Judex (1963)


(director: Georges Franju; screenwriters: Louis Feuillade & Arthur Bernède from their 1916 screenplay/Francis Lacassin/Jacques Champreux; cinematographer: Marcel Fradetal; editor: Gilbert Natot; music: Maurice Jarre; cast: Channing Pollock (Judex/Vallieres), Michel Vitold (Favraux), Francine Bergé (Diana Monti/Marie Verdier), Edith Scob (Jacqueline Favraux), Jacques Jouanneau (Cocantin, private detective), Théo Sarapo (Morales), Sylva Koscina (Daisy), René Génin (Pierre Kerjean); Runtime: 103; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Robert de Nesle; CFF; 1963-France/Italy-in French with English subtitles)

“Pays homage to Feuillade.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Georges Franju’s (“Eyes without a Face”) black-and-white Judex is a remake of Louis Feuillade’s 1916 caped-avenger serial. The illustrious French director Feuillade is the creator of pulp cinema. His earlier screenplays (along with cowriter Arthur Bernède), Fantômas and Les Vampires, were released just before and during World War I. Those films excited anarchists and artists alike because of their surreal take on the world, but disturbed authority figures who charged it with being anti-patriotic and of low moral worth. To counter these attacks Feuillade produced the serial Judex (1916) named for its superdetective, a cloaked crime-fighter who fought archvillain Fantômas and was lighter than the earlier films and set in more bucolic locations. It was like so many comic book hero stories that would follow suit (think Batman!), that it’s hard to know when to get serious about it or laugh. Judex caused no noticeable alarm among the authorities.

Franju’s elegant, campy and darker 1963 interpretation pays homage to Feuillade through his supercop Judex (Channing Pollock) who acts to right a series of wrongs and takes the name of Vallieres, as he’s pictured as a master of disguises dressed up as the elderly secretary to crooked banker Favraux (Michel Vitold). Judex plots to kidnap the banker in order to stop the evil villainess Diana (Francine Bergé) from stealing the banker’s ill-gotten fortune from his sweet and pure-hearted daughter Jacqueline (Edith Scob) and in the process turns everyone against the banker. Marie is the banker’s governess and mistress, who lurks around the house dressed in a black cat suit while looking for documents the banker used to blackmail the rich and powerful. Judex will later marry Jacqueline, and will explain his contempt for her father revolves around the dishonest banker being the cause of his father’s suicide.

It plays out as a battle between good and evil, with the film’s lyrical beauty realized in such stunning scenes as the opening masked ball where the banker in a bird mask does magic tricks such as pull a dove out of the air.