Fantomas Vs Scotland Yard (1966)

Country: France
Directed by André Hunebelle Jean Marais, Louis De Funes, Myléne Demongeot, Jacques Dynam, Jean-Roger Caussimon, Françoise Christophe, Henri Serre
Music by Michel Magne

Fantomas Vs Scotland Yard is the third and final of Andre Hunebelle’s sixties revival of the Fantomas character. If you haven’t noticed yet, I find the Fantomas films to be wild exuberant fun. But if you are looking for closure in the Fantomas series – that is, you want Fantomas captured, or at least an explanation of why he does all these evil deeds – well, you’ll be sadly disappointed. This film is more of the same.

A Rolls Royce follows a procession of Highland pipers through the streets of a Scottish village, before winding it’s way out of town and to a castle in the country. The castle is the residence of Lord Rashley, one of the word’s richest men. In the Rolls is Walter Brown who has been retained to draw up an insurance policy for Rashley.

But Brown is not all that he seems. In fact he isn’t Brown at all, but arch criminal Fantomas, in one of his life-like replica masks. For those of you who are joining us late, that’s one of Fantomas’ specialties – impersonating them using these life life latex masks. When he is appearing as himself, he appears with a blue, bald synthetic face (I know, on the poster it looks a bit green).

Fantomas assures Rashley (Jean-Roger Caussimon) that he doesn’t want to destroy the world just yet. He wishes to pillage for a bit longer. And so to his latest evil scheme – The super villain has a proposal for Rashley, which runs along the lines of: ‘if the rich want to continue living they will have to pay a tax!’ A life tax. Fantomas has set up a company to collect fees from the world’s wealthiest people. If they do not pay, Fantomas will kill them.

After his proposal, Fantomas leaves Rashley’s estate by helicopter. As he circles overhead, he tosses out the real Walter brown’s lifeless body, which crashes down at Lord Rashley’s feet.

It isn’t long before the press get hold of the story – ‘another Fantomas killing!’ Naturally, at the forefront of any journalism relating to Fantomas is Fandor (Jean Marais). As soon as the story breaks, coupled with his trusty photographer, and girlfriend, Helene (Mylene Demongeot), he is off to Scotland to track down the evil mastermind once more.

Meanwhile Lord Rashley is implementing his own plans to defend himself against Fantomas. To do this he requires the services of the world’s foremost law-enforcement authority on Fantomas – who just so happens to be Commissioner Juve (Louis De Funes). Rashley invites Juve and his dim-witted assistant Bertrand (Jacques Dynam) to Scotland, expecting that they will capture the blue headed fiend.

Later the world’s richest men all gather at Lord Rashley’s Estate to discuss Fantomas and the ‘life tax’ that has been imposed on them. During the meeting, Rashley lays out his plan to capture Fantomas in his castle. But their are further complications – Rashley’s assistant, Andre Bertiere (Henri Serre) has hatched a plan with Rashley’s wife (Françoise Christophe) to kill the Lord and inherit all his money. Unfortunately Fantomas’ plan has put a spanner in the work. But Bertiere is a resourceful young chap and he approaches some local gangsters for help. Their plan is to bump off Fantomas, but not to tell the ‘wealthy victims’ that Fantomas is dead. Instead they will collect the tax. But Fantomas is not a dimwit, and is quickly onto the gangsters plan. His response is simple, he places a ‘life tax’ on the gangsters as well. The gangster, now feeling rather threatened, hatch another plan. This time it is to join with Rashley and the other millionaires to rid the world of Fantomas once and for all. Well, this plan is rather flawed too, because Fantomas has killed Lord Rashley and is now impersonating him.

While all this plot convolution is going on, we are treated to the usual repetoire of gags from Louis De Funes as Juve – a dash of derring do from Jean Marias as Fandor – and Mylene Demongeot looks as beautiful as always.

Fantomas Vs Scotland Yard is as enjoyable as the previous two Fantomas films, and while this was the end of Andre Hunebelle’s trilogy, it wasn’t the end for Fantomas. The evil mastermind would pop up in productions from all around the world. For those wishing to hunt the madman down, amongst his many appearances, you can find him in Iron Claw The Pirate and Saazish, which features the fabled Bollywood Fantomas.

Fantomas Vs Scotland Yard (1966)

Fantomas Strikes Back (1966)

Directed by Andre Hunebelle
Jean Marais, Louis De Funes, Mylene Demongeot, Jacques Dynam, Christian Toma, Michel Duplaix
Music by Michel Magne

The man with the blue head is back! Fantomas Strikes Back is the second film in Andre Hunebelle’s 1960’s revival of the Fantomas character. The film is more comedic than it’s predessesor, and Louis De Funes pulls out all the stops as he mugs his way through the film. If you don’t enjoy De Funes prat falls then you won’t enjoy this film at all. The film opens with an animated sequence which recounts the events in the first Fantomas movie. For those that don’t remember, Fantomas escaped in a submarine. This film opens with an award ceremony. Inspector Juve (Louis De Funes) is presented with the ‘Knight Of The Legion Of Honour’. The award is in recognition of how he thwarted arch criminal, Fantomas, a year ago. Juve makes a speech suggesting that Fantomsa is gone forever. Almost on cue, Juve then receives a telegram. It is from Fantoms congratulating him on his award – and on the flip side, another message says ‘See you soon!’

