Fantomas (1932)

Article 1888 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-16-2006
Posting Date: 10-13-2006
Directed by Pal Fejos
Featuring Thomy Bourdelle, Tania Fedor, Jean Worms

Inspector Juve tries to catch the master criminal Fantomas.

You know, it’s always a bit jarring to sit down to a foreign movie that you expect will be either dubbed or subtitled only to find out it’s neither. Granted, I shouldn’t have been surprised; my other encounter with Fantomas was through a silent French serial which also hadn’t been translated into English. Still, French title cards are somewhat easier to manage than hearing it spoken in French; the French language uses many of the same words as the English language, so it’s possible to get the gist by reading, but they pronounce the words so differently that, if you don’t know French, it’s almost impenetrable on a verbal level. As usual in such cases, I am rather vague about the plot. Still, this one is a little easier to follow than some other foreign language movies I’ve tried.

The fantastic elements mostly come into play during the first third of the movie; this part is your basic “Old Dark House” story, with murders, secret passages, masked killers, etc. The second segment concerns a robbery/murder that takes place in a hotel suite, and the third segment takes place at a race track. It ends with a final confrontation between Juve and Fantomas, and anyone familiar with the characters will know not to be to sure who will end up victorious. Though it’s slower and talkier (obviously) than the silent version, there are some good visual moments; my favorite is in the second segment where you discover where Fantomas has concealed himself in the apartment after committing his crime. Still, at heart, I didn’t find this version near as much fun as the silent serial. Fantomas would be revived during the sixties for a series of movies.


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