Le Doulos

LeDoulosLike any film fanatic I have a huge mountain of films that I need to watch. I have a stack of Spaghetti Westerns that I haven’t even gotten close to, along with piles of Eurocrime, Eurospy and Eurosleaze films that are all crying out to be reviewed. I try, but a man can only squeeze so much into a day – and I have to squeeze a full days work into my hectic schedule too. Day after day, it’s only natural that I should feel jaded – a tad worn out.

But then along comes a film like Le Doulos. It is the perfect tonic for the jaded film goer. It has revitalised me. It has made me enjoy cinema again – not that I was hating it – but sometimes it’s easy to forget the joy of a great film particularly if you aren’t expecting it.

Over the years everyone has told me that I must watch the films of Jean-Pierre Melville. I was told that Tarantino said ‘Melville did for the Crime film what Leone did for the Western’. So I watched some Melville. Le Cercle Rouge – hey it’s a good film, but there’s nothing in it that I hadn’t seen in Riffifi. Next Le Samurai – again a good film, but a bit detached. While both these films are good, I was starting to think that Melville was over-rated. At times I think some people see a French movie and ‘have to’ like it, because it’s art.

So with a belief that Melville is over-rated, I tentatively started Le Doulos. I’ll admit that I was enjoying it from the beginning, but by the 25 minute mark, I was hooked. Sure it’s a noir style crime story, that I have seen one hundred times before, but this one grabs you by the scruff of the neck, gives you a good shake, and then throws you down onto the rug. And just as you’re getting settled on the rug, it rips that right out from under you, with one of the best endings to a movie that I have ever seen.

You may notice, I am not writing any of my usual plot description. I do not want to spoil any of the surprises this film has in store. They say writing a review for a good film, is a lot harder than writing one for a bad film. In that case, this may well be one of my shortest reviews.

I’ll briefly mention that Serge Reggiani plays Maurice Faugel, a career criminal who has just been released from jail after a four year stint. His best friend is Silien, played by Jean-Paul Belmondo. Silien is a two-bit gangster and police informer.

Now if you love crime films and you’re fond of French cinema, then I beseech you to track down a copy of this film and watch it. I want to ‘infect’ as many people as I can with this film’s brilliance. Watch it, enjoy it, then drop me a line with your thoughts.

Le Doulos

Hunter Will Get You (1976)

Country: France
Director: Philipe Labro
Starring: Jean-Paul Belmondo, Bruno Cremer, Jean Negroni, Patrick Fierry, Jean-Pierre Jorris, Victor Garrivier
Music: Michel Columbier
Original Title: L’Alpagueur

One of the first movies I ever ordered from France, was L’Apagueur starring Jean-Paul Belmondo. I was going through a Belmondo phase at the time and wanted to get hold of as many of his films as I could. However, I don’t speak French. But the Audio on the DVD was described as Francais et Anglais en Mono D’Origne. I figured that meant it had French or English audio tracks. It actually meant it had the original French soundtrack, with a small amount of English dialogue in it. Not much at all. I watched it, but understood very little, as it has multiple story threads happening at once. Sure, they collide at the end, but by then, I was well and truly lost.

The good news is, and it’s been out for quite a while now, L’Alpagueur is available in English, as Hunter Will Get You. The film is not a spy film, nor is a police film. It exists in that nether world in between. Belmondo plays, Roger Pilard, the ‘Alpagueur’ – or the ‘Predator’ in the English dub, and he hunts criminals who operate above the law. He is a mercenary, who does what the police are unable to do – for a price, of course.

The film opens early in the morning in Rotterdam, near the port. Some kind of sting is about to go down. The Predator, and his team are assembled, watching and waiting. Out of a water-side restaurant, three men exit carrying a briefcase full of money. The Predator’s team swoops. However, Pilard does not. He keeps watching and sees a pregnant lady exit the restaurant a few seconds later. He rushes after her, and starts kneeing her in the stomach. As you’ve guessed, she is not really pregnant. The kicks, knock free a padded pillow which had been strapped to her stomach. It falls from her skirt to the ground. He picks it up, and cuts it open, and inside is a shipment of heroin. Chalk one up for the Predator.

The organized crime syndicate behind the drug shipment of ‘H’ are very unhappy with Pilard, and set about finding out who he is (as nobody knows his true identity), and ultimately putting him out of business – and this becomes more prevalent as the story moves along.

While the crime syndicate is working on that, Pilard moves on to his next assignment – which is to shut down an illegal gambling operation. With fake eyebrows and a mustache, Pilard poses as an insurance agent named Roget, and within no time, he has routed out the bad guys.

