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Malpertuis (1971)

A young sailor finds himself trapped in the labyrinthine mansion of his occultist uncle, along with a number of eccentric and mysterious relatives who all seem to be harboring a dark secret.


Harry Kümel


Jean Ferry (screenplay and dialogue), Jean Ray (novel)

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Orson Welles ... Cassavius
Susan Hampshire ... Nancy / Euryale / Alice / Nurse / Charlotte
Michel Bouquet ... Charles Dideloo
Mathieu Carrière ... Jan
Jean-Pierre Cassel ... Lampernisse
Daniel Pilon ... Mathias Crook
Walter Rilla ... Eisengott
Dora van der Groen Dora van der Groen ... Sylvie Dideloo
Charles Janssens Charles Janssens ... Philarette
Sylvie Vartan ... Bets
Jet Naessens Jet Naessens ... Eleonora
Cara Van Wersch Cara Van Wersch ... Rosalie
Jenny Van Santvoort Jenny Van Santvoort ... Elodie
Fanny Winkler Fanny Winkler ... Mother Griboin
Robert Lussac Robert Lussac ... Griboin (as Bob Storm)


Malpertuis is a labyrinth where characters issued from the Greek mythology are made prisoners by Cassavius. He manages to keep them (as well as his nephew and niece) as prisoners even after his death, through a binding testament. As the nephew unravels the mystery, we find out he cannot escape the house because Malpertuis is far more significant than we were led to believe. Written by Flávia Dietrich

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | Fantasy | Horror


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Belgium | France | West Germany



Release Date:

1971 (Belgium) See more »

Also Known As:

Malpertuis See more »

Filming Locations:

Gent, Oost-Vlaanderen, Belgium See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Color (Gevacolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Orson Welles dubbed his own voice in the English Language version of the film. See more »

Alternate Versions

First screened at Cannes at 99 minutes. The Director's Cut runs 119 minutes. See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Mesmerizing and Unique - A Masterpiece in all Regards!
28 February 2009 | by Witchfinder-General-666See all my reviews

Before seeing "Malpertuis" (1971), I was already a fan of Belgian director Harry Kümel for his mesmerizing Lesbian Vampire film "Les Lèvres Rouges" (Daughters of Darkness) from the same year, which, in my opinion, is the best film of its kind. I had great expectations for "Malpertuis", because of my admiration of Kümel as a true master of atmosphere, because I had heard the film was Kümel's greatest, and because of Orson Welles stared in it. Even so, this instant favorite of mine surpassed my greatest hopes and totally blew me away. "Malpertuis" is a bizarre and hypnotic mixture of surreal Gothic Horror, macabre family Drama, mad science and Mythological Fantasy, that no cineaste should allow himself (or herself) to miss. Actually, I'd like to correct myself. The film cannot really be narrowed down by attributing it to a particular Genre as such, as it is simply one of the most unique films ever made. In one sentence: The film has everything, and more than that. "Malpertuis" tells one of the most fascinating stories ever brought to screen, and does so in a brilliantly moody manner. The film maintains an incomparably rich, eerie and foreboding atmosphere that becomes more intense with each passing minute. The sublime atmosphere comes along with breathtaking settings, brilliant cinematography, complex and demented characters and fantastic acting performances. The most fascinating thing about "Malpertuis", however, is the story, which is one of the most incomparable and gripping I ever saw in a film. "Malpertuis" is not a film that can properly compared to anything else. It is like a macabre, haunting yet incredibly beautiful Fever Dream.

The film is an adaptation of a novel by Jean Ray, which I haven't yet read. I sure intend to, though, as the plot of "Malpertuis" is one of the most unique and fascinating stories that have ever been filmed. Great praise therefore also belongs to writer Jean Ferry. Jan (Mathieu Carrière), a young sailor, comes to his hometown and, without wanting to, visits the family mansion owned by his creepy and mysterious uncle Cassavius (Orson Welles). The mansion is named Malpertuis, its inhabitants are (equally creepy) relatives who hate Cassavius, but do everything to brown-nose him in desire of his inheritance. A mysterious palace of a mansion, bears fascinating and terrifying secrets... Though this is only a vague description of the film, I shall stop at this point. I do not want to give too much away, as the story is gripping and fascinating from the very beginning and should be experienced rather than read in a review. The sceneries are some of the greatest, most awe-inspiring I have ever seen. The house Malpertuis alone is one of the most fascinating settings ever in cinema. The atmosphere is overwhelming, rich and uncanny throughout the film. Each character is fascinating, most of them creepy and demented, the performances are sublime. Orson Welles is, of course, great as always, an I would personally even consider "Malpertuis" one of the greatest films this brilliant actor has been part of in his awe-inspiring career. The other performances are also magnificent. Mathieu Carriere is great as Jan, and other actors, such as Jean-Piere Cassel, Victor Rilla, Michel Bouquet and particularly Charles Jenssen are also brilliant in their roles. Particular praise has to go to the stunningly beautiful Susan Hampshire, who is wonderful in her triple role, playing three different female leads. The rich atmosphere profits from the Flamish (Dutch) language and an ingenious score. The film was once reportedly cut to shreds, watching the uncut 126 minute director's cut is absolutely essential. "Malpertuis" is a film that simply cannot be praised enough. This ingenious and absolutely unique masterpiece is one of the most fascinating cinematic experiences one can have, both atmospherically and story-wise, and must not be missed by anybody interested in cinema. As said above: It has everything, and a lot more. 10/10

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