The Judex Files: By the beautiful sea

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I thought I might finish JUDEX before my micro-blogathon begins tomorrow, but I’ve blown that. Then I thought I might handle the last episode as part of The Late Show: The Late Movies Blogathon, but it’s not the right kind of late. But anyway, this is a sort of semi-penultimate episode of JUDEX: next episode is the climax, with just an eight-minute coda to follow that.

Now read on…

Crooked banker Favraux’s daughter Jacqueline is horrified to learn that her demented dad has been abducted. She wishes his old secretary were here: that crusty, trusty fellow knew how to get things done. Judex overhears this and promptly dons his aging secretary disguise and turns up unexpectedly to take charge of the situation. The whole throng are shocked to then receive a ransom note in the kidnapped man’s own handwriting — this signifies that he’s coming out of his catatonic stupor, which is good (I guess), but also indicates that he’s fallen in with his kidnappers, no doubt having been spun a web of lies by the villainous Diana Monti (Musidora).

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The demand is that Jacqueline should come to the jetty with her little boy/girl, and the three should run away together. Of course, it’s all part of Monti’s plan to get her claws on the banker’s ill-gotten gains. Judex proposes that he alone should attend the fearful rendezvous. We then get one of Feuillade’s grand crepuscular location interiors, with Judex in silhouette as he transforms back to his true identity. Renê Cresté has such a distinctive Dick Tracy profile that he remains completely recognizable when reduced to a cut-out profile.

But Jacqueline sees Judex, in his special crime-fighting hat and cape (shades of The Shadow), as he departs the villa, and goes to investigate. Finding a discarded beard, she stares at it in horror like one reading dire revelations from a hairy book. No dummy, she puts deux and deux together and realizes that her host’s nice son is also the aged secretary and also the hated and feared — JUDEX!!

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This is a moment of truth, not just in the plotty sense of one character learning something, but in the way it chimes with human experience. In any love story, there are moments of revelation, when one discovers who the object of one’s desire really is, under that false beard. The result is either catastrophe or a deeper sympathy…

To be continued…

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2 Responses to “The Judex Files: By the beautiful sea”

  1. I watched the Franju version only the other week, and was amazed how inept Judex was as a super-criminal/crime-fighter. But the ball scene with the doves was exquisite, and I loved the many disguises of supervillainess Francine Bergé.

  2. The ball is pure Franju: doves were his thing (he’s better at them than John Woo). The two versions make for fascinating comparison.

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