Fantômas Contre Fantômas (1914)
photo from Wikimedia commons, attributed to "Fredojoda." See Copyright.
Director: Louis Feuillade
This century film is the fourth installment in the long-running French “Fantômas” serial by Louis Feuillade (who also made “Les Vampires” and “Judex“). In it, the master criminal Fantômas manages to frame Inspector Juve, his one serious rival, and masquerades as an American detective called “Tom Bob” (a Frenchman’s idea of an American name if there ever was one). One scene takes place at a masquerade ball, with no less than three men dressed up as Fantômas – the real Fantômas kills one of the false Fantômases while under observation by the third. Another key scene involves a body sealed up in plaster, whose presence is revealed when a workman hammers a nail into the wall, only to release a stream of blood. The French fascination with Poe seems to come out clearly in that sequence. The serial set the standards for future serials, both in terms of straining credulity for narrative effect and in terms of the structure of capture-escape-and-recapture, with the tables being constantly turned between hunter and hunted. Interestingly, these films, and the books on which they were based, would later serve as iconographic touchstones for the Surrealist movement, in part because of the incoherence of the plots.
Run time: 59 min
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