Marcel Lévesque

Judex (1916, Louis Feuillade)

The first chapter of Judex doesn’t get a chapter title; it’s just the prologue. While the action in the prologue leads directly into the action of the first chapter, throwing young, wealthy widow Yvette Andréyor into despair (financial and emotional), the first titled chapter ends up having less to do with where Judex is going to go than almost any other chapter. It’s like the serial has two prologues. The first focuses on dispicable banker Louis Leubas, the second on how his being dispicable affects his daughter, Andréyor.

And in the background is the mysterious “Judex,” who threatens Leubas to give up half his fortune to atone for his previous sins. The serial introduces one of those sins in the prologue–poor Gaston Michel. Michel was a miller who lost it all because of Leubas’s bad financial practices; he turned to crime and went to prison. His wife died while he was inside and his son disappeared. Just out of prison, he visits Leubas, asking for help in finding his son. Leubas sends him off. Then has his driver run him over.

Michel’s not dead, which isn’t clear until the second episode (maybe third). But Leubas is a bad guy. Always has been. His additional wealth and respectability haven’t changed him. In fact, one of Judex’s many, glorious subplots involves Leubas’s history.

Because the most compelling thing about Judex isn’t René Cresté’s ostensibly dark avenger, it’s the things going on in the story around it. Judex doesn’t actually need Judex to be compelling. It needs Cresté, sure, but Cresté’s time in the black cape and hat are somewhat limited. Very limited as the story progresses and he discovers he has to be present for Andréyor not just as a protector, but as a man. He’s in love. Desperately.

Oh, yeah, there’s the complication. Cresté can’t carry out his family’s revenge on Leubas because he’s fallen for Andréyor. There are a lot of other complications, like Musidora, who’s first after Leubas’s money, then after Andréyor’s. Musidora has a couple partners in the film, main guy Jean Devalde (who has a secret, but important, past) and then Andréyor’s former fiance, Georges Flateau. Flateau dumps Andréyor after she loses her fortune. But then once there’s a chance to recover some of it, he gradutes from mercenary marriage to kidnapping and attempted murder.

Musidora doesn’t have much in the way of redeemable traits (none, really), but she still manages to be a lot more likable than Flateau. Or Devalde. Because Musidora’s pretty smart, especially compared to Cresté, who seemingly has come up with his one plan, executed it, said he can do more, but really isn’t prepared. He’s got an awesome pack of dogs who can track kidnapping victims and knock down bad guys, but they’re only good for so much. When it comes to kidnapping victims in high places, for example, Cresté’s got to find a kid he can put in danger to help get the job done.

The kid is often René Poyen. He’s one of Judex’s truer heroes. He befriends Andréyor’s son, Olinda Mano, who she’s had to give up while she lives in poverty as a piano teacher. Andréyor’s plans don’t make a lot of sense, but seeing as how she can’t make it two chapters without people wanting to kidnap her, it also makes sense she can’t get them figured out.

For much of the serial, Andréyor is a damsel in distress. At least three major times. Sometimes Cresté rescues her, sometimes someone else rescues her. After her turn as the main target of Musidora and company, their attention goes to Mano, presumably because a kid is easier to grab. Musidora is able to track Andréyor and Mano because Cresté is terrible at planning.

Just as many times as Andréyor’s in danger–maybe more–Cresté and company (usually Édouard Mathé as his brother, though eventually Michel joins the team) screw something up. They operate on a strict forgive and forget policy. So even though goofy and adorable private investigator Marcel Lévesque at one point works with Musidora, helping set up on an attempt on Andréyor’s life no less, team Judex is okay with him once he comes around.

It bits them in the ass with one of the other characters, who isn’t as goofy, adorable, or honorable as Lévesque turns out to be. Lévesque also has a great subplot with Poyen.

Is Cresté more effective as the lovestruck suitor who just happens to be holding his desired’s father in captivity under strick orders from his mother to execute the man? Well, sure. It’s hard to imagine how Cresté was even able to set his plan in motion in the first place (offscreen in the prologue and before). He must have gotten a lot of pep talks from Mathé, whose role on Team Judex is split between logistics, babysitting, and pep talks. Whenever it’s time for action, Cresté perks up from his romantic melancholia, but otherwise Mathé’s doing most of the work.

