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also known as Fantômas: À l'ombre de la guillotine

Fantômas in the Shadow of the Guillotine1913

  • 4.1
Based on the phenomenally popular French pulp novellas, Louis Feuillade's outrageous, ambitious FANTOMAS series became the gold standard of espionage serials in pre-WWI Europe and laid the foundation for such immortal works as Feuillade's own LES VAMPIRES and Fritz Lang's DR. MABUSE films. In the first of the series of films, René Navarre stars as the criminal lord of Paris, the master of disguise, the creeping assassin in black: Fantômas. Over the course of five feature films (which combined to form a 5 1/2-hour epic), Fantômas, along with his accomplices and mistresses, are pursued by the equally resourceful Inspector Juve (Edmund Bréon) and his friend, journalist Jerôme Fandor (Georges Melchior).

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2 members like this review

Short of reading the Pierre Souvestre and Marcel Allain novels, this is an exceptional place to begin your immersion in the remarkable world of master criminal Fantomas. Louis Feuillade is perhaps better known for a handful of other films (particularly LES VAMPIRES, JUDEX and TIH MINH) but this series acutely illustrates the formative traits of his later successes. Start here and you'll likely be compelled to immediately watch the other four!

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Member Reviews (10)

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Short of reading the Pierre Souvestre and Marcel Allain novels, this is an exceptional place to begin your immersion in the remarkable world of master criminal Fantomas. Louis Feuillade is perhaps better known for a handful of other films (particularly LES VAMPIRES, JUDEX and TIH MINH) but this series acutely illustrates the formative traits of his later successes. Start here and you'll likely be compelled to immediately watch the other four!

2 members like this review
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Breezy crime serial that brims with a uniquely French affection for rogues. Fantomas is a jewel thief, murderer and all-around bad egg. A police inspector and a reporter cook up clever schemes to catch him, but the film's sympathies are with the criminal, as that's more fun. The hook here is not how the detectives will save the day, but how Fantomas will escape capture again and again across this film's five episodes and nearly six-hour total length. The French loved it and it's still entertaining a century later, even if the storytelling is on the rough side. Pivotal characters disappear with no explanation and others show up out of the blue in ways that make you feel like you missed something. That was fine in France in 1913 though, where Marcel Allain and Pierre Souvestre's pulp novels were so popular that everyone already knew the story. Today, it's forgivable at worst. The plot's cat-and-mouse game is simple enough in the big picture and the convoluted parts in later chapters are sort of dream-like.

1 member likes this review
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top reviewer

Louis Feuillade was the original master of suspense and the "well-made" tale for the cinema. He fills his screen with great detail using set design, lighting and character placement. The Fantomas series were excellent depictions of Feuillade's skills at their best.

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After watching later Fantômas productions (the 1932 version and the triology of the 60's) I was anxious to see the first glimpse into this interesting character. I'm glad these are not done with the ridiculous silliness of the 60's films. In those Juve is so inept and such a clown. I guess they were intended to be campy and farcical. Feuillade's vision is more sinister. His Fantômas is extremely dark and ruthless. I like the relationship in these films between Juve and his journalist friend Jerome Fandor. Although by today's standards this plot is pretty predictable it is interesting to watch it unfold. This episode sets the stage for the war of wits between sociopath and policeman. It is worth mentioning again the fabulous job done in these restorations. The prints are absolutely flawless.

1 member likes this review
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Amoral Fantomas & bourgeois Juve, 1913, while, nearby, Picasso & Braque disassemble the world on canvass with oils. Feuillade disassembles complacent Paris with silver nitrate, lighting & a screen. The Great War looms like a nightmare one forgets on waking. Heroes & villains dissolve, the ghosts of Moriarty & Holmes become echoes untranslated. Young Fritz Lang is in the wings, working his apprenticeship at the studio. Are these simple, predictable stories? We are watching seeds in gestation, enjoying the show.

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top reviewer

very good movie one good crook outsmarts one good cop as in real life

The scenes in the middle of the film which are done in the dark are fabulous!

A classic of silent cinema, and hugely entertaining throughout its five-hour-plus running time.

Surprisingly enjoyable for 1913. And a character named Fandor. Well done. Keeps moving.

terrific!