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CARNIVAL OF SINNERS (LA MAIN DU DIABLE) (THE DEVIL’S HAND) (director: Maurice Tourneur; screenwriters: based on the short story The Enchanted Hand by Gérard de Nerval/Jean-Paul Le Chanois; cinematographer: Armand Thirard ; editor: Christian Gaudin; music: Roger Dumas; cast: Pierre Fresnay (Roland Brissot), Josseline Gaël (Irene), Noël Roquevert (Mélisse), Guillaume de Sax (Gibelin), Pierre Palau (The Small Man, The Devil), Andre Varennes (Colonel), Robert Vattier (Perrier); Runtime: 87; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Alfred Greven/Maurice Tourneur; Janus; 1943-France-in French with English subtitles)
“Atmospheric entrancing Faustian horror/fantasy pic.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Jacques’s 70-year-old father Maurice Tourneur(“Katia”/”Dilemma of Two Angels”/”Ship of Lost Men”) directs this atmospheric entrancing Faustian horror/fantasy pic. It’s based on the short story from 1832, The Enchanted Hand, by Gérard de Nerval. The screenplay is by Jean-Paul Le Chanois.

A one-armed, black glove wearing, 35-year-old artist, Roland Brissot (Pierre Fresnay), appears during dinner time at a crowded isolated inn, the Abbey Hotel, in the mountain border area between France and Italy, and is carrying a small package he guards with his life during a rain storm. There’s lots of excitement because the police fired two shots chasing after someone with a coffin and the lights briefly go out due to a power outage. The curious guests get their peculiar harried traveler to tell them his unbelievable story of how when he was a struggling Parisian artist a year ago he bought in the Melisse restaurant, from the owner (Noël Roquevert), for a penny, a mysterious cursed talisman with the devil’s hand in it. Overnight the talisman makes it possible for him to paint great paintings under the pseudonym “Maximus Léo,” and he become an overnight commercial success. Because of the sudden success, he marries the pretty store clerk, Irene (Josseline Gaël), who previously rejected him because he was a loser. The catch over this bargain with the devil (Pierre Palau), a small guy in a bowler following the possessed artist around, is that if he can’t sell it to another for less than what he paid for it he will be doomed.

Filmed during the German occupation and when the Vichy government ruled, there are political messages derived from the allegory. The film supporters were aligned with the Partisans, and had something to say about those French men who traded their souls for convenience and comforts during the Nazi occupation.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”