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The Burning Court (1962)

La chambre ardente (original title)
A group of people visit a weird old man who is a student of the black arts. The man lives in an ancient, cursed castle. Soon people in the group start being killed off.


Julien Duvivier


John Dickson Carr (novel), Julien Duvivier (scenario) | 2 more credits »

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Complete credited cast:
Nadja Tiller ... Nurse Myra Schneider
Jean-Claude Brialy ... Marc Desgrez
Perrette Pradier ... Lucie Desgrez
Edith Scob ... Marie D'Aubray Boissand
Walter Giller ... Michel Boissand
Frédéric Duvallès Frédéric Duvallès ... Mathias Desgrez (as Duvallès)
Héléna Manson Héléna Manson ... Augusta Henderson - Housekeeper
René Génin René Génin ... Frédéric Henderson - Groundsman
Claude Piéplu ... L'inspecteur
Dany Jacquet Dany Jacquet ... Frieda - Maid
Gabriel Jabbour Gabriel Jabbour ... Le Bijoutier (as Gabriel Jabour)
Catherine Rich Catherine Rich ... (as Laurence Belval)
Antoine Balpêtré ... Dr. Hermann (as Antoine Balpétré)
Claude Rich ... Stéphane Desgrez


A group of people visit a weird old man who is a student of the black arts. The man lives in an ancient, cursed castle. Soon people in the group start being killed off.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


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France | Italy | West Germany



Release Date:

7 March 1962 (Italy) See more »

Also Known As:

The Burning Court See more »

Filming Locations:

Schlangenbad, Hessen, Germany See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


| (English dubbed)

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

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User Reviews

A splendid book but one of the worst adaptations ever filmed
30 April 2002 | by rparisiousSee all my reviews

"The Burning Court" may be the most fascinating detective story ever written.After reading it,W.B. Yeats called Carr,the James Joyce of mystery writers.(Remember Yeats had very ambiguous feelings about Joyce's art.) Understandably, Carr never tried to repeat his structural technique a second time. He had done something which once done could not be repeated and ,furthermore ,did not readily lend itself to adaptation in any other media form.

The book opens with a quotation from Shakespeare,"There was a young man who lived by a churchyard;but that's an unfinished story," and accordingly ends in mid-sentence,most of three hundred pages later.In some editions the last words{"Defense attorneys already claiming newly discovered evidence...")are deliberately run into the end of the page.Carr intentionally conned his readers into believing the last page was deleted.

Long,long afterwards,comes the sudden flash ,and the belated certainty. that we ,like the ever more frenzied characters, have been utterly deceived.

Carr sets his diabolical puzzle within an extremely formal five part structure."Indictment","Prosecution","Defense","Summing-Up" and "Verdict".Each of the first four sections builds to a logical climax at the end of which all the expectations which the author have previously built up(four times in turn!) are once again successively destroyed. The author's primary ploy is that we are never to be quite certain whether he is telling us a detective story masquerading as a horror story or a horror story masquerading as a problem in logic.In the latter case,we have no right to expect a rational solution and the identity of the reincarnated witch becomes increasingly obvious. However,every alleged supernatural event and every supposed pre-natal memory,is,at some subsequent point or other,given a perfectly rational and satisfying explanation...except that these belated witnesses (in their turn) may be,likewise, either inaccurate or mendacious.

By the way,Carr always insisted that he had very subtly inserted the solution to all this in one phrase casually inserted between a pair of commas but apparently went to his grave without informing posterity between which two commas the true answer could be found.

The question of what compelled Duvivier, an often splendid director,(and in many other instances a still shamefully underrated artist)to film this work is another mystery which was, mercifully,carried to his grave.He began by scrapping the structure(a little like taking a stream of consciousness novel and shooting it in chronological sequence)and moving the locale from jazz age Philadelphia to country France!And it goes down from there. Whatever the correct solution to Carr's riddle,we can be sure that this isn't it. There has been nothing this bad in cinema literary massacre since another great master of mystery,Alfred Hitchcock,decided to improve O'Casey's "Juno and the Paycock".

To make matters worse,at approximately the same time that Duvivier launched his ill-starred version,a husband and wife team succeeded,despite the formidable structural difficulties,in winning the Emmy with their adaptation of the same work.Unfortunately it does not appear in the IMDb and has, apparently, never been re-shown.If it survives,it must be worth a close look.

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