Century Film Project

Celebrating the movies our ancestors loved

Tag: Silent Classical Period

The Water Goddess (1917)

The penultimate episode of “Judex” has what appears to be the final cycle of capture-and-release for the serial, ending on the cusp of a final resolution. An empowered female hero arises, even as our traditional male superhero begins to soften and appear more human.

An oblivious Judex.

The episode begins with Judex (René Cresté) explaining his determination to negotiate for the life of Favraux (Louis Leubas) to his brother (Édouard Mathé). He shows him a big wad of francs he intends to pay as ransom, then goes off to wait at the seashore. Even though he has foolishly gone alone, he is observed by chance by Cocantin (Marcel Lévesque) and his new fiancée, Daisy Torp (I believe she is played by Juliette Clarens). They are able to clearly see the rowboat “sneaking” up to shore behind Judex, but he obstinately stares in another direction, being surprised when Diana Monti (Musidora) reveals herself. He offers to negotiate for Favraux, but Monti makes him come back to the Eaglet with her, and Favraux asks him to write another note to his daughter, telling her that Judex’s life will only be spared if she comes herself. He refuses, giving away his identity and telling Favraux that when he comes back to his senses, he will realize that he does not belong with Monti and Morales (Jean Devalde). They respond by tying him to a post in the cabin. Read the rest of this entry »

Jacqueline’s Heart (1917)

This episode of “Judex” serves as something of an interlude in the action of capture-and-release, but it does further the plot with an important discovery and confession. If you’re worried about “spoilers,” you’ll want to watch it before reading!

The entire episode takes place within the confines of the Mediterranean estate where the Countess de Tremeuse (Yvonne Dario) has brought Jacqueline (Yvette Andréyor) to recuperate after her most recent ordeals. Jacqueline is pouring her heart out to the Countess at the beginning of the episode, in distress because of her father’s fate. The audience, of course, knows that the Countess is the instigator of this tragedy, in her blind desire for revenge (see “The Woman in Black”). Her son Jacques de Tremeuse (René Cresté) listens in from a convenient balcony while Jacqueline wishes aloud that Vallieres were present to advise her. He immediately goes to his room and puts on his “Vallieres” disguise. Amost as soon as he arrives, Jacqueline gets a note from her father, tellng her he is alive and asking her to meet him at night in a secluded area with Le Petit Jean (Olinda Mano) After consoling her for a while, Vallieres/Jacques retires to his room and changes into his “Judex” outfit, presumably to meet the villains who have “liberated” her father.

At least we get to see him in the cape!

It is now night, and Jacqueline peers out of her window to see a caped figure creeping through the garden. Immediately, she runs to Vallieres’s room to awaken him, but instead she finds the wig and beard that Jacques wears when he’s dressed as Vallieres! The Countess comes in and sees her turmoil. She takes the confused Jacqueline out to a veranda and says that it is time to tell her the whole truth. We see their conversation acted out without Intertitles, although the audience knows what she has to say: Jaqueline now must realize that Jacques and Vallieres are one and the same, and that both are actually Judex.

The running times of episodes in Feuillade’s serials often vary greatly, but this one stands out as unusually short. Most of the “Judex” episodes have run about two reels long, but this clocks in at less than ten minutes, presumably not even a full reel of film. It’s possible that there’s some missing footage, but I haven’t read anything to confirm that and the episode as it stands clearly moves the plot forward (more than some of the longer episodes have in fact), so I’m inclined to think that it was meant to be this way. It’s also possible that title cards have been dropped from the discussion at the climax of the movie, but as it is, it leaves the audience to fill in the details of the Countess’s revelations and Jacqueline’s reactions from our memories and imaginations. The two actresses do a remarkable job of carrying off this emotional scene.

Director: Louis Feuillade

Camera: André Glatti, Léon Klausse

Starring: René Cresté, Yvonne Dario, Yvette Andréyor, Olinda Mano, René Poyen

Run Time: 8 Min, 30 secs

You can watch it for free: here.

When the Child Appeared (1917)

This episode of the serial Judex does contain a kidnapping, trespassing, and a sexy swimsuit, but is mostly pretty staid family fare overall. As the plot develops, we become more concerned with family relations than with crime and revenge.