Meanwhile, in Paris, in a pinball parlor, a juvenile delinquent named Costa Valdes (Patrick Fierry) is trying to rip the money tray out of one of the machines. He is observed by a violent criminal known as the ‘Epervier’ – the ‘Hawk’ in the English dub (played by Bruno Cremer). The Hawk recruit Valdes to assist in a robbery (for the tidy sum of $1000).

On the Hawk’s instruction, Valdes, armed with a pistol, walks into a jewelery store to rob it. The store owner hits the alarm switch. Hawk enters dressed as a policeman. Initially, Valdes in relieved, believing it is a great scheme employed by the Hawk. That is, until the Hawk shoots the store owner in cold blood. Then he draws a bead on Valdes. Hawk fires, hitting Valdes in the arm. He is about to finish him off, when two real policemen enter the store. Hawk turns and guns them down. Then he flees, leaving Valdes alive – the only man able to identify the maniac criminal.

Valdes is sent to prison, but he refuses to rat on Hawk – leaving the authorities once again, without a lead on Hawk’s identity.

After Pilard has taken care of the gambling operation, his next mission is to catch Hawk. With the only lead being Valdes, Pilard is given a fake identity and arranges to be sent to prison, and to share a cell with Valdes.

Unbeknownst to Pilard, the prison officials are corrupt, and this puts him on a collision course with the aforementioned crime syndicate – and ultimately leading to a showdown with Hawk.

Hunter Will Get You is an entertaining slice of 1970’s crime action. It’s not a masterpiece, by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a good solid thriller with good performances by Belmondo and Cremer. As a way of lazy comparison, this is the type of movie Charles Bronson made in the ’70s – which to your way of thinking, may be a plus, or a minus (I don’t think Bronson made crap until the ’80s, so, to be it’s a big plus). There’s a hint of vigilante to Belmondo’s character, Pilard. For the first two assignments, he takes a hefty fee. But when he is assigned to Hawk, he refuses to be paid, as Hawk is such a menace to society. In Pilard’s quest, laws are not really applicable – he’ll do what ever is required (so I guess he’s some kind of government sanctioned vigilante).

If you like Belmondo, or seventies action thrillers, this is worth a look.

Hunter Will Get You (1976)

Le Guignolo (1980)

Country: France / Italy
Director:
Georges Lautner
Starring: Jean-Paul Belmondo, Mirella D’Angelo, Michel Galabru, Carla Romanelli, Tony Kendall
Music: Philippe Sarde

Sorry folks, this is gonna be a half-assed review because I don’t speak French and I haven’t been able to find a copy of Le Guignolo which has English subtitles. But I don’t let little things like language barriers get in the way of a good film. Is it a good film? I think so, even without translation I found myself laughing in all the right places, so I’d suggest that’s a sign of a decent night’s entertainment, especially if you understand the lingo.

Le Guignolo is one of those hybrid films which is part caper and partly spy. Jean-Paul Belmondo plays Alexandre Dupré, a confidence trickster and thief. As the film opens, we find him on the balcony of a lavish mansion. Using a glass cutter, he cuts a hole in the glass of the French doors and lets himself in. He scours the place examining all the artwork. He selects one painting and proceeds to cut it from it’s frame. As he is working, a light flicks on and the lady of the house catches him in the act. But rather than fleeing the scene, Dupré seduces her.

Next we see Dupré returning to prison. It appears he was only on day leave, acclimatising for his imminent release. Once he is released though, he sets about work on a big scam. When we next see Dupré he is wearing a jewelled turban on board an ocean liner bound for Morocco. He is pretending to be a wealthy Sheik or Maharaja. After sizing up the passengers, Dupré selects his target. Her name is Sophie, and she appears to be a Princess. I only assume this, because she always wears a diamond encrusted tiara.

Over the next few days, Dupré wines, dines and romances Sophie. On the last night before they make port, Sophie receives a distressing Telegram. My lack of French stops me from understanding the message, but somehow it appears that Sophie has lost all her money. She is upset and distressed. Dupré kindly offers to help her out, by buying her jewellery. They meet in her cabin. Dupré hands over a suitcase full of cash, and Sophie hands over her jewels.

Back in his cabin, Dupré is excited by his haul. He didn’t really give Sophie a mountain of cash. It was all fake. Now he has the jewels, he takes off his disguise and prepares to disembark the ship with his booty. But upon closer examination of the Tiara, Dupré finds it to be fake. It isn’t encrusted with diamonds but glass. In a rage he storms back to Sophie’s cabin.

