March 10, 2015 at 8:35 pm (6 Heads, Fantomas) (, , , , , , )

Fantomas – 1913-1914 – France

Fantomas is a popular villain in French crime fiction. He has appeared in numerous novels, comics, and films in France, America, and even Mexico. This review is of the silent French serial directed by Louis Feuillade between 1913 and 1914. Additional episodes will be added to this article as I watch them.

Fantomas I: In the Shadow of the Guillotine is the first episode of a 5 chapter serial following the nefarious exploits of the criminal Fantomas. Although Fantomas is apparently a criminal mastermind, it is hardly demonstrated here. Other than his myriad of disguises, his technique is thuggishly obtuse as he commits strong-arm robbery and murder. After Fantomas is apprehended by the steadfast Inspector Juve, it is up to Fantomas’ mistress to devise a cunning scheme to rescue him from death row.

Fantomas I has many dialogue scenes, but very few intertitles. The dialogue must be inferred through gestures and contextual clues, making the simple plot nonetheless confusing. Otherwise, the quality of the serial is superb, with charismatic acting, detailed sets, clever effects, and stirring music. The spunky and mysterious prison music at the start of Act 3 is notable.

Rating: 6/10 Shrunken Heads. During his crimes, Fantomas hands out blank business cards. When the card grows warm from being handled, his name appears on it. Of course this absurd stunt leads to his capture.


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