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

Medusa Touch, The (1978)

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John Morlar has a gift for disaster!
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UK, France / 109 minutes / color / Coatesgold, ITC Dir: Jack Gold Pr: Anne V. Coates, Jack Gold Scr: John Briley Story: The Medusa Touch (1973) by Peter Van Greenaway Cine: Arthur Ibbetson Cast: Richard Burton, Lino Ventura, Lee Remick, Harry Andrews, Alan Badel, Marie-Christine Barrault, Jeremy Brett, Michael Hordern, Gordon Jackson, Derek Jacobi, Robert Lang, Michael Byrne, John Normington, Robert Flemyng, Philip Stone, Malcolm Tierney, Norman Bird, Jennifer Jayne, Avril Elgar, James Hazeldine, Wendy Gifford, Shaw Taylor, Gordon Honeycombe, Adam Bridges, Joseph Clark.

I read the Peter Van Greenaway novel upon which this is based—one of the odder of his oddball, semi-fantasticated Inspector Cherry detective novels—quite a few years before I had a chance to watch the movie, but even so I know my viewing was affected by memories of the book. Now that many more years have passed, I was better able to enjoy the movie on its own terms.

Van Greenaway wasn’t the most fluent of writers and one had to work quite hard to read what were billed as thrillers, but I tackled several and became rather fond of them: they certainly had a greater intellectual heft than the vast majority of the crime and thriller novels with which they shared a bookshop shelf. The Medusa Touch was the one I enjoyed the most. In the movie adaptation Inspector Francis Cherry of the Yard is replaced by a French cop called Brunel, improbably working in London on some kind of exchange deal between the Yard and the Sûreté. However, as Brunel was played by Lino Ventura there are no grumbles from anyone among the extensive Noirish staff.

Brunel (Lino Ventura) begins his investigation . . .

. . . aided by the loyal Sergeant Duff (Michael Byrne).

The movie opens with successful novelist John Morlar (Burton) being beaten to death by an unidentifiable figure wielding a handy statuette. Or not quite to death, as investigating Inspector Brunel (Ventura) and his English sidekick Sergeant Duff (Byrne) discover while snooping around Morlar’s apartment. Even though the man’s brains have apparently been spilled out on the carpet and the paramedics have declared him dead, he suddenly Continue reading

Dernier Domicile Connu (1970)

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Lino Ventura, midst trademark ass-kicking, warms to Marlène Jobert!
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vt Last Known Address
France, Italy / 101 minutes / color / Cité, Valoria, Parme, Simar, Rizzoli Dir & Scr: José Giovanni Pr: Jacques Bar Story: The Last Known Address (1965) by Joseph Harrington Cine: Étienne Becker Cast: Lino Ventura, Marlène Jobert, Michel Constantin, Paul Crauchet, Alain Mottet, Béatrice Arnac, Guy Heron, Albert Dagnant, Monique Mélinand, Marcel Pérès, Germaine Delbat, Hervé Sand, François Jaubert, Philippe March, Jean Sobieski, Bianca Saury, Raymond Meunier, Frédéric Santaya, Luc Bartholomé, Michel Charrel, Max Desrau.

dernier-domicile-connu-0

Paris cop Marceau Leonetti (Ventura) has a reputation for toughness. In the opening minutes of the movie—as per the opening minutes of a Bond movie—we witness some action-packed sequences that have nothing to do with the plot but fix in our minds that this is the hard man of Paris policing. When he arrests the drunk-driving son of a prominent Paris lawyer, however, he discovers there’s something tougher than him: political corruption.

dernier-domicile-connu-1-arnold-explains-to-marceau-that-hes-this-months-scapegoat

Arnold (Albert Dagnant, left) explains to Marceau (Lino Ventura) that he’s this month’s scapegoat.

His boss, Arnold (Dagnant), manages to spare Marceau the worst of the flak, but only by dint of transferring him to a sleepy suburban precinct, the Commissariat du XVIIIth Arrondissement, Section Junot 54. There the most exciting case that’s likely to come Marceau’s way . . . well, one day a little boy (uncredited) reports that his fancy pet pigeons have been stolen and, even though the desk sergeant declines to do anything about it, Marceau, like the good serious-crime cop that he is, successfully tracks down and nails the perpetrator.

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Big Frank Lambert (Alain Mottet) has a job for Marceau.

But that’s hardly enough. So, when one day his old colleague and friend “Big” Frank Lambert (Mottet) phones him up to recruit him into a new Special Squad that Lambert’s been asked to form, Marceau leaps at the chance. The fact that the new squad liaises with the Flying Squad and Vice sounds great; in fact it’s been formed to catch a plague of perverts who’ve been pestering young women in the Paris cinemas.

dernier-domicile-connu-3-jeanne-arrives-for-her-first-day-working-with-the-special-squad

Marceau’s new partner, Jeanne Dumas (Marlène Jobert), arrives for her first day working with the Special Squad.

As his partner, Marceau is assigned a rookie, Jeanne Dumas (Jobert). At first glance he realizes she’s not so much his partner as his baitfish: it’s her job to sit in the cinemas looking repressed and virginal—to be a sort of perve-magnet, luring the creeps so that Marceau can then leap out of the shadows and Continue reading