Archive for July 12, 2020

The Sunday Intertitle: Spies in Leotards

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on July 12, 2020 by dcairns

The intertitles are the least interesting thing about PROTEA (1913), directed by Victorine-Hippolyte Jasset, who also gave the world ZIGOMAR. This one is another Feuilladesque spies-in-leotards romp, structured on the one-damn-thing-after-another plan.

Mistress of disguise Protea and her equally versatile accomplice the Eel are sent by one mythical kingdom to steal a secret peace treaty arranged by two others. One false identity follows another at a rapid and far from cost-effective pace. By inventing characterisation they could have saved a lot on sets and costumes.

I enjoyed this dumbshow tremendously! It’s not even clear if we’re meant to be on Protea’s side or else view her as villainess. With FANTOMAS or FILIBUS or ZIGOMAR, the baddies were usually more interesting and you rooted for them even though you knew it was naughty. Here, it’s just spy vs. spy, without even the labels of recognisable nationalities, which is about the only thing that makes James Bond a hero.

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You can decide if Protea and the Eel are the protagonists when the (sadly incomplete) film is over and you find out who won.