Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB. France/Italy, 1963. Comptoir Français du Film Production, Filmes Cinematografica. Screenplay by Jacques Champreux, Francis Lacassin, based on the 1916 screenplay by Arthur Bernede, Louis Feuillade. Cinematography by Marcel Fradetal. Produced by Robert de Nesle. Music by Maurice Jarre. Production Design by Robert Giordani. Costume Design by Christiane Courcelles. Film Editing by Gilbert Natot. Podcast: My Criterions.
This stylish masterpiece by Georges Franju is adapted from a 1916 film serial by Louis Feuillade, inspiring the filmmaker to include a great deal of silent film technique in its remarkably smooth telling. A wealthy banker with a shady past is warned that his comeuppance will come at the stroke of midnight, which he foolishly ignores until he drops dead in the middle of his daughter’s engagement party (which is also a deliciously costumed masque ball) and is then whisked away from his grave by a skilled illusionist (played by the elegant real-life magician Channing Pollock). This comes at a bad time for the governess who lived in the mansion, who had plans of her own for the rich man, while daughter Edith Scob learns of her father’s past and is inspired to make a moral turn that has a permanent effect on the rest of the story. The twists and turns are all wonderful even when they are easy to see coming, and while it is important that I spoil none of the surprises, it should be point out that even with full knowledge of the plot it is still a remarkable feat of visual style and genre blending, including touches of science-fiction that do not overwhelm the marvelous heist-style procedural sequences and delicious taste of the gothic. A wondrous film.