Meanwhile, Sophie has gone through Duprés suitcase full of cash, and discovered that it is fake. In a rage she storms to Dupré’s cabin. It appears that Sophie isn’t a Princess but a confidence trickster who was looking to latch onto a wealthy passenger on the voyage and rip him off. It appears that they have been working the same scam.

Sophie and Dupré meet in the middle of the deck and laugh about it all. They decide to join forces on the next big scam. Their next scam appears to be a bit more convoluted. It involves a German Count, and Sophie (who is now calling herself Pamela) plays out the same routine. But this also involves Dupré as a jealous lover who attempts to hang himself. The ruse almost works. Sophie gets the cheque from the Count, but when Dupré goes to hang himself, nobody comes to the rescue. He is stuck swaying from the chandelier. His saving grace is the roof gives out, and Dupré and the chandelier come crashing down to the floor. After this failure, Dupré and Sophie decide to go their separate ways.

Next Dupré catches a plane to Venice. On the flight he is approached by a gentleman carrying a briefcase. He asks Dupré to carry the case through customs. Dupré agrees. What Dupré doesn’t realise is that he has been set up to carry the briefcase. The man has a Polaroid photo of Dupré is his pocket (which later will become incriminating evidence). And inside the briefcase, hidden in the bottom of a cigarette lighter is a microfilm. Upon arrival in Venice, Dupré carries the case through. Waiting on the other side is the man who gave it to him. While waiting, he is shot by an unseen assailant. When Dupré arrives to return the case, he finds a crowd of onlookers and the police. He doesn’t want to be involved, so he catches a water-taxi to his hotel. On route, a sniper shoots the driver of the taxi and Dupré’s boat races wildly through the canals of Venice with no-one at the helm.

Of course, this is just the start of the spy-jinks as Dupré is chased by all sides, and he is not sure why. Le Guignolo appears to be great deal of fun. If your a hard-core Belmondo fan, despite the lack of subtitles, the story isn’t too hard to follow. We’ve all seen this type of thing before, but it is a pleasure to see Belmondo doing light comedy. And there is enough action and stunts (though not as many as the normal Belmondo film) to keep most people happy.

Le Guignolo (1980)

The Burglars (1971)

Director: Henri Vernuil
Starring: Jean-Paul Belmondo, Omar Sharif, Dyan Cannon, Robert Hossein, Renato Salvatori, Nicole Calfan
Music: Ennio Morricone – conducted by Bruno Nicolai
Based on the novel by David Goodis

This Euro-heist caper, set in Greece and directed by Henri Verneuil, is a bit different to most. Rather than building up to the perfect robbery, the film starts with the heist, then spends the rest of it’s running time, seeing if the criminals can get away with the loot.

Three men and a woman; Azad (Belmondo), Ralph (Robert Hossein), Renzi (Renato Salvatori) and Helene (Nicole Calfan), drive up to a stately home in an un-named Greek city. Ralph and Renzi get out of the car and put stockings over their heads. They go to the front door of the caretakers quarters and ring the doorbell. When the caretaker answers, he is knocked to the ground then tied and gagged. They then signal for Azad to go to the main house. He does and makes quick work of the front door. Inside there are priceless works of art adorning the rooms. Azad ignores them and heads straight to the safe. He puts on his gloves and goes to work. Joined by Ralph (Renzi and Helene keep watch out side), a x-ray machine is used to work out the model number on the inside workings of the safe’s door. Azad looks up the details in a safe guide book (must be very handy for all safe crackers). He finds another series of numbers. At this point, Azad, opens a suitcase he has been toting along with him. Inside is like a little computer. He enters these numbers and he is directed to a key shape. He then selects the base key from a series he has pre-prepared. Then this computer, sort of becomes a key-cutting device, and shapes this key into one which will fit this particular make and model of safe. It’s all rather hi-tech and hard to put in words, but it is impressive. So now Azad has a key, but he still doesn’t have the combination to the four tumblers on the door.

Meanwhile, driving by is police detective Abel Zacharia (Omar Sharif). He notices Azad’s car parked out the front, and stops to investigate. As he snoops around, the bound and gagged caretaker tries to make as much noise as possible. Rocking his chair, he crashes into a fish bowl that smashes loudly on the floor. By now Zacharia’s suspicions are heightened. But before he can move in to the house, Azad scoots around the back to his car. Zacharia notices and comes across to question him, forgetting about the noise inside. Azad gives Zacharia a cock ’n’ bull story about his car breaking down. Zacharia trusts him for now, and goes about his business.