The movie begins at a Mediterranean estate, where Madame Tremuese (Yvonne Dario) has brought Jacqueline (Yvette Andréyor), Robert (Édouard Mathé), Le Petit Jean (Olinda Mano), and the Licorice Kid (René Poyen). Apparently, they are all relaxing and enjoying themselves, and also feel reasonably secure from the scheming of the villains, since the kids are allowed to play unsupervised, and the adults spend their time at the seashore. Next door, we learn, Judex (René Cresté) has brought Kerjean (Gaston Michel) and Favraux (Louis Leubas), who also needs some time in the sun to recover his sanity after his long imprisonment below ground. Judex reassumes the title Jacques de Tremeuse and arrives at his mother’s estate, announcing that he has only just returned from the colonies, but both Jaqueline and Le Petit Jean feel they have seen him before. It is decided to invite Cocantin (Marcel Lévesque) down to see them as well, and this gives Diana Monti (Musidora) and Morales (Jean Devalde) a chance to tail him in hope of finding Favraux.

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The Underground Passages of the Chateau Rouge (1917)

This week’s episode of “Judex” continues the theme of mercy versus vengeance from the previous story and also provides another cycle of capture-and-rescue, so common to serials throughout their history. As a movie, it is roughly divided between the two plotlines.

As the movie begins, the Countess de Tremeuse (Yvonne Dario) demands that her son Judex (René Cresté) show her the prison cell where the banker Favraux (Louis Leubas) is being held. He brings her to the Chateau Rouge and conducts her into the secret hideout beneath the Chateau, where they meet Judex’s brother Roger (Édouard Mathé) and their new collaborator Kerjean (Gaston Michel), who was also wronged by Favraux. Not content with viewing Favraux through the camera-mirror, the Countess asks to visit his cell. When they go in, Favraux grins blandly and plays with a chain on his wall. They realize that he has gone mad, and Judex asks if he has not suffered enough, but the Countess is conscious of her oath to her dead husband and does not reply. Evidently she needs more time to think about the situation.

The mad Favraux

Meanwhile, Judex receives a note from Kerjean’s son (Jean Devalde), who, under the name of Morales had been acting as a villain. Now, he informs Judex that he plans to enlist in the foreign service in order to atone for his error. Judex looks concerned at this news. We soon see that he was right to be worried when Morales shows up at the home of Diana Monti (Musidora) to say goodbye on his way to the enlistment station. Of course, she seduces him with promises of the two of them living together in wealth, and so he divulges the secret location of Favraux. Soon, Monti and her ally the Marquis de la Rochefontaine (Georges Flateau) have gathered a group of thugs to make a raid on the castle.

Sex Appeal.

This raid seems to go well when the thugs are able to chloroform the figure sleeping in the cell bed and take him off in a car without anyone detecting them. Morales hangs around to “establish an alibi” and discovers that Favraux is actually sleeping in his father’s bed! Robert informs him that when they discovered Favraux’s condition, they gave him the nicer bed and it was actually Kerjean that was kidnapped. When Monti discovers that they’ve brought her the wrong man, she tells her goons to go dump him in the river (this is her solution to everything).

Now, Judex and Cocantin (Marcel Lévesque) both go out to investigate Monti’s hideout and they see the gangsters trying to escape with their victim and pursue in a car. The car is overtaken and a shootout occurs in which the Marquis is killed. Kerjean is liberated, however, and despite the tragedy it appears that the good guys have the upper hand once again.

Look! An underground passage!

This episode lacks some elements I look forward to in the series, notably the Licorice Kid and Le Petit Jean. I can’t complain that this episode lacked in action or suspense, but once again I’m left with the feeling that the criminals are annoyingly ineffectual. They almost never seem to pull anything clever, in contrast to “Fantômas” or the various leaders of “Les Vampires.” At least Musidora had a chance to use her feminine wiles. I still don’t understand why she expects to get rich by helping Favraux, and Morales’ idea of establishing his alibi by announcing his presence literally at the scene of the crime (when everyone thought he was at the Front) makes no sense at all. But, it a Feuillade serial made sense, it wouldn’t be half as much fun.

Director: Louis Feuillade

Camera: André Glatti, Léon Klausse

Starring: René Cresté, Yvonne Dario, Édouard Mathé, Louis Leubas, Jean Devalde, Musidora, Gaston Michel, Georges Flateau, Marcel Lévesque

Run Time: 24 Min

You can watch it for free: here.

The Woman in Black (1917)

An origin story at last! “Judex” is a bit past halfway, and with this episode, the serial tells us the reason that he is…Judex.

