Georges Franju’s tribute to the silent serials of Louis Feuillade. Franju takes a different path than Olivier Assayas, whose tribute to Les Vampires, Irma Vep, recontextualized the action into a meta-tribute to Feuillade and Maggie Cheung. Rather Franju does something more akin to Noboru Iguchi‘s take on Karate-Robo Zaborgar – condensing the material into feature length while playing up its inherent absurdity with a loving touch. Perhaps an even better point of comparison would be De Laurentiis’s Flash Gordon.
Plot points that may have been a bit odd spread over a 12 episode plus serial become positively Dada when crammed into less than two hours. And Franju leans into the campiness by casting Channing Pollock, an American stage magician, as his Shadow-like avenger, Judex. It’s all great fun, albeit occasionally disjointed.
And while Edith Scob of Franju’s Eyes Without a Face may seem the big attraction as the damsel in distress (and rocks some buck wild hairstyles), the real star is Francine Bergé as her nemesis, a calculated schemer out to get Scob’s inheritance. Bergé spends half the film stalking about in catsuit with dagger or disguised as a nun, chewing the scenery and hatching wicked plots. She’s my new hero.
Footnote – even my wife liked this movie, which is a rarity.