Le loup des Malveneur (1943)

  |  Horror, Mystery


Le loup des Malveneur (1943) Poster

A young governess arrives at the Castle of the Malveneurs and begins to investigate some peculiar disappearances.


5.8/10
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11 October 2011 | Bunuel1976
7
| THE WOLF OF THE MALVENEURS (Guillaume Radot, 1943) ***
I only just heard of this one but was intrigued enough to acquire it – and watch the film – immediately (though my copy ran 79 minutes against IMDb's listing of 99)! Early French horror fare has generally been the prerogative of the Art-house circuit and this is no exception, being one of a handful of titles along fantastic lines to emerge from the country during WWII. As a werewolf picture, this has obviously been likened to THE WOLF MAN (1941) but it actually owes more to Fox's own off-shoot of that one, THE UNDYING MONSTER (1942) – especially since it similarly deals with a family curse, whereas the affliction of Lawrence Talbot in the Universal prototype was newly-inflicted.

Unsurprisingly, then, not only is there no actual monster – being a normal-sized animal when it finally appears (though boasting a peculiar symbiosis with the current head of the titular clan, since he and the 'beast' expire simultaneously!) – but all the wolf scenes (apart from the odd night-time howling) are relegated to the chase finale! Even so, we get a scientist (played by the brother, Pierre, of the great film director Jean Renoir) expounding his mad credo during the last reel, the family itself is not allowed to be interred in consecrated ground (but some of its members are still shown, for no very good reason, attending normal church functions!), the whole is set inside a spooky but splendid-looking castle (eventually destroyed in a fire, that stock purifying agent of cinematic evil!), a vaguely eerie tune (dubbed "The Forgotten Waltz") keeps cropping up throughout, the doctor's wife has a heart condition (which he was endeavoring to cure and to which she naturally succumbs before long), the maidservant is a suspicious-looking deaf-mute (interestingly, this disability is made the butt of jokes a' la another Universal horror classic – James Whale's sublime THE OLD DARK HOUSE {1932} and, as it happens, my own all-time favorite film!), the villagers are typically reticent to approach the property (though they unaccountably turn up in droves at the climax, despite this occurring at night, as if they were just hanging about off-screen!), etc.

With this in mind, the film contrives to evoke both the standard Universal style (down to having the credits shrouded in mist) and the singular mood (created by being partly shot through a gauze) of Carl Theodor Dreyer's VAMPYR (1931): this intriguing blend is perhaps most striking during a burial sequence, rendered all the more unreal by Expressionistically-tilted crosses. Still, apart from the flaws already mentioned, the obscure director's inexperience is evidenced by the fact that much of the running-time is devoted to the romantic interest (between a newly-arrived nanny, charged with taking care of the doctor's little girl, and a persistent young painter – himself an outsider but who takes a vivid interest in and seems more knowledgeable about what is going on than most in the region!). The latter's true identity is only revealed at the very end, and yet another mystery element involves the disappearance of Renoir's character and the estate gamekeeper early on – blurring the established notion, i.e. one of the Malveneurs, of who the monster is (since any man can be driven to commit unspeakable crimes through the misuse of Modern Science!).

While the acting is thoroughly professional, the honors clearly go to Renoir (in spite of the brevity of his appearance) and Jean Cocteau alumnus Gabrielle Dorziat, here playing his rather masculine sister. Incidentally, since the Malveneurs never looked favorably upon the female of the species, it is ironic to note that the castle ends up being populated by women alone (save for an idiotic manservant), as indeed are the last two members in the family line (the unmarried Dorziat herself and the now-orphaned child)!

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Genres

Horror | Mystery

Details

Release Date:

12 May 1943

Language

French


Country of Origin

France

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