Shadow of the Guillotine (1956)

  |  Drama, History


Shadow of the Guillotine (1956) Poster

While Louis XV is dying, the Dauphine of France, Marie-Antoinette, seduces a Swedish officer, Axel de Fersen, which pains her husband, the new King Louis XVI, who will know how to be generous when he learns of this deception.


6.2/10
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8 January 2006 | benoit-3
10
| Long overdue on DVD (or VHS, for that matter)!
The only way this film can be seen in North-America is, occasionally, on the French-Canadian TV stations, in Quebec and Ontario. It has several advantages over the 1938 Norma Shearer version: It is made by the French; it is more historically - one could say maniacally - accurate in its sequencing of events; it is more intimate, concentrating on Marie's love affair with Fersen without skimping on the recreation of every important watershed in the Revolution; it uses actual locations (Versailles, Trianon, le Hameau and the Tuileries); it is in colour; it has very gripping and unforgettable moments of suspense; and it stars Michèle Morgan, one the most beautiful and naturally aristocratic women on the planet and also a very touching actress. The film excels in discretely recreating the actual look and feel of Marie Antoinette's world (such as her pastoral distractions, the formality of court life and the detailed horror of her treatment by the Revolution). In a cast of hundreds of top-notch actors, English import (and Disney favourite) Richard Todd does a marvelous job as Fersen, besides being a dead-ringer for the real man and having his English accent approximate the original's Swedish accent. The music, art direction, photography and film direction are excellent. The entire package is very well-made with no expense spared even if it runs just a tad too long for the average viewer. But its message, its attention to detail, its story arc and poetry are clear and astounding. One has to wonder what copyright problem can actually bar this masterpiece from rebirth on DVD. To my knowledge it has never been available on VHS, except as a made-from-TV bootleg. (I have one and I'm not trading!) It is actually sad to think that its DVD issue could be tied in with Sofia Coppola's version, which already promises to be the ultimate infantilized and dumbed-down rock-and-roll version...

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Drama | History

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