Les Mystères de Paris (1962)
aka: Devil of Paris
A film directed by André Hunebelle

Genre: Drama / Adventure / Romance / History

Review published:


Les Mystères de Paris photo
Paris, 1840. Whilst driving his fiancée Irène home in his horse-drawn carriage, the Marquis Rodolphe de Sombreuil accidentally knocks down a poor man in the street. Believing the man is only slightly injured, Rodolphe gives him a purse containing some money as a recompense. But the man dies not long afterwards, leaving his wife and daughter Marie desolate. The widow is then arrested by the police, who believe she stole Rodolphe's purse. When Rodolphe is called to the police station to settle the matter, the distraught widow entreats him to go in search of her daughter, who has recently gone missing whilst looking for work. In fact Marie has been abducted by an old hag named La Chouette and forced to work as a prostitute. Meanwhile, Irène has grown tired of being neglected and becomes the mistress of Rodolphe's enemy, the Baron de Lansignac. The latter is a mean businessman who has also taken an interest in Marie...
© Willems Henri (Brussels, Belgium)

Film Review

Eugène Sue's celebrated novel Les Mystères de Paris (first published in 1842) has been adapted many times for the cinema but the best known version is this colourful 1962 blockbuster, starring French film icon Jean Marais in yet another of his athletic historical roles. Well-paced, stylish and beautifully photographed, the film was enthusiastically directed by André Hunebelle, who had previously worked with Marais on some very popular swashbucklers - Le Bossu (1960) and Le Capitan (1960). With Jean Marais at the height of his popularity, the film proved to be a huge commercial success, attracting an audience in France of almost three million, making it one of the biggest hits of the year.

The film's distinguished cast includes Raymond Pellegrin as the deliciously evil villain of the piece (it is obligatory to boo and hiss every time he appears on the screen), the sensual Dany Robin as Marais's ill-fated fiancée and the eye-catching British actress Jill Haworth in one of her earliest screen roles. Acting stalwarts Noël Roquevert and Pierre Mondy make welcome appearances, although it is often the lesser known character actors who most grab our attention, particularly Renée Gardès who is magnificently grotesque as the despicable hag Chouette.

Whilst it is by no means the most inspired or intelligent literary adaptation French cinema has given us, Les Mystères de Paris is still a massively enjoyable adventure romp that offers both a bleak insight into the harsh inequalities that existed in post-revolutionary France under the reign of Louis-Philippe and some very well choreographed action sequences. Marais seems to positively relish the dangerous situations his character manages to get himself out of, miraculously escaping from burning buildings and flooded cellars like a 19th Century Harry Houdini. Hunebelle would bring together Marais and Pellegrin a few years later in his most famous film, Fantômas (1964), with Pellgrin providing the distinctive voice for Marais's masked arch-villain.

© James Travers 2011

The above article was written for filmsdefrance.com and should not be reproduced in any medium without the author's permission.

Other recommended drama/adventure/romance/history films from France that you may want to consider are: Richard Oswald's Cagliostro (1929), Jean-Paul Rappeneau's Cyrano de Bergerac (1990), Jean-Paul Rappeneau's Le Hussard sur le toit (1995), Jean Epstein's Mauprat (1926) and André Hunebelle's Les Mystères de Paris (1962).

Where to watch this film

The film Les Mystères de Paris may be available on amazon via the following links:
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Film Credits

  • Director: André Hunebelle
  • Script: Diego Fabbri, Pierre Foucaud, Jean Halain, Eugène Sue (novel)
  • Photo: Marcel Grignon, Jean Tournier
  • Music: Jean Marion
  • Cast: Jean Marais (Rodolphe de Sombreuil), Dany Robin (Irène), Jill Haworth (Fleur de Marie), Raymond Pellegrin (Baron de Lansignac), Pierre Mondy (Le Chourineur), Alain Dekok (Fanfan), Georges Chamarat (Jérôme), Madeleine Barbulée (Mme Godin), Renée Gardès (La Chouette), Guy Delorme (Un policier), Paul Cambo (Le préfet), Paulette Dubost (Mme Pipelet), Florence Blot (La nouvelle locataire), Alain Bouvette (Oscar), Charles Bouillaud (Godin), Louis Bugette (Le faux aveugle), Robert Dalban (Le patron de l'auberge des Ravageurs), Gabriel Gobin (M. Morel, le tailleur), Benoîte Labb (Louise Morel), Maria Meriko (Mme Georges), Bernard Musson (Le maître d'hôtel du restaurant 'bal masqué'), Alain Nobis (L'écrivain public), Raphaël Patorni (Le président du Cercle), Bedra Benharrats (Margot, une servante), Raoul Billerey (Amédée)
  • Country: France / Italy
  • Language: French
  • Support: Color
  • Runtime: 110 min
  • Aka: Devil of Paris

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