Here are some thoughts on Fantômas (1913). This, like Les Vampires and Judex, is a French serial from the Gaumont company and directed by Louis Feuillade. The plot is full of the typical Louis Feuillade unbelievable coincidences and twists and turns and is a lot of fun to watch. The chief interest in this fascinating serial is trying to guess what actrocity the diabolical arch-criminal Fantômas will commit next (he is capable of *anything*)—and what method he will use to outwit capture at the hands of Police Inspector Juve.
Some differences I noted between this series and Judex: First, the plot of Fantômas is more on the grisly side. (The parts have titles like "In the Shadow of the Guillotine" and "The Murderous Corpse"). Secondly, the individual episodes are more loosely connected and with less continuity. Each part springs a new situation into place with the viewer having to gradually figure out, in some cases, what's going on.
Part 5 is somewhat marred by some missing footage and some plot elements that are definitely on the inexplicable side. But these don't spoil the whole in the least. I particularly enjoyed the performance of René Nararre as the sinister Fantômas (pronounced FAHN-tuh-mus) and Renée Carl as Lady Beltham, Fantômas's reluctant mistress.
The series has been nicely restored by Gaumont and the Kino dvd's have a very high quality (but sometimes almost over-the top) orchestral score. Like Judex, this one is highly recommended!
Here is a short trailer for the Kino dvd set:
This will be where we leave our silent photoplay reviews! Beware of the Spoiler Monster!
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