The Fantastic Dog Pack (1917)
Alternate Title: La Meute Fantastique
This episode of “Judex” is longer than the previous one, but to me it seems like less actually happens. We do get the pay-off of the cliff-hanger from the last story, and also several new entanglements are established, but the story overall feels a bit off-track to me here.
As the story begins, Musidora and her criminal companion Morales (Jean Devalde) bring the chloroformed Jacqueline (Yvette Andréyor) to a villa where they keep her unconscious while they await payment. This soon comes in the form of Cesar de Birargues, the overly-amorous employer who contracted with the pair to kidnap her in “The Mysterious Shadow.” But when he offers his payment, Morales demands an additional 10,000 francs hazard pay. Cesar goes home depressed and confesses what he has done to his sister and father; the father tells him to go to their country home while he takes care of the problem.
Meanwhile, the problem is being more effectively handled, of course, by Judex (René Cresté). He sets the one dog he brought with him on the track by having him sniff a piece of Jacqueline’s clothing, then joins up with his brother (Édouard Mathé) and the rest of his pack of hounds, spaniels, and poodles, and follows the dog in a car. When they arrive at the villa, the dogs very cleverly ring the bell, then tackle the gate-keeper when he opens up and then swarm the place. Musidora and Morales see that the jig is up, and make their escape via a hidden door in a fireplace through a series of tunnels “created from old quarries” to the coastline. One dog delivers them a note warning them to stay away from Jacqueline. Judex is able to find Jacqueline, and he leaves some faithful dogs to take care of her until she revives and they show her the way to a kindly couple that brings her back to her home.
Once there, she finds that Le Petit Jean (Olinda Mano) has run away from the country couple that was taking care of him, and he is now joined by the former serving woman who has taken charge of him. Jacqueline is “more determined than ever” to make enough money to see to his happiness, but insists on taking him to the train station to go back to the country. On the way there, they run into Bout-de-Zan, who is filching half-smoked cigarettes off the street. Jean convinces his mother to let Bout-de-Zan join him in the country.
Meanwhile, Judex is watching over the captive Favraux (Louis Leubas) and agonizing about his new-found love for his daughter. How can he ever hope for happiness with the woman whose father he keeps imprisoned in his secret underground lair? He sends his brother off to fetch Pierre Kerjean (Gaston Michel), the old man who Favraux ran down in his motorcar in the Prologue, and he pays off the medical bill for his recuperation. The two return to Judex’s hideout and Judex recruits Kerjean to be his Alfred. Judex lets him watch Favraux, and Kerjean stops Favraux from committing suicide in his cell, then goes in to torment his conscience with the memories of what he did before his capture.
The movie ends with Musidora and Morales discussing their next move. Musidora has an idea, but the movie ends without revealing what it is.
The dogs are really the most interesting part of this episode. They don’t seem terribly threatening, but there are a lot of them and they all act in concert, which makes them effective. The poodle that delivers the note to Musidora and the little dog that rings the bell at the gate are probably the cleverest. Bout-de-Zan is also a treat, but we don’t get much of him – at least he’s set up to be a recurring character now. The dilemma of Judex’s love interest is also interesting, because we don’t know how Feuillade will decide to resolve it. Today the cliché would be that the dark hero must give her up in order to continue his crime-fighting unhindered, but there’s no reason for it to play out that way here. I’m also unsure how he will pay off the punishment of Cesar.
Most of the technical aspects of this episode were middling, by the standards Louis Feuillade has set so far. There is good use of tinting to create effect, as when Jacqueline douses her light at night and the tint goes from red to blue to simulate a lighting change. The camera is not particularly mobile, and although there are several location shots, we don’t get any really great images of the France of 100 years ago, apart from one view of the village below Judex’s hideout.
Director: Louis Feuillade
Camera: André Glatti, Léon Klausse
Starring: Yvette Andréyor, René Cresté, Jean Devalde, Musidora, Louis Leubas, Olinda Mano, René Poyen, Édouard Mathé, Gaston Michel, Juliette Clarens
Run Time: 37 Mins
You can watch it for free: here.