Une Balle dans le Canon (1958)

vt A Bullet in the Gun Barrel; vt Slug in the Heater
France / 69 minutes / bw / Filmatec, Les Films Corona Dir: Charles Gérard, Michel Deville Pr: Michel et François Sweerts Scr: Albert Simonin, Charles Gérard Story: Albert Simonin Cine: Claude Lecomte Cast: Pierre Vaneck, Mijanou Bardot, Paul Frankeur, Roger Hanin, Hazel Scott, Gérard Buhr, Colette Duval, Don Ziegler, Robert Le Béal, Yves Arcanel, Jean Rochefort, Mario David, Pierre Cordier, Roger Desmare, Michael Lonsdale, Jean-Pierre Moutier, Albert Simonin

A thoroughly enjoyable slice of French noir that I missed, alas, when writing A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir. Its co-director, Michel Deville, would go on to greater things, including a few movies of noirish interest—see below.

Back in Saigon during the French war in Indochina, paratroopers Antoine “Tony” Rossi (Vaneck) and his pal Dick (Hanin) met up with a shady figure called Boris Shivara (Ziegler), generally known in crime circles as Le Maltais (“The Maltese”). He gave them 25 million francs to smuggle into France on their return from service, plus a bonus of two million as commission. They soon enough blew the two million but, when Le Maltais failed to turn up and they assumed he was an ex-Maltais, pining for the fjords, invested the 25 million in a nightclub, the Tip-Tap. After all, the guy who sold it to them, Alberto (Buhr), promised that if need be he’d buy it back from them at the purchase price should they ever need the 25 million in a hurry—i.e., should Le Maltais ever turn up.

Pierre Vaneck as Antoine ‘Tony’ Rossi

The Tip-Tap, alas, loses money hand over fist, and then Le Maltais arrives in town demanding his money pronto or blood will be shed. Alberto is oddly forgetful about Continue reading

Dos au Mur, Le (1958)

After he’d hidden the body of his unfaithful wife’s lover, almost nothing went according to plan!

vt Back to the Wall
France / 93 minutes / bw / Société Nouvelle des Établissements, Gaumont Dir: Édouard Molinaro Pr: François Chavane, Alain Poiré Scr: Frédéric Dard, François Chavane, Jean Redon, J.L. Roncoroni Story: Délivrez-Nous du Mal (1956) by Frédéric Dard Cine: Robert Lefebvre Cast: Jeanne Moreau, Gérard Oury, Philippe Nicaud, Claire Maurier, Gérard Buhr, Joëlle Janin, Robert Le Béal, Micheline Luccioni, Pascal Mazzotti, Jacqueline Noëlle, Jean Marie Rivière, Jean Lefebvre, Colette Renard.

Le Dos au Mur - 0 opener

Le Dos au Mur is a superb piece of domestic noir that should be far more widely known than it is.

In a long introductory sequence we see industrialist Jacques Decrey (Oury) go at night to the apartment of his wife’s lover, Yves Normand (Nicaud). After a minor commotion, Yves is dead on the floor—but his corpse doesn’t stay there for long. Moving with quiet deliberation, Jacques packs a few of Yves’s belongings into a suitcase, as if to give the impression the man has gone away on an unexpected vacation, then wraps the corpse in a rug and carries everything to his car. He drives to his industrial plant and buries the body under concrete in the middle of a new wall.

Le Dos au Mur - 1 The late Yves

The late Yves (Philippe Nicaud).

Le Dos au Mur - 2 Jacques hefts the rug-wrapped body

Jacques (Gérard Oury) hefts the rug-wrapped body.

This opening sequence is played out with a beautifully measured pace, refusing to hurry itself. Any possibility that we might become impatient with Jacques’s careful progress is avoided by the dramatic musical score (by Richard Cornu) which, Bernard Herrmann-style, manages to interpolate dramatically strident chords just when they’re likely to Continue reading

Maison sous les Arbres, La (1971)

vt The Deadly Trap; vt Death Scream
France, Italy / 96 minutes / color / Corona, Pomereu, Oceania Dir: René Clément Pr: Robert Dorfmann, Bertrand Javal Scr: Sydney Buchman, Eleanor Perry Story: The Children Are Gone (1965) by Arthur Cavanaugh Cine: Andreas Winding Cast: Faye Dunaway, Frank Langella, Barbara Parkins, Karen Blanguernon, Raymond Gérôme, Maurice Ronet, Michèle Lourie, Patrick Vincent, Gérard Buhr.

Maison Sous les Arbres - 0 opener

Two Americans, Jill Halard (Dunaway) and her scientist husband Philippe (Langella), live in their Paris apartment with their children Cathy (Lourie) and Patrick (Vincent). There’s a sense that Philippe has fled a project or situation that he disliked in the US, because he’s now copyediting science books for a French publisher. At the start of the movie he’s contacted by a spokesman (Ronet) for “The Organization” with an offer to go back to his old work to carry out, in noirish parlance, One Last Job. When Philippe hotly refuses, the persuasions turns to veiled threats against his family, which threats he treats as just so much rhetoric.

Maison Sous les Arbres - 3 PatrickPatrick (Patrick Vincent) finds a new toy.

Maison Sous les Arbres - 1 CathyCathy (Michèle Lourie) tries to hold the family together.

But then things do indeed start going alarmingly awry with the Halards’ world. While Philippe is off at a conference in Toulouse, Jill and the kids are Continue reading