Les Loups chassent la nuit (1952)

aka: Wolves Hunt at Night
Romance / Drama / Thriller


Les Loups chassent la nuit photo
Thomas Mollert. the head of a counter-espionage network, meets up with one of his agents, Cyril, in Trieste, to instruct him on his next assignment. As he embarks on his mission to unmask a spy named Miguel, Cyril strikes up an acquaintance with an attractive young woman, Catherine, in a bar. The latter will prove invaluable in protecting Cyril from his dangerous adversaries and ensuring his mission is a success...
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Film Review

Film poster
With its picturesque Italian locations and impeccably dressed, womanising secret agent, Les Loups chassent la nuit (a.k.a. La ragazza di Trieste) can hardly help looking like an early attempt at a James Bond movie, although it would be a full decade being Ian Fleming's famous spy would be launched on the big screen. The plot bears more than a passing resemblance to that of Alfred Hitchcock's Notorious (1946) but in fact it is taken from Pierre Frondaie's novel Le Lieutenant de Gibraltar. Unusually for a spy thriller of this era, the film is concerned more with character than with plot, with most of the focus being directed towards the central romance involving the two main characters - a French spy and his sensual Italian lover. To coin a phrase, the thriller intrigue looks as if it is just one big MacGuffin, hastily dispensed with right at the end of the film. Hitchcock would no doubt have been immensely gratified.

The role of the proto-Bond lead agent went to Jean-Pierre Aumont, striving to regain his popularity in France after his decade in Hollywood. Here, Aumont is handsomely partnered by Italian beauty Carla Del Poggio, who had previously distinguished herself in some notable Italian films, including Vittorio De Sica's Un garibaldino al convento (1942). Fernand Ledoux is a curious choice for the role of Aumont's spymaster - he looks like a cross between a Graham Greene character and a Bond villain, as he keeps cropping up expectedly in a Panama hat with a cat tucked under his arm. Marcel Herrand shows up in one of his last roles before his untimely death and Louis de Funès makes a fleeting appearance in an uncredited role as a barman.

In this, his debut feature, Bernard Borderie already shows a knack of delivering a solid crowdpleaser with a quality feel - something that would set up him apart from other French mainstream filmmakers for most of his career. It would be going too far to describe Borderie as an auteur, but his films, which spanned a wide range of popular genres, had a distinctive character and represent some of the best in mainstream cinema for their time. After Les Loups chassent la nuit, Borderie would have his first major success with La Môme vert-de-gris (1953), the first of the hugely popular Lemmy Caution films starring Eddie Constantine. He would then routinely turn out American-style thrillers for the next decade, before having his biggest hit with the Angélique films of the mid-1960s.
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The director Bernard Borderie also worked with the actor Fernand Ledoux on the film Fortune carrée (1955).

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