Nuits rouges (1974)

On the other hand, I wound up liking this (which, unlike Judex, I hadn’t seen before) more than I think I may have expected to. This was the cinema version (shot in 35mm) of a TV mini-series Franju and Champreux made for French TV (shot in 16mm) at the same time, and I really want to see that now; Franju didn’t exactly get to remake Fantomas with it (though Champreux says that was the original plan until the rights to the books proved too expensive), but he produced a similar story of a criminal mastermind, just updated to the 1970s. This time Champreux also stars as said nameless and “faceless” overlord (and actually does a remarkable job with just his eyes behind the red mask he often wears; just look at how he stares without blinking) who’s in search of a fabled treasure belonging to the Knights Templar; when he kills a historian with Templar links, he finds himself having to square off against the police, the man’s nephew and his friends, and ultimately the Templars themselves. These are not Armando de Ossorio’s Templars, it should be said, which is kind of a shame; about the only thing this film lacks is a climactic showdown with the undead. Needless to say, this is about as pulp as a story like this can probably get without actually being shot on wood pulp paper rather than celluloid; this review compares it to some of The Avengers‘ camper moments, but for some reason I found myself put in mind of Diabolik… As I’ve said in the past, some films just feel like they’re in the wrong language somehow, and maybe this one would make more sense in Italian. Or maybe not. It’s a bewildering ride at times, but a fun one too if you’re in the mood for something brilliantly preposterous.

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