Fantomas – A L’ombre de la guillotine (1913)

Article #701 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 2-14-2001
Posting date: 7-14-2001
Directed by Louis Feuillade
Featuring Rene Navarre, Edmond Breon, Georges Melchior

An archvillain named Fantomas is on the loose, and an inspector sets out to catch him.

Some time ago I covered a movie called JUVE CONTRE FANTOMAS; this was actually the second episode in a five-part serial; however, since each episode is roughly the length of a short movie, and IMDB lists them as separate entities, that is how I will review them. Since I’ve already covered the second episode, I’ll be covering the other four over the next few days.

The whole serial seems to only marginally belong to the world of fantastic cinema, it is here the roots of the whole “Supercriminal” subgenre can be found, and since a lot of that genre is borderline science fiction, it qualifies somewhat. I’ve managed to net the whole serial on an import DVD from France, which presents a little problem; the subtitles are also in French. However, the story is clear enough in the first episode that I didn’t really feel the need for them; the visual presentation is striking, clear, and easy to follow. It’s very clever, and there’s a light touch to the proceedings. The basic story in this episode involves the successful capture of Fantomas, and then covers the details of how he effects his escape. It’s quite entertaining, and one thing that comes across is that both Juve and Fantomas are good matches for each other; Juve’s capture of Fantomas is just as clever as Fantomas’s escape. One really is left wondering who will ultimately prevail.


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