The Burning Court (1962)

aka La Chambre ardente
Article 2492 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-30-2008
Posting Date: 6-8-2008
Directed by Julien Duvivier
Featuring Nadja Tiller, Jean-Claude Brialy, Perrette Pradier
Country: France/Italy/West Germany

An eccentric but rich old man dies, and when one of the brothers gets the bulk of the inheritance, the other brother vows to prove that the old man was murdered. The mystery deepens when the body disappears from the coffin.

This is another rather curious movie that I’d heard about but hadn’t seen until now. In some ways, it’s in pretty familiar territory; it’s basically one of your “old dark house” movies with dead patriarchs and frustrated heirs. Throw in an ancient family curse, and the territory just seems all that more familiar. The identity of the murderers is no real mystery; it’s certain specific details of how the murder was committed that drives the story, as well as questions about the disappearance of the corpse. There are some strange scenes; in particular, the old man’s “wake”, in which couples waltz around his coffin, is likely to stay in your memory. The solution to certain parts of the mystery are intriguing, especially when you discover how a certain person managed to walk through a wall (and, for once, it’s not a secret passage). On the down side, the movie is too confusing at times, the subplot about the descendant of the woman who laid a curse on the family goes nowhere, and the ending left me feeling rather unsatisfied. I’ve heard tell that the novel this is based on is very interesting indeed, and that it may well be unfilmable. At the very least, this movie has piqued my interest in this direction.



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