29 user 31 critic

This Man Must Die (1969)

Que la bête meure (original title)
A man asserts himself within the life of an actress he believes is somehow responsible for his son's death.


Claude Chabrol


Nicholas Blake (novel), Claude Chabrol (dialogue) | 3 more credits »

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Michel Duchaussoy ... Charles Thénier
Caroline Cellier ... Hélène Lanson
Jean Yanne ... Paul Decourt
Anouk Ferjac ... Jeanne Decourt
Marc Di Napoli Marc Di Napoli ... Philippe Decourt
Louise Chevalier Louise Chevalier ... Madame Levenes
Guy Marly Guy Marly ... Jacques Ferrand
Lorraine Rainer Lorraine Rainer ... Anna Ferrand
Dominique Zardi Dominique Zardi ... Le premier inspecteur de police
Stéphane Di Napoli Stéphane Di Napoli ... Michel Thénier
Raymone Raymone ... La mère de Paul
Michel Charrel Michel Charrel ... Le ferrailleur
France Girard France Girard
Bernard Papineau ... Le policier
Robert Rondo Robert Rondo ... Le garagiste


Single father obsessed with murdering the hit&run driver who killed his only child, poses as a screenwriter to get close to an actress who was in the death car. He feels fully prepared to kill the pretty young woman if she was the driver, but as his knowledge of her family grows, so does his empathy for them. Written by David Stevens

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


I don't know who he is or what he looks like or where he lives. But I am going to find him...and kill him. See more »


Crime | Drama | Thriller


GP | See all certifications »



France | Italy



Release Date:

20 October 1970 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

This Man Must Die See more »

Filming Locations:

Argol, Finistère, France See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Color (Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The only film in the 'Hélène cycle' where Claude Chabrol's regular leading actress in the cycle, Stéphane Audran, doesn't star as a character named Hélène. Caroline Cellier plays the role of a character named Hélène instead. See more »


At the beginning Paul is shifting several times although the Mustang has an automatic transmission. See more »


Featured in Cinema Goes to Dinner (2005) See more »


Vier ernste Gesänge
Written by Johannes Brahms
Sung by Kathleen Ferrier (as Katleen Ferrier)
See more »

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User Reviews

The makings of Greek tragedy, but Chabrol has more up his sleeve in revenge flick
18 February 2008 | by Quinoa1984See all my reviews

In taking a slight cue from Alfred Hitchcock (one of Chabrol's heroes), but going another step further, This Man Must Die follows a logical turn of events for a single father who's son is run over in a hit and run by some cruel man in a fast car. In Hitchcock's hands this might be led by elegant stars, have even moments of scathing wit. But Chabrol's vision is a little darker, more that is seething under this surface, with the bourgeois as much of the commonplace as just the backdrop for the theater of revenge about to take place. But like the old master, Chabrol takes a twist with the material: as the father, Charles Thenier, going by an alias as a writer of children's books, gets more than acquainted with a woman who is the sister-in-law of the killer, gets to know the family more, and gets to know slimy, shrewd businessman and big-time garage owner Paul Decourt more, he's not really the only one out for his head.

As Chabrol goes further, it becomes a tale of Greek tragedy, or some variation on it. Paul's son, Philippe (a character as played by jean Yanne as if almost out of Bresson), hates his father with a passion, as his father has no respect for or tries to encourage his son with what he's got going on at school (perhaps conventionally, every scene with the father and son is a tense and violent outburst from father towards innocent son). One might think a collaboration might happen between the secretive, diary-writing Charles and the kind but frustrated kid, but this too isn't that simple. Chabrol also takes a smart tactic with that diary of Charles's; it could be just a narrative gimmick, and at times it feels as just that (maybe one of the film's only drawbacks, if only only on), but it does start to probe into a mindset that is one-track, and not without some reason in the genre sense. We're pitted on Charles's side, as he sneaks his way into Helen's heart, and then through her sometimes nice and other times (i.e. Paul's mother) savage in their verbal brutality.

But this same diary works as a something of a step-up from a psychological MacGuffin. Chabrol twists around with plot into motivation, and he pulls it off with his shooting and editing style, which applies just small, precise touches of the good old French New Wave into the proceedings (the occasional jump-cut, as any filmmaker knows, can't hurt under the right circumstances). What Chabrol's brilliant achievement is to transcend the trappings of a revenge film and to explore what the nature of malevolence brings past a simple crime- certainly these bastards have families, if they have the capacity to clear up their crimes with such skill like an owner of a hugely profitable auto-body/garage- and at the same time put a human angle into a plot that requires it. The actors do what they can (the man playing Charles, who I have not seen in other films, is very good in the lead, as is in his own right the man playing Paul Decourt, adding some layers to this rotten being), and despite some clunky scenes that do have to deal with the plot, there's some wit thrown in under the surface ("It's not a needle in a haystack, more like a needle in a box of needles,").

If This Man Must Die isn't a great film, and I'm not sure it is, it is at least a very successful example of finding some of the cracks in a revenge mystery, of adding that superlative mix of character into plot, and seeing what makes things like a diary, or a slip off a cliff, or an ambiguous ending, tick.

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