The movie begins by showing us a woman we have not seen before, living on an estate, who receives a telegram from her son “Jacques” telling her that he is coming. This is the Countess de Tremeuse (Yvonne Dario), and the telegram opens a floodgate of memories, which we see in flashbacks. “At a time when her hair was blonde instead of gray,” the subtitles tell us (actually it looks brunette to me, but whatever), she was happily married and raising two sons of the nobility. But, her husband had dealings with the corrupt banker Favraux (Louis Leubas, here made up to look much younger than in earlier episodes). He became romantically interested in the young Countess, and tried to leverage his financial power to gain her favors. When the Countess objected, he pulled out all of his support and the family was ruined. This results in her husband’s suicide. Moments after the Count’s impetuous act, news comes that an African gold mine has paid off and so the family will not face poverty after all. When the Count is laid to rest, Madame de Tremeuse makes her sons swear that they will avenge their father when they are old enough. They do so with right-handed Roman salutes, in the style that would soon be adopted by fascists and later by Nazis.

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The Licorice Kid (1917)

Perhaps appropriate for Mother’s Day, this episode of “Judex” is particularly child-and-family-friendly. Characters that have been peripheral up to now become central, and the hero himself does nothing but sulk, but the serial continues to deliver in terms of bizarre scheming and unexpected rescues.

In light of the title, I need to mention that the character I’ve been identifying as “Bout-de-Zan” is actually called “the Licorice Kid” in this story. Bout-de-Zan is actually the most well-known character portrayed by child actor René Poyen, who is called “the Licorice Kid” in Judex. Sorry for any confusion!

Musidora’s “eyeroll” emoji

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The Tragic Mill (1917)

Alternate Title: Le moulin tragique

At about the halfway point into the serial Judex, this episode once again rescues Jaqueline from the clutches of the bad guys and also reveals not one but two secret identities. With all of that, and also somewhat better film techniques, it almost makes up for the lack of screen time given to its two best actors.

As the episode begins, an ambulance arrives to take Jacqueline (Yvette Andréyor) to the hospital to recover from her unfortunate dip in the river in the last outing. She is wished farewell by her tearful son, Le Petit Jean (Olinda Mano) and his buddy Bout-de-Zan (René Poyen). Shortly after she is driven off, Vallieres, former secretary to the banker Favraux, walks up and inquires after her. While he is there, a second ambulance pulls up, revealing that she has been captured by the devils who tried to do away with her!

Meanwhile, the elderly Kerjean (Gaston Michel) is walking around his old mill, reminiscing about his life before it was destroyed by Favraux’s scheming. While he is there, an ambulance pulls up and Diana Monti (Musidora) and Morales (Jean Devalde) get out, bringing Jacqueline into the mill. Monti wants to drown her beneath the mill, but Morales, who has been acting increasingly reticent suddenly revolts at the idea of murder and there is a fight between them. Kerjean intercedes and warns them to leave, but suddenly Morales reveals that he is Kerjean’s son! They lock Monti in the room with the opening to the water and Kerjean goes to phone Judex. Of course, Monti strips down to a one-piece bathing suit and swims away.

Judex (René Cresté) hops into the Judexboat and zips upriver to find the mill. He takes Jacqueline to the home of Vallieres to recuperate, which she does quickly. Apparently she just needed to get out of that peasant hut and into a nice big bed with feather pillows, was all. Anyway, once she recovers, she speaks to Vallieres and finds out how she got there, and he gives her a note from Judex, also telling her that Judex is in love with her. She immediately dictates a rather nasty note telling him that Vallieres will be forbidden to mention the name of “Judex” around her. Vallieres takes the note into the next room and removes his beard and white hair, revealing that he is, in fact, Judex! The episode ends on this plot twist.

As this quick summary shows, not a whole lot actually happens in this episode, but some pretty major developments in the plot took place. I saw both reveals coming before they happened, but I had wondered when they would occur. I’d been watching out for Kerjean’s son to appear since episode one, when we learn that he has fallen in with a bad crowd, but until the good guy/bad guy lines were clearly drawn it was hard to know where he’d show up. Vallieres has been largely dropped since the beginning, but in this episode I couldn’t help noticing that his build and nose were very much like Judex’s. The thing that disappointed me was the lack of a role for Bout-de-Zan, who just looks on while Le Petit Jean cries, and Marcel Lévesque, who has once again disappeared from sight. This episode seems to serve the purpose of resolving the immediate crisis, while building towards bigger developments in the future.

Technically, however, the film is back on track. The editing, particularly within in the mill, is quite sophisticated for Louis Feuillade, including cross-cutting between rooms and a close up as we see Morales realize who the stranger is. In general, the movie is much more comfortable with cutting within scenes than had been the case with “Fantômas.” There are some good lighting choices while Kerjean walks among his memories. The footage of the boat motoring along the river is also quite effective, sometimes handled with pans, and sometimes by placing the camera at the fore of the boat pointing aft. I can see that this movie, even though it had been shot a few years earlier, worked well for audiences of 1917.

