Fantomas

The Fantômas Films: Juve contre Fantômas (1913)


Bercy battleSynopsis of Juve contre Fantômas:

The film opens with shots of the leading actors and their disguises: René Navarre as himself (the actor), Dr. Chaleck (bearded), the gang-leader Loupart (moustache, bowler hat, and cigarette), and the "Man in Black" (the "true visage" of Fantômas...); Edmond Bréon as himself (the actor), Inspector Juve (moustache and bowler hat) and disguised as a businessman (mutton-chop sideburns and dress hat).

The Simplon Express Disaster: In his office, Inspector Juve ponders and signs a report to the Commissioner of Police. Welcoming the journalist Jérôme Fandor, Juve hands him the report, which refers to the discovery of a woman's body, crushed beyond recognition, in the house of Dr. Chaleck. Papers on the body identify it as Lady Beltham, but Juve is skeptical. (In the first Fantômas adventure, the Englishwoman assisted her criminal lover, Gurn (alias Fantômas), in both the murder of her husband, Lord Beltham, and the substitution of the actor Valgrand for the imprisoned Gurn on the eve of the criminal's execution. In Souvestre and Allain's novel, Valgrand is actually executed in the place of Gurn, while in Feuillade's film version Juve discovers the switch just before the execution.) Juve engages Fandor to help him in the case.

Outside on the street, Dr. Chaleck (alias Fantômas) gets into a taxi, shadowed by Juve and Fandor who follow in another cab. But it is the bandit Loupart (another alias of Fantômas) who reemerges from the taxi. Loupart approaches Joséphine-la-Pierreuse, a street prostitute and the bandit's mistress, who passes him a note. Juve and Fandor split up, each pursuing one of the two suspicious characters.

Fantomas & JosephineLoupart reads the note, which explains that Joséphine will be meeting a courier from a wine merchant at the Gare de Lyon. The courier, holding 150,000 francs, believes that they'll be going on a tryst—of course, he'll be robbed instead. Loupart gets into a cab, but when Juve tries to follow in a second cab, a member of Loupart's gang jumps on the back of the taxi and punctures the rear tire. Juve loses the trail. But Fandor shadows Joséphine more successfully through the Métro [with location shots inside a moving Métro train!] and to her apartment. From a café, Fandor sends off a quick note to Juve.

At the Gare de Lyon, Joséphine meets Martialle, the courier. They enter a train compartment, and Fandor follows, taking the neighboring compartment. Two of Loupart's accomplices stroll the corridor...The train pulls out. Loupart appears in the corridor, encountering Fandor, whom the criminal recognizes.

To make their robbery easier, one of Loupart's men detaches the coach from the rest of the train. Donning black masks, Loupart and his gang rob Martialle at gunpoint (a couple members of his gang rob Fandor at the same time, for good measure and to keep the journalist out of the picture). After the criminals depart, Fandor and Martialle realize that the coach is coasting back down the mountainside and they leap out. In horror, they watch as the the next train along the line, the Simplon express, crashes into the loose car.

Meanwhile, Loupart and company escape to a waiting car. Joséphine discovers a letter from Martialle's employers among the robbed possessions, explaining that the 150 thousand-franc notes carried by the courier have each been cut in half, with the other halves to be delivered later. Their theft is foiled! But Loupart has a plan. En route by car, he stops at a post office and sends Juve a false telegram from "Fandor" setting a meeting for the wharves near the wine warehouse at 11 pm that night.

At the Bercy Warehouse: Juve receives the telegram, but he is also contacted by the real Fandor, whom Loupart/Fantômas believes has died in the Simplon express crash. Therefore, Juve and Fandor appear in the scene together, prepared for some sort of mischief from Fantômas, but uncertain what form their challenge will take.

Juve and Fandor surreptitiously crawl among barrels of spirits stacked along the banks of the Seine near the Bercy warehouse. But, it's an ambush! Loupart/Fantômas's men, hidden among the barrels, open fire upon the detective and journalist. Then, the bandit's gang set fire to the barrels of liquor, trapping Juve and Fandor. To escape the flames and smoke, the two heroes climb into an empty barrel, roll down into the water, and swim away to safety across the river.

