat,even 50 years after:Kerjean,whipping with an intense pleasure;Gerard's (Gerard Blain) murder in the night down by the Seine;His dog,barking at a scared to death Catherine.Sincerely,I've seen lots and lots of FRench movies,but few (if any) come close to this one when it comes to depicting wickedness ,greed and perversity.
Once dismissed as "pre nouvelle vague trash" "voici le temps des assassins -looked upon as a masterpiece by Bertrand Tavernier,one of the masters of the contemporary French cinema - has since been restored to favor by a whole generation of viewers (its IMDb rating is currently 7,6!Thanks to the users!)and critics (Jacques Lourcelles notably).
Claude Chabrol and Bertrand Tavernier love this film.
Watch "Voici le temps des assassins" at all costs!!!!