Archive for Feuillade

The Sunday Intertitle: Za & Za

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on April 19, 2020 by dcairns


“Za la Mort and Za la Vie with old aunt Camilla live happily in the countryside.”

And they have a really nice kitchen, actually.


This domesticity is a surprising element, since Za la Mort is a kind of super-criminal. But he only uses his powers for good.

The Italians were quick to copy Feuillade’s supervillain capers like FANTOMAS, but, while the Frenchman is clearly at least somewhat enamoured of his invincible bad guy, the Italians, as we’d see even more clearly later in DANGER: DIABOLIK, basically had more sympathy for crooks than cops.

This is I TOPI GRIGI (1918), which I missed last year at Bologna but am catching up with now.

Za la Mort may be a criminal, but he’s up against much worse criminals, one of those secret societies you hear about. To be continued…


The faces are extraordinary. Za la Mort (left) has just saved this young chap, and his little dog too, from a street gang.


The Judex Files: Backstory

Posted in FILM with tags , , on November 23, 2016 by dcairns


Having delivered two throbbing climaxes in as many episodes, Louis Feuillade and his team change the pace for episode 7 of their serial JUDEX, introducing Judex’s mum, and flashing back to his childhood to finally provide his motivation — in effect, his secret origin. Now read on…

We learn how Favraux the banker ruined Judex and his brother Robert’s dad, leading to dad’s death. The beastly banker also behaved like a cad to their poor mother. Flashback Favraux even has a twirly villain mustache — a massive one. The Harley Davidson of handlebars.


“Here’s your Florida call, M. Favraux.”

An oath of revenge is sworn over dead dad. In a cruel irony, it turns out that the family aren’t destitute after all — now Judex has a fortune which he can use to plot his revenge. All those dogs and pigeons don’t come cheap, you know.

Present tense: Ma Judex is displeased to learn that her son has commuted the banker’s sentence from death to life imprisonment, all because he fancies the daughter. You can’t let little things like that turn you from the path of righteousness if you want to make a go of the vengeance business.

Judex will spend the rest of this episode moping.


Interlude with Cocantin the detective and the Liquorice Kid, his new ward. Wonderful how casually these things can be arranged in 1916 France. First he was living with his little girl-boy friend, sharing a bed, now he’s adopted by a private dick. Where might he end up? President of the Republic? Emperor? He has a Napoleonic look to him.

Musidora makes another kidnap attempt, is thwarted.


Ma Judex is thwarted too — seeing Favraux’s daughter and grand-daughter-son praying alongside the Liquorice Kid, her vengefulness softens and she lets mercy into her heart. This kind of heartfelt stuff, which LES VAMPIRES and FANTOMAS just don’t bother with, is really lovely. Naive, perhaps, but sincere.


Fantomas Contre le Phantom

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on July 5, 2014 by dcairns


In Part Four of the original FANTOMAS, Inspector Juve, that hard-working plodder, is arrested under suspicion of being his arch-enemy Fantomas. And at a masked ball, several characters appear dressed as the super-villain, in black leggings, shirt, cape, and executioner’s hood.

What strikes me as funny here is the similarity with Blake Edwards’ first PINK PANTHER film, which ends with Clouseau arrested as the Phantom, legendary jewel thief, after a climax at a masquerade where both David Niven and Robert Wagner have disguised themselves as gorillas.


Now, Edwards was certainly influenced by TO CATCH A THIEF, which features a famous cat burglar as hero and includes a costume ball as setting for the finale, with undercover cops patrolling the premises in various impractical disguises. But the Fantomas connection seems awfully strong. The clutching hand of Fantomas reaches clean through the twentieth century…