Archive for Louis Feuillade

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.


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

The Judex Files: Dry Land

Posted in FILM with tags , , on December 12, 2016 by dcairns


And so Louis Feuillade’s JUDEX (1916) ends with a short 12th episode devoted to tying up loose ends.

Favraux is led back to Judex’s house, through dark locations of crepuscular backlight, into a comfortable studio set flatly lit to aid his recovery. He’s reunited with his daughter and grandperson, in a reconciliation scene not truly comparable to King Lear’s, but coming closer to that kind of emotion than most serials ever attempt.

We also learn that Favraux’s daughter now loves Judex, and, in one of the more starkly lit location settings, Favraux apologises to Judex’ dear old mum, for the whole thing about ruining her husband, driving him to suicide, and incidentally making indecent propositions to her. He forgives Judex for threatening him with death, drugging him into a death-like stupor, and incarcerating him in solitary confinement until he lost his reason. I guess maybe it does balance out.

Daisy Torp, the lady acrobat, Cocantin the comedy detective, and the Liquorice Kid, meanwhile, form another nuclear family, so all ends well.


Well, except for poor Diana Monti (Musidora), washed ashore the next day with the rigid demeanour of a mannequin, and Morales, completely lost at sea, and Morales’ poor dad, who was also ruined by Favraux and has now lost a son. This makes for a strikingly bleak finish — an old man by the sea, who has lost everything in the adventures of others.


The Judex Files: Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch

Posted in FILM with tags , , on December 11, 2016 by dcairns

And so to the exciting climax/penultimate installment of Louis Feuillade’s serial JUDEX (1916). Boat fight! Now read on…


Judex strides into danger, refusing his brother’s offer of a small pistol, confident he can bribe Diana Monti and her accomplices to gain the release of Favraux, the formerly crooked, formerly catatonic, currently kidnapped former banker.

Fravraux’s daughter weeps with Judex’s mother. She may have gotten over her judexphobia — but is she too late?

Monti, in nautical garb, captures Judex and transports him by launch to her ship, The Sea Vamp (NB her ship is not called The Sea Vamp, not really.)

Intrepid acrobat Daisy Torp, sensing shenanigans, swims out to join Judex on the bad guy’s boat, leaving her amorous detective Cocantin to flap his arms on the shore throughout this climactic episode. The Liquorice Kid, his ward, will be similarly underemployed.


Favraux, no longer catatonic, is now merely befuddled. I like how his banker’s duds and handlebar moustache of yore have been replaced by a cheap suit and a big cloth cap, which is the uniform of most of Monti’s henchmen, but also suggests a fall from grace to a lower social class. A banker with a clouded mind = a plebeian, on Feuillade’s curious evolutionary scale.

Judex, tied to a post and surrounded by his enemies (plus one former enemy who doesn’t know the game has changed) seems about as thwarted as a hero can get, But Daisy Torp, girl deus ex machina, is on her way! Peering through a porthole, she espies our hero, hooded and hoodwinked.



Hauling her surprising curves on deck, Daisy has little difficulty in gaining access to the prisoner. Pausing to make herself decent in a purloined coat, she frees Judex. Now the folly of hooding your prisoner is made clear, as chief henchman Morales is trussed up in substitution for the captive crime-fighter. Unfortunately for him, Diana Monti has just decided to dispose of her prisoner over the side, and for once a supervillain resists the urge to sneak a peek and sneer at her foe. I guess monologuing wasn’t such a big thing in the silent era.

So it’s a watery grave for poor Morales. At this point, Judex emerges from hiding to point out her schoolgirl error. Favraux realizes that Monti is not the simple governess she has presented herself as (drowning bound men not being part of the ascribed duties of a governess, even in France).

Monti, feeling understandably that the gig is up, attempts to swim for it. We’ve seen before that Musidora likes to Be Prepared, wearing a swimsuit under her dress, but I guess that does not necessarily mean she’s a stronger swimmer than other, less flexibly attired adventuresses. She sinks like a stone, and not even La Torp can save her.

Judex now forgets all about Daisy, who is fortunately picked up by a small vessel and reunited with her fiancé/snoop, Cocantin.


Judex returns Favraux to his family, pausing to commiserate mutely with Morales’ dad, who had, like me, been holding out for another change of heart from his jailbird son. He takes the news stoically, and doesn’t seem to bear a grudge against Judex for essentially killing his son, or Favraux, who is basically responsible for all of this going wrong in the first place.

Crises averted — now for the coda…