Director: Louis Feuillade

Camera: André Glatti, Léon Klausse

Starring: Yvette Andréyor, René Cresté, Jean Devalde, Édouard Mathé, Gaston Michel, Musidora, René Poyen, Olinda Mano

Run Time: 26 Min

You can watch it  for free: here.

 

The Secret of the Tomb (1917)

In this episode of “Judex” we get to see the ongoing scheming of Judex’s enemies, and our friend Bout-de-Zan makes another appearance, but the story doesn’t move as rapidly as in the previous episode, and we see far less of the title character.

The movie begins with Diana Monti (Musidora) and her fellow criminals driving in the country. They stop on a remote road and break into a cemetery. They quickly ascertain that the coffin which supposedly holds the banker Favraux is, in fact, empty. Now Monti and Morales (Jean Devalde) go to visit the private detective Cocantin (Marcel Lévesque), to see what he knew about his employer’s demise. He greets them warmly, but they are having none of it. They believe they have solved the mystery: Cocantin himself is Judex! Cocantin tells them about the threatening letters Favraux had received from Judex, and this convinces them that he knows nothing more than he seems to. They also realize that if Favraux is found alive, his fortune (donated to charity by his daughter) will be restored to him, making it possible once again for them to steal it. They now hire him to find the living Favraux, offering him 100,000 francs if he succeeds.

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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. Read the rest of this entry »

The Atonement (1917)

In this third chapter of the “Judex” serial, things finally start moving, as the villains put their plans into action, an important cameo is seen, and the hero discovers that he actually has a mystery to unravel. Great tinting and moody lighting and makeup add to the effectiveness of the film.

This chapter begins by establishing the revived banker, Favraux (Louis Leubas), as the captive of Judex (René Cresté) in his underground lair. The mirror in his cell follows him as he moves, and we learn that Judex and his brother can observe the prisoner through a hidden camera. When Favraux tries to disable it by putting his towel over the mirror, the towel bursts into flame! Judex uses a “flame device” to transmit a message to him: he has been spared from his death sentence by his daughter’s acts of decency, but now he faces lifetime imprisonment for his crimes. Meanwhile, that daughter’s estranged son Le Petite Jean (Olinda Mano) is plotting how he can see her. He sneaks out of his bedroom and onto the back of a truck covered in cabbages. The truck drives to a shop to sell its wares, but before the driver can begin to unload it, Bout-de-Zan sneaks up to steal a cabbage, inadvertently finding the stowaway and quickly referencing the first big hit of Louis Feuillade’s mentor, Alice Guy. He and Jean sneak away before being caught, and Jean shows him the letter from his mother, and Bout-de-Zan agrees to help him get to her. The two kids sneak onto the back of a fancy car bound for the right neighborhood, and manage to hang on without attracting attention all the way there!

Meanwhile, Musidora has gotten to Jean’s mother (Yvette Andréyor) first. Although Yvette is under an assumed name, she advertised her services in the papers and Musidora has come in answer to that ad. Even though she should know better than to accept employment with a governess she previously discharged, Yvette gets into the car with her and her accomplice who, we remember, are still hoping to get the money that Yvette has donated to charity. They quickly capture her. But, Jean has arrived at the apartment, and is taken in by the maid, who shoos Bout-de-Zan away as an undesirable. Jean is sympathetic with the two pigeons who are caged in the apartment, and, when his mother does not come home promptly, he releases them. This was exactly the right thing to do, fortunately, because these are homing pigeons that return to Judex and inform him that all is not as it should be. He investigates, putting on a great black cape and bring a large mastiff with him. The dog is charmed by Jean, and Judex realizes that Yvette has been detained for some unknown purpose. But how? And how can he find her now? These answers will perhaps be addressed in the next installment.

This episode was short and worked well for me, not least because it ended on a kind of cliff-hanger, where we don’t know how the hero will manage to help the apparently helpless heroine. Bout-de-Zan is also a great treat to watch. He plays off the saccharine innocence of Jean by appearing to be the worldly-wise street kid (who still thinks children are born in the cabbage patch), and his outfit makes me think of a French Huckleberry Finn. When he and Jean are finally run off the car by the chauffeur, he refuses to leave until he’s had a chance to kick the man in the backside! I also really like the way Judex comes across in this movie. Finally, an interesting hero from Feuillade! His underground lair is marvelously shot and the mirror watching the prisoner is still creepy, even in an era where such surveillance is common. He also has a great look going with the hat, the cape, and the dog.

Director: Louis Feuillade

Camera:André Glatti, Léon Klausse

Starring: René Cresté, Louis Leubas, Olinda Mano, Yvette Andréyor, Musidora, René Poyen, Édouard Mathé, Jean Devalde

Run Time: 15 Min

You can watch it for free: here.