17 May 2005 | dbdumonteil
Recently restored by the Belgian film archive....
...and it was about time.I had read excellent reviews of this unfairly forgotten thriller,and I must say it rises to the occasion.
Stanislas André Steeman,as any Clouzot fan should know,wrote novels which inspired the French Hitchcock two milestones :"l'assassin habite au 21" and "quai des orfèvres" .Like Georges Simenon,he was Belgian,and I'm sure that those extraordinary scenes in the black harbor did inspire comic strips writer Edgar Pierre Jacobs ,his compatriot,for his Blake and Mortimer adventure "la marque jaune".
Caution.THIS COMMENT DOES CONTAIN SPOILERS.Do not read it if you have not seen the film! M.Wens is Steeman's Hercule Poirot.But he is not the star of the movie.Here the detective takes a back seat to the hero(es) played by a sensational Louis Salou .Salou portrays two brothers ,Lucien and Freddy Dolo:the first one is a well-meaning bourgeois with wife (Marie Déa) ,the second a shady person who disappeared in Africa 10 years ago and who suddenly reappears when his nice brother begins to be suspected of having done away with him.
Louis Salou's performance is remarkable,because,with his voice,his swagger,and abetted by a masterful editing,he succeeds in making us believe there are TWO different men.A brilliant variation on the Stevenson "Doctor Jekill and MrHyde" theme,it grabs the audience and leaves it panting for breath in the last third.
Like in Hitchcock's "Vertigo" De Meyst reveals the whole truth fifteen minutes before the end and the final scenes are absolutely mind-boggling,mixing fine lines (as Wens ,pursued by the criminal,tries to climb ,Dolo screams:"there's nothing up there but the sky" ),humor,and folie à deux (Déa seeing the black sheep of the family turning into her husband).
Now let's wait for reissues of Steeman-inspired movies:"le furet" and "le mannequin assassiné" both released in the late fifties.