Azad returns to the safe, and using a listening device attached to his computer / cutter / suitcase, he cracks the tumblers and the safe. Inside there is a large amount of money and bonds, but Azad only takes one million dollars worth of emeralds. The heist is beautifully staged in its intricacy and precision. Azad and crew have made their score, now they have to get out of town. But this has been pre-arranged. They have made a deal with the captain of the ship, the Arax, to take them (and the emeralds) from the country, no questions asked. Unfortunately the ship has suffered hull damage as it came into port. It will be another five days before it leaves.

Azad and crew decide to wait it out and head their separate ways in the meantime. After Azad has dropped Helene off at the train station he notices he is being followed by somebody in a beaten up, dirty little car. In traffic, Azad tries to lose the unseen, gloved driver, but this driver is well up to the task and doggedly stays on Azad’s tail as the cars race around the streets, down steps, through tunnels, and basically on any surface a car can travel. It’s a great sequence.

As you’ve no doubt guessed, Zacharia isn’t quite as he seems. Actually he is, but he’s a little bit more too. He is a cop, but one who is looking to raise his lifestyle and willing to blackmail a few people on the way. Sharif appears to be having a great time, especially when eating, drinking and shooting.

Dyan Cannon’s role is little more than a cameo. She plays a glamorous photographic model that Azad picks up in a bar. Sure, there’s a twist, but there’s no real attempt by the film-makers to conceal it, so you won’t be guessing long.

This film has a series of amazing scenes that on their own are quite okay, but as a cohesive film they don’t link too well. The heist at the beginning is well staged, and carried out virtually without dialogue, but after Jules Dassin’s Riffifi, I guess all good heists have to be carried out that way. This is followed up by the fantastic car chase that I mentioned earlier in the review. When you review a car chase, it inevitably gets compared to the ones in Bullitt or The French Connection. Unlike many others, this is actually worthy of the comparison. It won’t surprise many people that it was put together by French driving legend, Rémy Julienne. Later in the film, there’s an interesting musical interlude at a strip club; some drunken target practice in a toy factory; and finally Belmondo shows us an interesting new technique for catching buses. All these sequences are good. But the film as a whole just doesn’t add up to quality of its disparate parts.

The Burglars isn’t a bad film, but it has dated. In the early seventies, the story may not have mattered so much. It was about style, and this film has early seventies jet-setting style to burn. But now with the world virtually at out fingertips, style isn’t so important. We want a story and characters that are engaging, and this film just falls short of the mark.

Belmondo catches the bus – from The Burglars – uploaded by sheriff85

The Burglars (1971)

Le Doulos

Film GenericLike any film fanatic I have a huge mountain of films that I need to watch. I have a stack of Spaghetti Westerns that I haven’t even gotten close to, along with piles of Eurocrime, Eurospy and Eurosleaze films that are all crying out to be reviewed. I try, but a man can only squeeze so much into a day – and I have to squeeze a full days work into my hectic schedule too. Day after day, it’s only natural that I should feel jaded – a tad worn out.

But then along comes a film like Le Doulos. It is the perfect tonic for the jaded film goer. It has revitalised me. It has made me enjoy cinema again – not that I was hating it – but sometimes it’s easy to forget the joy of a great film particularly if you aren’t expecting it.

Over the years everyone has told me that I must watch the films of Jean-Pierre Melville. I was told that Tarantino said ‘Melville did for the Crime film what Leone did for the Western’. So I watched some Melville. Le Cercle Rouge – hey it’s a good film, but there’s nothing in it that I hadn’t seen in Riffifi. Next Le Samurai – again a good film, but a bit detached. While both these films are good, I was starting to think that Melville was over-rated. At times I think some people see a French movie and ‘have to’ like it, because it’s art.

So with a belief that Melville is over-rated, I tentatively started Le Doulos. I’ll admit that I was enjoying it from the beginning, but by the 25 minute mark, I was hooked. Sure it’s a noir style crime story, that I have seen one hundred times before, but this one grabs you by the scruff of the neck, gives you a good shake, and then throws you down onto the rug. And just as you’re getting settled on the rug, it rips that right out from under you, with one of the best endings to a movie that I have ever seen.

You may notice, I am not writing any of my usual plot description. I do not want to spoil any of the surprises this film has in store. They say writing a review for a good film, is a lot harder than writing one for a bad film. In that case, this may well be one of my shortest reviews.

