Sunday, March 15, 2009
Fantômas; Crime comedy, France, 1964; D: André Hunebelle, S: Jean Marais, Louis de Funès, Mylène Demongeot, Jacques Dynam
There's a mess in France since the dangerous criminal Fantomas is causing fear among citizens. Nobody knows his identity, hidden behind a blue mask, while he can disguise himself as anyone. Inspector Juve eagerly wants to catch him. One day Fantomas brings reporter Fandor and Helene to his hideout - he then disguises himself as Fandor and robs a jewelry store, putting the blame on him. But then he even disguises himself as Inspector Juve and creates an even bigger chaos when he again commits a robbery. Fandor, Helene and Juve team up, but Fantomas still manages to escape.
Wacky and proportionally well done adventure crime cult comedy based on French pulp novels, "Fantomas" became a huge commercial success back in the 60s, which is why director Andre Hunebelle also signed its two sequels, "Fantomas threatens the World" and "Fantomas Unleashed" - equally as watchable as the original. A mild style and great jokes are attributes of this simple flick with a lot of spirit but also dated features, courageously mixing crime and comedy elements in something that seems like a hermetic French version of James Bond, whereas the design of the blue mask of the title antagonist is solid, yet the main star is definitely comedian Luois de Funes in the role of Inspector Juve. His appearance in the film is so untypical that he seizes the attention at every step, and even though not every gag works, there is one that's simply brilliantly hilarious - when Fantomas disguises himself as Inspector Juve (!) and commits a robbery, numerous eyewitnesses are gathered in a room in the police headquarters to make a sketch of his face. Of course, Juve coincidentally enters the room and sits somewhere at the back, all pleased because he will finally see how "that dreadful Fantomas" looks like. Slowly, little by little, the artist is composing the photo of the perpetrator, listening to the descriptions of the eyewitnesses: he is bald, has long eyes...until he makes a sketch that looks exactly like Juve. The now furious Juve interrupts the process, thinking it's all a joke, but then the eyewitnesses all turn around and spot him, "identifying" him as the robber, getting him in a lot of trouble, in a sequence that is comedy gold.