THE PHANTOM BARON (1943)
aka Le baron fantome
Article 3901 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-9-2012
Posting Date: 4-19-2012
Directed by Serge de Poligny
Featuring Andre Lefaur, Odette Joyeux, Jany Holt
What it is: Gothic romantic drama
When a baron mysteriously disappears with all his worldly belongings, his heirs are left to fend for themselves. Eventually, a romantic entanglement occurs between a woman of the baron’s family, her servant, a dashing soldier, and the son of the old caretaker of the castle.
As you may gather from the above plot description, this isn’t a horror movie, despite the title. But that doesn’t mean it’s devoid of horror atmosphere; the beginning sequence, in which the scared caretaker of the castle narrates the story of the disappearance of the baron and his property is full of eerie touches, especially in a sequence where the sleepwalking baron walks off with a statue. But except for this scene and a later sequence (where we discover the fate of the baron), it’s a romantic drama of sorts. The dialogue was written by Jean Cocteau (who also plays the baron), and there are moments of poetic imagery here, especially in another sleepwalking sequence later on. The story has some odd twists and turns in it, especially in the way it becomes entwined with a fake dauphin (played memorably by Andre Lefaur), but I wouldn’t call it particularly gripping. Still, I think any horror fan would at least enjoy the first ten minutes of the movie.