And Cresté’s efforts as a hero are never quite as dynamic as some of the other heroisms on display. Poyen really comes through, a street urchin with a heart of gold, a solid work ethic, and the right temperment to protect pal Mano. There’s also the tragically uncreditted Lily Deligny, who shows up sort of as a deux es machina in the end chapters. She’s a swimmer. It’s important because Cresté and his family are guarding Andréyor on their estate on the Mediterreanan. There Cresté hopes to make Andréyor fall in love with him, even though he’s running two big deceptions on her, not to mention having her mentally incapacitated father on a nearby estate. Team Judex can’t figure out what to do with him since they aren’t going to kill him. Judex mare, Yvonne Dario, eventually comes up with a solution, which works because it’s a serial, but the film major cops out on the dramatic ramifications (and possibilites) of that solution.

While there’s a lot of danger in Judex, there’s not a lot of death. Neither Musidora or Devalde want to actually kill anyone. They keep trying to get someone else to do it–their plans for Andréyor are always extremely long game, like get her sick and then deny her medical treatment so she dies from exposure–they can never do it themselves. The serial, thanks to the performances and Feuillade, never feels like it isn’t dangerous. At least, not when Musidora is involved. Some of the other characters you know aren’t going to be too dangerous.

The chapters vary in length. Thirty-five minutes down to nine. The prologue’s long, the epilogue’s very, very short. They mostly move well. After the halfway point–the seventh chapter, when mama Judex Dario gets introduced–there’s not a lot of time for anything but action. Until that point, there’s a lot more with the emotionality of the characters. Cresté just mopes, but everyone else has visualized internal emotions. Those sequences are some of Feuillade’s flashier filmmaking. He also really likes the ruins where Cresté has the Judex cave.

Because it turns out, although Cresté wants Leubas to atone for his financial crimes in general, Leubas didn’t financially ruin Cresté’s family. They’re rich as all hell. He’s a self-funded adventurer, after all. The serial starts being very anti-capitalist, it ends being blah on capitalism (imagine being so poor you have to work, even if you’re a wealthy banker) and big on blue blood. It actually explains a lot about Cresté’s actions. He and Mathé are just playing.

But it doesn’t matter because Musidora’s dangerous and Cresté’s comprised. Even if they’re foppish heroes, they’re the heroes just the same.

The best performances are Lévesque and Poyen. Musidora’s quite good. Andréyor’s good, but better when she’s the damsel in distress than Cresté’s ward (whether she knows he’s her guardian or not). Her character development pretty much stops once she gets Dano back (and gets to be rich again).

Devalde’s good. His character arc throughout is a little disappointing. Feuillade and co-writer Arthur Bernède go out of their way to be sympathetic to just about everyone except Devalde. Dario’s good. Especially considering she’s in a bunch of old age makeup.

And Cresté’s all right. Once he gets to just be a fool in love–around Andréyor, not from afar (or in disguise)–he gets a lot better.

Musidora’s threats and plots serve for good inciting actions, but the character development because of those experiences is what makes Judex work. It’s the drama surrounding the characters, not the action. Because while Musidora’s good at the action, Cresté’s not. He’s just not on the ball. Once he uses up the dog trick, he’s got nothing. Well, nothing but money, as it turns out.

Feuillade’s direction is good. He has some rather jarring jump cuts the first few chapters, but they go away. He seems more comfortable shooting the South of France scenes. They’re not as visually dynamic as the stuff around the Judex Cave (it’s underneath ancient ruins), but the characters have enough room in luxury. And together. So much of Judex is just about making sure a reuniting sticks.

It’s a good serial. Very rarely boring, usually quite the opposite. You get to miss the characters by the end–when there are just too many for everyone’s subplot to get attention each chapter. Though Judex does sort of leave Mathé behind once Dario shows up. It doesn’t seem fair since he’s been keeping Cresté on task for the first half of the serial.

Judex works out though. Because–not in spite of–Cresté being a big softie under all his dashing, dark avenger trappings. The same thing is true of the serial itself. Feuillade’s embracing of sentimentality and emotional sincerity is what makes the serial so special.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Louis Feuillade; written by Arthur Bernède and Feuillade; directors of photography, André Glatti and Léon Klausse; production designer, Robert-Jules Garnier; released by Gaumont.

