Whilst performing his famous mind-reading act at a Parisian nightclub, Professor Winckler
recognises his most hated enemy in the audience. After the show, he pursues the
man, an American gangster named Gordon, and shoots him dead. He then bribes Hélène,
a young woman who works in the nightclub, to give him an alibi for the killing.
Certain of Winckler's guilt, Commissioner Calas contrives a scheme to destroy his alibi.
Suspicion is thrown on a young man André Laurent who has succeeded in winning Hélène's
affection. How will Hélène react when she realises Laurent is
in fact Calas's colleague?
is one of two very popular film noir
thrillers made by the French film director Pierre Chenal in the 1930s. The other,
(1939), was the first film adaptation of the novel The
Postman Always Rings Twice
. From a stylistic point of view, both films are
rather good examples of early film noir. Deep focus, high contrast black-and-white
photography, confined shadowy sets - all the familiar noir techniques are used to create
a sense of mystery, menace and mayhem.
falls down is its weak script.
The characters are simplistic caricatures, and the plot lacks originality and depth.
The silly happy ending tagged on at the end of the film jars painfully with the sombre
mood which preceded it. On the plus side, there is a great cast which includes some
of the most celebrated screen actors of the 1930s - Louis Jouvet, Erich von Stroheim,
Albert Préjean and Jany Holt. Jouvet is particularly memorable as a
tenacious cop who seems prepared to sacrifice any principles to get his man - the kind
of dark, morally ambiguous role which the actor plays so well.
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