8 June 2016 | dbdumonteil
"That's the sound of the men working on the chain gang..."
Second version of a less famous Gaston Leroux's novel;unlike "Mystere De La Chambre Jaune " or "phantom of the opera"it's not a murder mystery;Cheri-Bibi is a gangster flanked by accomplices such as "La Ficelle"
This one by Leon Mathot stars Pierre Fresnay as the lead -perhaps not a good choice ,he's better on the right side of the law,at portraying Commissaire Wens.Jean-Pierre Aumont , romantic male lead of the era ,portrays the nephew of a millionaire,falsely accused of his uncle's murder;Cheri-Bibi ,his gang and the young man end up on a ship en route to the penal colony;the villains try to take over the ship,but their attempt fails : they will work as lumberjacks deep in the virgin forest ,after a painful journey .As always since "Pepe Le Moko" ,Marcel Dalio is the unfortunate hateful informer .
The story is muddled in its first part and the interest comes up with the beginning of the voyage,during which Mathot uses a very original technique: to carry out a plan to get rid of the wardens ,the prisoners use the sign language ,and there are subtitles for the viewers who do not know it;the priest's sermon,before the ship leaves for the green hell,is quite funny;and the ending shows a chivalrous Cheri -Bibi .The 14th July letter is also a good moment ,but the "Paname (=Paris) " nostalgia comes directly from "Pepe Le Moko".And Aumont shows a tendency to overplay in the last part.
"All day long they work so hard till the sun is going down" (Sam Cooke)
Besides the three black and white movies,Cheri-Bibi would be adapted a fourth time in the seventies ,this time as a miniseries.