I’ll briefly mention that Serge Reggiani plays Maurice Faugel, a career criminal who has just been released from jail after a four year stint. His best friend is Silien, played by Jean-Paul Belmondo. Silien is a two-bit gangster and police informer.

Now if you love crime films and you’re fond of French cinema, then I beseech you to track down a copy of this film and watch it. I want to ‘infect’ as many people as I can with this film’s brilliance. Watch it, enjoy it, then drop me a line with your thoughts.

Le Doulos

Le Professionnel (1981)


Directed by Georges Lautner
Jean Paul Belmondo, Jean Desailly, Robert Hossein, Jean-Louis Richard, Cyrielle Claire, Michel Beaune, Elisabeth Margoni, Marie-Christine Descouard
Music by Ennio Morricone

Le Professionnel is a good old fashioned adventure spy flick. Well, it starts as an adventure, then it turns into a revenge flick, but either way it is still very entertaining, and buoyed by the presence of Jean Paul Belmondo who stars as ‘The Professional’ of the title. Belmondo play Joss Beaumont who is one of the French Secret Services best operatives. He has been trained to the highest level in weapons and tactics. He has been taught to live off his wits and not rely on backup from other agents or gadgets. But as this film opens, a mission has gone wrong. Beaumont is in the ficticious African country of Malagawi, and he is standing in the docks in a court of law. Beaumont has been accused of the attempted assassination of the leader of Malagawi, President N’jala. In the courtroom, Beaumont admits to the assassination charge. He also admits that he was working alone, and not coerced by any political power. During the proceedings though, Beaumont collapses. Court is adjourned and Beaumont is shuffled into a side room. Here he is held down and injected with a magic potion. The potion makes Beaumont compliant to his captors will. Court is readjourned and Beaumont admits to all crimes against the country, and admits that the full penalty of the law should apply in his case.

Beaumont is convicted an sent to a primitive African prison where he is tortured and treated as a slave. During his two years of incarceration, Beaumont befriends a native prisoner, and they formulate a plan to escape – it’s the one where one man pretends to have stomach cramps etc…I am sure you’ve seen it before. Their ploy works and the two men escape and head to the village where the African prisoner came from. Unfortunately the Malagawi army is on their tail and follows them to the village. The soldiers shoot up and burn the village. Beaumont’s companion is shot during the insurgence, but Beaumont, armed with a sniper’s rifle, shoots a few key soldiers and during the confusion he manages to escape.

The film then moves to Paris – we know this because of the aerial shots of the Eiffel Tower. Back on his home turf, Beaumont announces his return to France by sending his superiors at the French Secret Service a telegram. The telegram is in a code that has not been used for over two years, and takes a while to decipher. Once they do, the heads of the Secret Service and the government are in for a shock…

You see, two years ago, Beaumont was sent to assassinate President N’Jala – that much is true. But he did it on the orders of his superiors in the French Secret Service, who in turn were following orders from the French Foreign Minister. But by the time Beaumont had arrived in Africa, the situation, politically, had changed. President N’Jala was now an ally and the need for his death was no longer warranted. But the Secret Service chose not to abort the mission. Instead they sold out Beaumont to N’Jala’s Secret Police.

Now Beaumont is back, and his telegram states that he is going to go through with his original mission – kill President N’Jala. Coincidently, N’Jala is going to be in Paris over the next three days, involved in some diplomatic discussions. This gives Beaumont plenty of time to carry out his mission, and provide plenty of headaches for the Secret Service.

One of the many headaches, on top of protecting the President of a foreign nation from assassination by a highly trained operative, is that Beaumont may go to the press and release details of his original mission and his subsequent betrayal. The truth would cause the government quite a great deal of embarrassment.

Ultimately there is only one option that can be employed by the government and the Secret Service; and that is to silence Joss Beaumont permanently. The man selected to do this is the sadistic Rosen (Robert Hossein), who get’s off on hurting people. In his attempts to capture Beaumont, he manipulates and abuses those that Beaumont still has a connection wife, such as his wife, Jeanne (Elisabeth Margoni) and his oldest friend, Valeras (Michel Beaune). This begins a cat and mouse game between Beaumont and Rosen which dominates much of the film.

Le Professionnel is professionally made entertainment. Despite the quasi-political nature of the story, the film isn’t too deep. The plot machinations are simply to showcase Belmondo’s brand of death defying mayhem. As usual, Belmondo does most of his own stunts, and while they aren’t as outrageous as some of his other films, he still gets to climb about on the ledges on building and participate in a high speed car chase through the streets of Paris.

Le Professionnel (1981)