At the Crocodile: Joséphine dines at the elegant Monmartre restaurant "The Crocodile" with a young man who liberally imbibes champagne (and subsequently falls asleep at the table). By a stroke of fortune, Juve and Fandor not only dine at the same restaurant, but are seated at the adjoining table. Recognizing Joséphine, Fandor and Juve confront her and demand to know the whereabouts of Loupart/Chaleck/Fantômas. Finding herself compromised, the prostitute reveals another coincidence—Dr. Chaleck is dining in the next room! Overjoyed at his luck, Juve dances a little jig with Joséphine...

Through the maître d'hôtel, Juve proposes that Chaleck meet him outside the restaurant. Surprisingly, Chaleck/Fantômas accepts. Retreiving his overcoat from the cloakroom, Chaleck steps out of the restaurant and into the hands of Juve and Fandor. The detective and Journalist each firmly secure the arms of Chaleck, when—he bolts free! Stunned, Juve and Fandor discover artificial limbs attached to Chaleck's overcoat—they've been outsmarted by Fantômas once again. The archcriminal tips his hat as he hops into the back of a cab, and disappears around the corner. Momentarily, Chaleck resumes his place at the restaurant, celebrating his latest escape with champagne.

The Haunted Villa: Lady Beltham receives an unexpected letter form Gurn/Fantômas. Unable to keep her resolve not to see her muderous lover, she goes to the rendezvous. She is startled by the appearance of Dr. Chaleck in her room, but Fantômas quickly reassures her that he is actually Gurn, her lover, in disguise. Despite her revulsion toward the criminal, the English mistress succumbs to the will of Gurn/Fantômas, and she agrees to meet him at her deserted villa every Tuesday at midnight.

Juve and Fandor, disguised as businessmen, visit Lady Beltham's deserted villa under the pretense of buying the property. The caretaker lets them in, and shows them around the "haunted villa." Upstairs, the disguised inspector discovers a pen covered with fresh ink—in an empty house? The caretaker insists that the house is haunted, which he confirms by the voices he hears at night coming through the heating vents. Juve insists on seeing the basement, where he discovers a large furnace connected to the heating vents, as well as a rainwater cistern.

The following Tuesday, when Lady Beltham arrives for her appointed rendezvous with Gurn/Fantômas, she is followed by Juve and Fandor. Crawling into the heating vent, the detective and journalist overhear the conversation of the criminal lovers. They learn about Fantômas's plan to kill Juve, while the detective sleeps, with his "silent executioner."

Bracing himself for a certain, but unknown, assassin, Juve straps protective corsets on his abdomen and arms before going to bed. Close by, Fandor hides in a wicker trunk at the foot of Juve's bed, as the detective awaits his killer. In the darkness, the silent executioner—a boa constrictor—arrives. In a frenzied battle with his would-be murderer, Juve escapes, as Fandor emerges from his hiding place, stumbling about in the "darkness" (indicated at the time by tinting the film blue), absolutely no help at all. Once again, Fantômas is foiled...

The CisternThe Man In Black: Finally, Fantômas appears in the villa in his "true visage"—that is, en cagoule, the "Man in Black" dressed in black tights, shirt, gloves and hood. Still, the Lord of Terror senses that something is amiss at the villa, and he prepares himself for any confrontation with the police by wiring the house with dynamite.

Hoping to surprise Fantômas, Juve and Fandor arrive at the villa with the police. But the Man in Black refuses to give in to his enemies. Pursued through the house, in a brilliant escape Fantômas hides underwater in the basement cistern, breathing through a wine bottle whose bottom he punctured on the drying rack. When Juve fails to find Fantômas in the basement, he has the police light a fire in the furnace in order to "smoke out" the archcriminal.

After Juve and the police leave the basement, Fantômas reemerges from the cistern. He crawls out a basement window and runs to the neighboring workshed, where he throws the electrical switch which ignites the dynamite and blows up the house. In triumph the Lord of Terror stretches his arms to the sky in a gesture of victory.

"But are Juve and Fandor really dead?"

—Robin Walz

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