Nuits rouges (1974)

aka Shadowman
Article 4682 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-15-2014
Directed by Georges Franju
Featuring Gayle Hunnicutt, Jacques Champreux, Josephine Chaplin
Country: France / Italy
What it is: Supervillain serial pastiche

The police match wits with a supervillain for possession of the secret to the treasure of the Templar Knights. However, there is a third party who is also interested in the treasure…

I have to admit that I brighten up when I see Georges Franju’s name in the credits of a movie; I share his love for Louis Feuillade’s French supervillain serials of the silent era, and I find them apt models for imitation. That’s why I quite enjoyed this movie, even if I’m aware that Franju is covering ground he’s visited before with his remake of JUDEX. Granted, this story is a little closer to FANTOMAS or LES VAMPIRES than it is to JUDEX, but the stylistic feel is the same. However, the problem with this one is that it feels like a retread, and not a particularly strong one. The characters remain somewhat one-dimensional; we aren’t as intrigued by the supervillain (who has no name but is referred to as The Man With No Face) or with police detective Sorbier (whose main appeal is that he’s played by Gert Frobe) as we were by the characters in the original Feuillade serials. Maybe that’s why things get a little tiresome towards the end of this one, and it starts to feel a little creaky. It does have some marked fantastic elements, particularly with the fact that the villain employs resurrected dead people as assassins. All in all, this one is entertaining enough, but suffers from being a little too familiar and uninspired.


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