Gaston Leroux's famous murder mystery,his most celebrated novel after "phantom of the opera" has often been filmed from the silent era to the present (the last one was made in 2003).
This is the second talkie based on the famous case of murder in an enclosed place;it's definitely inferior to Marcel Lherbier's (1932).You should remember that this novel is actually the first part of a story in two volumes,the second being "Le Parfum de La Dame En Noir" .Both Lherbier and Podalydès filmed the two stories which spawned two films.
Henri Aisner did not(It's Louis Daquin who did the same year)In the two other versions,there are hints at the "scent of the lady in black" and Both movies end on a mysterious scene .Aisner's movie ,which is very short is rather undistinguished.The choice of Reggiani -an actor I admire very much though- for Rouletabille is eminently questionable ;he is too old for the part (27) .Roland Toutain had plenty of go in Lherbier's version ,and Reggiani ,spending a lot of time reading Comtesse de Segur' s "les Malheurs de Sophie" -the connection escapes me,I fear-,shines in one scene only:his "arithmetic lesson" This adaptation was doomed from the start : the Rouletabille/Mathilde/Larsan relationship is essential to the plot :the famous sentence about the vicarage and the garden (from which a strange poetry emanates) does not make any sense in THAT context.Mathilde Stangerson (Helene Perdrière) loses all her mystery .Hence the necessity to kill the criminal at the end of the story.But,as there's Daquin's follow-up,is he really dead?
The film is poorly directed and the two great scenes (the crime in the bedroom ;the corridor scene -just compare to that of Lherbier-) of the book are not even exciting .
Lherbier did the definitive version,but I would also recommend the made-for-TV film made in 1965 starring Claude Brasseur as Rouletabille ,one of the best of the sixties French TV.
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