But there are reasons why Fantomas (Jean Marais) didn’t attend the ceremony personally. He had other affairs to attend to. These involve Professor Marchand who is working on a telepathic ray at a scientific research centre. Fantomas breaks into the centre and kidnaps the Professor.

Newspaper journalist, Fandor (Jean Marais) reports that the kidnapping is the work of Fantomas. As Fantomas hasn’t been seen in over a year, nobody believes him. Juve believes that Fandor is trying to humiliate him after receiving the award. On a current affairs television program, Juve refutes Fandor’s claims. But during the report, Fantomas cuts in with a pirate TV broadcast. He admits to kidnapping Professor Marchand and with the Professor’s help he has perfected a ghastly new weapon with which he plans to hold the world to ransom.

When the television returns to it’s normal broadcast, it shows Juve and his interviewer bound and gagged in their seats. After the televised humiliation, Juve adopts new methods to catch Fantomas. Taking a leaf from the James Bond textbook, Juve starts utilising a string of silly gadgets.

One of Professor Marchand’s colleagues, Professor Lefevre (also Jean Marais) holds a press conference to explain the experiments that he and Marchand had been working on. It is a hypnotic, telepathic ray, which could control thoughts and send orders remotely. Lefevre suggests the Marchand and Fantomas cannot finish the ray without the work that he has been completing. Lefevre foolishly thinks that this means that Fantomas’ threat is hollow, but when in reality he has just set himself as a target.

But Fandor has an idea. He prepares a disguise to make himself look like Professor Levre. That way, when Fantomas makes an attempt to kidnap Lefevre, he will in fact kidanp the wrong man.

Lefevre is scheduled to attend a scientific conference in Rome and Fandor takes his place on board the train. Juve also believes that Fantomas will attempt to kidnap the Professor, so he also boards the train wearing a silly disguise. But Juve is unaware of Fandor’s plan and the two men continually but heads as the story unfolds.

Gadgets abound in this film, with false arms and legs, and cigars that fire bullets. The piece-de-resistance is Fantomas’ car plane idea would be recycled in the James Bond film, The Man With The Golden Gun, made nine years later. This isn’t the only sequence that recalls a scene in a future Bond film. The climax of the film features a parachute-less free fall from an aircraft. This sequence is re-used in the pre-title sequence in Moonraker. It seems ironic, that a film that is in itself has become a gentle parody of the Bond films, would in turn inspire sequences in the film series it was immitating.

Jean Marais’ performance is somewhat muted in this film, by the multiple characters he has to play. He may have equal screen time as De Funes, but it seems like so much less, because one minute he is Fandor, the next he is Fantomas, and then he is Lefevre (or Fandor pretending to be Lefevre).

Fantomas Strikes Back is a very entertaining film, but the Fantomas character is not as menacing as the first film in the trilogy. Although Fantomas threatens Fandor, Juve and Helene (Fandor’s love interest), you sort of get the feeling that he actually likes them.

Fantomas Strikes Back (1966)

Fantomas (1964)

Directed by André Hunebelle
Jean Marais, Louis De Funes, Mylène Demongeot, Jacques Dynam
Music by Michel Magne

Fantomas is an ages old criminal character from France. He has appeared in books, movies and on television. One of his earliest and most popular incarnations was in a silent movie serial made by Louis Feuillade in 1913-14. In the 1960’s, director André Hunebelle decided to revive the character for three feature films featuring Jean Marais in a duel role as Fandor, the hero; and Fantomas, the evil villain. This is the first of the three movies.

This one opens in Paris. A Rolls Royce weaves it’s way through the traffic and makes it’s way to Van Cleef and Arpels. Inside, a distinguished gent and lady are shown a selection of diamond necklaces and chokers. The gent in question is Lord Shelton and he is buying up big. He forks out 5,500,000 New Franks for the trinkets. Shelton writes out a cheque, and he and his mistress make their way out of the building with their purchases. Later, one of the sales staff is examining the payment, when shock, horror, the writing and signature on the cheque disappear before his very eyes. It becomes a blank cheque. Then slowly a new name appears: “Fantomas”.

Who is Fantomas? He is a super criminal; a man of one thousand faces – and so far, the French police have been unable to stop him.

After the theft, Police Comissioner Juve (Louis De Funes) appears on television assuring the public that Fantomas’ day are numbered. In a slightly comical speech, he intones that Fantomas is just an ordinary murderer,… a man like you and me,… he’s claimed fewer victims than car accidents,…and even though he has blown up planes and derailed trains, he is not as bad as dangerous drivers! Yeah, right. From Juve’s speech you get a little of the idea of the tone of Fantomas. Yeah, it is a crime movie, and it’s a caper movie, but it is also a comedy (and probably an appropriate comparison would be with the Pink Panther films).