Starring René Cresté (Judex), Yvette Andréyor (Jacqueline Aubry), Musidora (Diana Monti), Louis Leubas (Favraux), Marcel Lévesque (Cocantin), Jean Devalde (Robert Moralés), Édouard Mathé (Roger de Tremeuse), Olinda Mano (Jean), René Poyen (The Licorice Kid), Gaston Michel (Pierre Kerjean), Lily Deligny (Miss Daisy Torp), Juliette Clarens (Gisèle), Georges Flateau (Vicomte de la Rochefontaine), and Yvonne Dario (Comtesse de Tremeuse).


Judex (1916, Louis Feuillade), Epilogue

Judex’s epilogue further wraps things up for the cast. There’s some definite resolution for young René Poyen as far as his living situation, some humor with Marcel Lévesque, and some humility from Louis Leubas.

René Cresté and Yvette Andréyor get a romantic send-off, with Cresté finally able to wear something nicer than his Judex costume.

The rest of the cast has their moment too, but Feuillade focuses on Leubas–at least in terms of giving the actor material. More than anyone else, it’s his story. Though living a wealthy recluse in a pastoral setting might not be the punishment the serial initially suggested for him.

It’s a good finish for the serial. Though it’d have been nice for Poyen and Olinda Mano to get something to do; Poyen’s support for Lévesque while Mano just pops in to remind the one loser in Judex–Gaston Michel–how cute he can be.

CREDITS

Directed by Louis Feuillade; written by Arthur Bernède and Feuillade; directors of photography, André Glatti and Léon Klausse; production designer, Robert-Jules Garnier; released by Gaumont.

Starring René Cresté (Judex), Yvette Andréyor (Jacqueline Aubry), Musidora (Diana Monti), Louis Leubas (Favraux), Marcel Lévesque (Cocantin), Jean Devalde (Robert Moralés), Édouard Mathé (Roger de Tremeuse), Olinda Mano (Jean), René Poyen (The Licorice Kid), Gaston Michel (Pierre Kerjean), Lily Deligny (Miss Daisy Torp), Juliette Clarens (Gisèle), Georges Flateau (Vicomte de la Rochefontaine), and Yvonne Dario (Comtesse de Tremeuse).


Judex (1916, Louis Feuillade), Episode 12: Love’s Forgiveness

The title of the episode is Love’s Forgiveness so there’s not much in the way of surprises.

René Cresté risks it all by reuniting Yvette Andréyor with father Louis Leubas, then discovers mom Yvonne Dario has already told Andréyor all and she–Andréyor–is in love with him–Cresté. The multiple deceptions and whatnot don’t bother her.

There’s the cute moment when René Poyen meets Marcel Lévesque’s girlfriend, Lily Deligny, but not as cute as it could be.

And Judex does provide some resolution to Musidora, though only barely. Poor Gaston Michel gets to finish the episode, the only person who isn’t happy.

Even though Forgiveness resolves all of the outstanding plot threads and problems, it doesn’t really feel like much of an ending. Michel’s finale–and Michel is the one who started Judex in many ways–doesn’t do much to connect to the front. Except in terms of showcasing his continual loses.

There’s still the epilogue for Feuillade to further wrap things up, but it seems like this episode could’ve easily been combined with the previous one. Yes, it’s the final resolution for the open subplots, but there’s literally nothing else to it.

CREDITS

Directed by Louis Feuillade; written by Arthur Bernède and Feuillade; directors of photography, André Glatti and Léon Klausse; production designer, Robert-Jules Garnier; released by Gaumont.

Starring René Cresté (Judex), Yvette Andréyor (Jacqueline Aubry), Musidora (Diana Monti), Louis Leubas (Favraux), Marcel Lévesque (Cocantin), Jean Devalde (Robert Moralés), Édouard Mathé (Roger de Tremeuse), Olinda Mano (Jean), René Poyen (The Licorice Kid), Gaston Michel (Pierre Kerjean), Lily Deligny (Miss Daisy Torp), Juliette Clarens (Gisèle), Georges Flateau (Vicomte de la Rochefontaine), and Yvonne Dario (Comtesse de Tremeuse).


