Judex (1963)

JUDEX (1963)
Article 3344 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-25-2010
Posting Date: 10-10-2010
Directed by Georges Franju
Featuring Channing Pollock, Francine Berge, Edith Scob
Country: France / Italy
What it is: Crime drama

A corrupt banker is threatened by a mysterious figure of justice named Judex; he must either give his fortune away to those he cheated or die. When Judex seems to make good on his threat, a woman who was hoping to marry the banker seeks to get hold of papers the banker had been using for blackmail so that she can make a fortune. This puts the banker’s innocent daughter at risk. Will Judex be able to save her?

Not only was Georges Franju a fine filmmaker in his own right, he was also an archivist and a lover of classic cinema. This is his tribute to classic serial-maker Louis Feuillade; it’s an adaptation of Feuillade’s own 1916 serial JUDEX. I saw the Feuillade version seven years ago, and found it nearly impossible to follow because the subtitles were in untranslated French, so this version which tells pretty much the same story is a revelation. Still, it’s no wonder I was confused; since Judex employs tricks I would be more likely to expect from a Fantomas-style criminal, and the banker’s crimes were mostly talked about rather than shown, it was very difficult to sort the good guys from the bad guys. In its own right, this is a fine and entertaining adaptation; it perhaps relies overmuch on outrageous coincidence at times (and that applies equally well to Feuillade’s original serials), but it has a real sense of fun and there’s even a touch of lyricism to it as well; I particularly like the scene with the mysterious magician at the party. Like the original serial, the only fantastic content is a closed-circuit television unit used in the banker’s prison cell, which, since this adaptation also takes place in the same time period as the original serial, is a scientific anachronism.

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