A crowd of people have gathered around a shop window and are watching Juve’s press conference on televisions mounted inside, when Fantomas makes his presence felt once more. From a moving vehicle he lobs a hand grenade at the shop. The crowd flee, the grenade explodes, and the television go up in smoke.

With all this strife the newspapers are having a field day, but one journalist, Fandor (Jean Marais) is looking for a different angle. First he writes an article claiming that Fantomas does not exist and is a creation by the police department to cover up for their failure to catch the perpetrators of criminal acts. Fandor reads his article to his girlfriend and photographer, Hélène (Mylène Demongeot). She is not impressed. She suggests he gets an interview with Fantomas. But that isn’t easy.
But Fandor has a brainwave. He has Hélène photograph him in a black mask and cape pretending to be Fantomas – after all, nobody really knows what he looks like. Then Fandor writes a fake interview and it gets published in the morning papers. In the fake article, it is calimed that Fantomas now possesses the ultimate weapon and could blow up the planet, and intends to do so on the following night.

Comissioner Juve isn’t happy about the article. Apart from the fact that it makes him look like a buffoon, he suspects it is a fake. he storms into the newspaper offices and threatens to ‘BLOW the lid of this web of lies!’ Well, Juve is the only one upset by the article, and not the only one intent on BLOWING things up. Fantomas plants a bomb outside the newspaper office, and as Juve speaks his mind, one of the walls disappears in a shock of flame.

Once Fandor is out of hospital, he returns to his apartment. Taped to his door is a calling card from Fantomas. ‘See you soon!’ it says.

Meanwhile out on the street, Juve has hatched a scheme where he will follow Fandor, believing the journalist will lead him to Fantomas. As he waits, dressed in a cunning disguise as a hobo, he is arrested by two gendarmes. Despite Juve’s protests, he is taken back to the station. (Interesting note, that a similar thing happens to Peter Seller’s Inspector Clouseau in the second Pink Panther movie, A Shot In The Dark, but as both movies were released in 1964 and only a few months apart, on different sides of the world, I doubt that there is any plagiarism on anyone’s behalf).

Meanwhile upstairs in his appartment, Fandor receives a telephone call saying that Fantomas is sending a car and will pick him up in five minutes. Fandor thinks it is a prank call and hangs up. He has barely put the phone back in it’s cradle, when an arm appears behind his chair holding a blackjack. Fandor doesn’t see it, and is bopped on the head and passes out.

Understandably he wakes up confused, in a cavernous underground lair, with high arched ceilings, a pipe organ (all super villains must have one), statues and other objets d’art. And then through an elevator door, Fantomas emerges (also played by Jean Marais). Fantomas appears wearing a surreal featureless blue mask.

Fantomas isn’t happy about the article that Fandor wrote. It made him look foolish. As recompense Fantomas orders Fandor to write another article admitting that the previous story was a concoction. It also has to paint Fantomas in a flattering light (or at least flattering to Fantomas’ own perception of himself). If Fantomas isn’t happy with the article, he will make sure that Fandor dies a slow agonising death. Fantomas then seals the deal by branding Fandor’s chest with an “F”. The journalist has 48 hours to complete his mission.

When Fandor awakens he is back in his appartment, and Hélène is banging on the door. He let’s her in, and recounts his encounter. Meanwhile Commissioner Juve isn’t too chuffed about having spent a night in the drunk tank, and he immediately heads to Fandor’s apartment to arrest him for being Fantomas’ accomplice. Fandor tells Juve the truth, but the dimwitted Commissioner does not believe him, and holds him in jail for 48 hours. Naturally while he is in jail, Fandor cannot write the article to appease Fantomas.

Once Fandor is released from jail, Fantomas has him kidnapped once again, and brought down to the underground lair.. But this time, Fandor is being held as a prisoner. In his place, Fantomas will go out into the world and commit crimes as Fandor. Fantomas rips off his blue mask to reveal Fandor’s visage. You see this is Fantomas’ talent. He is a man of a thousand faces because he has perfected a way to make lifelike artificial skin. With this, he can make himself up to look like anybody. In this instance, it’s Fandor. Fantomas intends to go a crime spree which the whole world will attribute to Fandor.

Fantomas is one wild film, and it is extremely enjoyable, especially when the Fantomas character is on the screen. With his featureless mask, he is slightly disturbing, which is exactly how a villain should be. For me the weakness in the film is Louis De Funes’ character, Juve. He is too much of a buffoon. Early I compared the film to the Pink Panther series – this is only the sequences with Juve. The rest of the film is colourful and always interesting, with great set pieces, and plot twists and turns. Outlining them all would ruin the fun, but the extended chase scene at the end bears special mention, where Fantomas uses a train, a car, a motorbike, a boat, and finally a submarine to make his escape.

Fantomas (1964)