1 March 2009 | dbdumonteil
It has not worn well...
"Les Compagnons De Baal" was written by Louis Feuillade's grandson and it was intended as a tribute to the grandfather's work circa 1914:"Fantomas" "Les Vampires" etc...Besides,the actor who plays the cop,René Dary, was famous in those days as "Bébé " ,one of the two Feuillade's wizz kids (the other was Bout D'Zan").Directed by Jacques Prévert's brother ,Pierre ,who directed three famous works "L'Affaire Est Dans Le Sac" "Voyage Surprise" and " Adieu Leonard" .
In 1968,it was certainly impressive:FRench TV broadcast it with a "Carré Blanc" (=White square which meant "for adults only")and not at prime time but late in the evening when the children were supposedly fast asleep.
In 2009,it would not scare a ten-year-old.Unlike "Belphegor" ,made in 1965 (and also based on a silent movie from the twenties and also starring René Dary) ,it has not worn well.The three "heroes" are particularly listless (including the author himself) and ,in spite of Dary and another old actor René Lefèvre,it's a faceless cast:Jean Martin's histrionics irritate in the long run (and the running time is seven hours in all)The screenplay is not really derivative but it borrows from Hitchcock and "the man who knew too much" : the sect and the taxidermist,for instance. Plus an absolutely unbearable song which is heard in every chapter.
George Franju had the same problem when he remade "Judex " ,which was followed by "Les Nuits Rouges" in the seventies.What was scary (and exciting) at the beginning of the twentieth century had already become old-fashioned in the late sixties;and now,in 2009,who can believe this maleficent sect with their cheap TVs and their ludicrous meetings can challenge the world?Just compare with what Roman Polanski did with a similar subject in 1968 :proof positive that it was already passé in those times.
"Belphegor" has no contenders as best French miniseries of the sixties!And it was better than its silent model!