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  • This is a good movie, and although camparisons with its 1994 successor are inevitable, it wears well on its own and better in some ways. This is old-fashioned French film making, not noticeably different from Hollywood historical epics of the same era w/ the exception of a flash of nudity here and there. It is important to remember that at the time of this film, only Gance (screenplay) was an international legend. Moreau is fine as Marguerite de Valois & Françoise Rosay as Catherine de Medicis does a good job of chewing up the scenery. The '54 style potrayal of Henri d'Anjou as a very effeminate homosexual has been proven to be historically inaccurate, but Daniel Ceccaldi is amusing in the part. The acting for Charles IX, De la Mole, Coconnas et al is up to '54 par, acceptable and not terribly detracting from the story.

    The inevitable discussion will be around comparing the two version, '54 & '94. Chereau lifted entire sections of the screenplay from 1954, and didn't do a bad job with them, for all that. A more faithful adaptation of the Dumas père novel, the '54 version cannot really be said to be a better movie. It is more "French," to be sure, and less sensationalized, but it, too, drags in spots just as the '94 does. The St. Bartholomew's Day massacre IS depicted, but not in an overlong and blood-drenched manner.

    Moreau is rather cool as Marguerite whereas Adjani is overwrought in the '94, but both actresses give fine performances, each in their own manner.

    This '54 version is a movie for an older generation, perhaps more academic in its approach, whereas the '94 is for a younger generation who like more zap and pizzazz in their cinematic representations.
  • I am sorry to say that I have never yet found a film by Jean Dreville to be completely satisfying and this film is no exception. Filmed in Eastmancolor by Alekan and Hubert with splendid art design by Maurice Colasson and the always excellent costume design by Rosine Delamare this cannot fail to look good but still 'misses it' somehow. Having impressed as Tsarina Catherine for the same director in 'Jouer d'Echecs' it is only natural that Francoise Rosay should play Catherine de Medicis. Suffice to say she dominates the screen. As Marguerite de Valois Jeanne Moreau draws upon her stage experience being the youngest actress ever to have signed a contract with the Comedie Francaise, as well as being eminently filmic. A great artiste whose iconic roles are still to come. A previous reviewer has referred to the acting by the rest of the cast as adequate for the time. I would go so far as to say that the acting is inadequate for any time! The St. Bartholomew's Day massacre is as graphic as censorship at the time would allow. There are many who will I am sure enjoy this adaptation of the novel by Alexande Dumas pere but this reviewer still seeks a film by Dreville about which he can unreservedly enthuse. I live in hopes! .......28/09/2020: I have finally found one! Namely 'La ferme du pendu' of 1945.
  • Imprimis: J.G. Correa's critique contained an error--"Nota Bene that the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre was NOT re-enacted in this Abel The Abel Gance/Jean Dréville version." My memory of the film disputes that error in the critique It most indubitably WAS "re-enacted".

    I saw the film in 1954 in a village named Yatchi near Sendai in Honshu, Japan when I was a mere stripling of ten years. I fled the movie house when the massacre of St. Bartholomew was enacted, traumatized by the sight of Huguenot women being stripped of their shifts and then put to the sword by the Catholic subjects of Charles IX. As a young American film-goer I had never seen female nudity on the screen. Earlier in the film, Jeanne Moreau as Queen Margot wears a see-through chemise where one's voyeuristic sense was aroused by the sight of her nipples et al. In comparison, American historical films were sanitized and the McCarthyite atmosphere of the time would have not allowed such a film to be shown on American soil. Nevertheless in post-war Japan it was screened along with other French films noires featuring the great Jean Gabin in a primitive movie house with wooden benches to sit upon. An excellent film which I truncated by not waiting to see it to the end.
  • The comparison, here, is unavoidable. This is the first version, dated 1954, with a fine cast led by Jeanne Moreau in her very beginnings, a competent mise-en-scène (Jean Dréville), a fine score (as usual) by Paul Misraki, a fine Eastmancolor photography by Henri Alekan and, last but not least, a script by silent-screen pioneer, Abel Gance, the celebrated author of Napoléon. Now, what could we say of the so-called remake 40 years later? Hardly anything to do with Dumas Père or, for that matter, good cinema. most surely the writer would be as horrified as I was with such self-boosting display of an ego trip by Monsieur Chéreau, a kind of sub-Peter Brook theatrical régisseur in France. Nota Bene that the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre was re-enacted in this Gance/Dréville version, a more subtle, although more sarcastic, even cruder picture than its ill-timed successor.