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Douze heures d'horloge (1959)

Three criminals escape from a French prison and hide in a coastal village where they have to wait for 12 hours until the boat that is supposed to take them to freedom arrives.


Pierre Boileau, René Lefèvre (dialogue) | 2 more credits »




Cast overview, first billed only:
Lino Ventura ... Albert Fourbieux
Eva Bartok ... Barbara
Hannes Messemer ... Serge
Laurent Terzieff ... Kopetzky
Gert Fröbe ... Le photographe Blanche
Suzy Prim ... Madame César
Lucien Raimbourg Lucien Raimbourg ... Monsieur César
Gil Vidal ... Maurice de Tercy
Ginette Pigeon Ginette Pigeon ... Lucette
Guy Tréjan ... Armand - le gendarme
Jacques Bézard Jacques Bézard
René Worms René Worms ... Le notaire
Annick Allières Annick Allières ... Louise - la bonne
Fernand Bercher Fernand Bercher ... Monsieur de Tercy
Lucien Callamand Lucien Callamand ... Le parrain de Lucette


Escaping from prison is a fine thing and Fourbieux, Serge and Kopetsky, three dangerous criminals, have managed to do just that. But to really regain liberty, they need money and counterfeit identity papers. And they have just twelve hours to get them and board the boat to safety. Written by Guy Bellinger

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Crime | Drama


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German censorship visa # 21286. See more »


La poisse
Written and Composed by Léo Ferré
(not used in the film)
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User Reviews

Inferior French Noir
5 December 2017 | by guy-bellingerSee all my reviews

The 1950's mark the birth of a new style of gangster movies in France. Two milestones set the tone for dozens of variations on the theme offered by quite a few filmmakers, Jules Dassin's unequaled heist film "Du Rififi chez les hommes" (1955) coming on the heels of Jacques Becker's seminal post heist tragedy "Touchez pas au grisbi" (1954). From Verneuil to Melville, from Grangier to Sautet - not to mention Jean-Luc Godard and his deconstructed "A bout de soufflé" (1960), many indeed are those who contributed to the renewal of the Gallic crime movie genre, whose dark clouds still more or less overshadow our cinematography today. Of course, not every filmmaker is either Dassin or Becker. Most of them do not rise above the level of good workmanship, which is the case of helmer Geza Radvanyi, who after emigrating to the West failed to equal the qualities – human and artistic – of his Hungarian classic "Somewhere in Europe" (1948). An estimation which is not likely to be undermined by the viewing of "Twelve Hours by the Clock". From the first minutes of film though, it looks as if you are in for another great entry in the 1950's French noir new trend. The black and white pictures, finely crafted by the talented "light sculptor" Henri Alekan, the well-shot and edited prison break sequence and and the presence of three competent actors playing the escaped prisoners, Lino Ventura, Laurent Terzieff and Hannes Messemer, go in this direction. Unfortunately, due to two fundamental flaws, this initial good impression does not last. The first (major) defect lies in the fact that, on the pretext that the action takes place in the South of France, the actors (including the German ones !) speak with a fake Southern French accent. The result of such nonsense is that it immediately (and irreversibly) torpedoes the credibility of the whole thing. Second and even worse defect, the tense basic situation (after their escape, the three men have a twelve hour window to find documents before boarding a cargo ship to liberty) deplorably shifts from noir to stale romance. After the captivating beginning in the style of "Reservoir Dogs" or "Desperate Hours", the narrative dissolves only too soon into photonovel sugar dripping from a worn "you love me-you love me not" thematic. Loss of interest involving boredom, the state will not leave you until the end of the movie, despite one or two flashes of violence. It is always a bad thing when a story starts intensely and loses impact minute after minute.

Which is why I would not recommend "Twelve Hours by the Clock" to anybody but film historians (as a sample of the French Film Noir wave) and/or Lino Ventura completists. The others are likely to be disappointed: wet powder is useless!

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France | West Germany


French | German

Release Date:

22 April 1959 (France) See more »

Also Known As:

Twelve Hours by the Clock See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Westrex Recording System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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