Judex (1916, Louis Feuillade), Episode 11: The Water Goddess

So while Yvonne Dario is still consoling Yvette Andréyor about deceiving her–again, it’s not clear how much of the blame Dario takes on herself, which should be a lot since she made René Cresté vow to kill Andréyor’s father–Cresté goes off to save Andréyor’s father. On the way, he meets up with his brother, Édouard Mathé, who managed to get out of the house without raising Andréyor’s suspicions. Mathé tries to give Cresté a pistol but Cresté doesn’t need one.

What he does need is to pay some attention. At the meeting spot, Musidora sneaks up on Cresté. She’s on a boat. He doesn’t see a boat. Nearby, Marcel Lévesque and his girlfriend, Lily Deligny, see the boat. Which is good, because Deligny has to go save Cresté after he gets taken prisoner because he’s not good at planning. At all.

Deligny is the titular Water Goddess and, along with René Poyen, one of Judex’s real heroes.

It’s a fairly action-packed chapter. Not particularly suspenseful, as director Feuillade draws more attention to the melodramatic possibilities–but still action-packed. It’s good Judex has established Cresté as unable to think about anything else when he’s got Andréyor on his mind, because he forgets about Deligny. He also forgets about the guy he gets killed. He’s preoccupied. He’s convinced Louis Leubas (as Andréyor’s father) there might be a happy ending for all.

Except the dead people.

Lévesque’s got some adorable physical comedy and Goddess is paced well. It just further reveals, presumably unintentionally, Cresté to be more a feckless blue blood than determined vigilante.

One episode to go. Then the epilogue.

CREDITS

Directed by Louis Feuillade; written by Arthur Bernède and Feuillade; directors of photography, André Glatti and Léon Klausse; production designer, Robert-Jules Garnier; released by Gaumont.

Starring René Cresté (Judex), Yvette Andréyor (Jacqueline Aubry), Musidora (Diana Monti), Louis Leubas (Favraux), Marcel Lévesque (Cocantin), Jean Devalde (Robert Moralés), Édouard Mathé (Roger de Tremeuse), Olinda Mano (Jean), René Poyen (The Licorice Kid), Gaston Michel (Pierre Kerjean), Lily Deligny (Miss Daisy Torp), Juliette Clarens (Gisèle), Georges Flateau (Vicomte de la Rochefontaine), and Yvonne Dario (Comtesse de Tremeuse).


Judex (1916, Louis Feuillade), Episode 10: Jacqueline’s Heart

Jacqueline’s Heart is a very short episode. Nine minutes or so. And nothing much happens except René Cresté plays fast and loose with his multiple identities and Yvette Andréyor finds his make-up kit. Overhearing Andréyor wish his sweet old man persona would show up, Cresté obliges.

A note from Andréyor’s father–no longer imprisoned (at least not by Cresté)–arrives and beckons her to a mysterious meeting on the docks at night. Cresté, as old man, says he’ll go. But then he changes into his Judex gear in his room (next to Andréyor’s) before heading out.

And she sees him. Leading to her investigating his room. And finding his makeup kit. Then along comes Yvonne Dario to console the confused Andréyor.

The episode ends with Dario telling Andréyor everything. Sadly it cuts that scene, so it’s not clear yet if Dario is going to tell Andréyor she–Dario–is the one who wanted to kill her–Andréyor’s–father.

It’s an interesting turn of events; I assumed Andréyor wouldn’t find out the truth until much later. But Judex is getting close to the finish. Only three episodes to go. Or two and an epilogue.

CREDITS

Directed by Louis Feuillade; written by Arthur Bernède and Feuillade; directors of photography, André Glatti and Léon Klausse; production designer, Robert-Jules Garnier; released by Gaumont.

Starring René Cresté (Judex), Yvette Andréyor (Jacqueline Aubry), Musidora (Diana Monti), Louis Leubas (Favraux), Marcel Lévesque (Cocantin), Jean Devalde (Robert Moralés), Édouard Mathé (Roger de Tremeuse), Olinda Mano (Jean), René Poyen (The Licorice Kid), Gaston Michel (Pierre Kerjean), Lily Deligny (Miss Daisy Torp), Juliette Clarens (Gisèle), Georges Flateau (Vicomte de la Rochefontaine), and Yvonne Dario (Comtesse de Tremeuse).


Judex (1916, Louis Feuillade), Episode 9: When the Child Appeared

This chapter begins with the principals removed from their problems and living it up on the Mediterranean. Édouard Mathé and mother Yvonne Dario have taken Yvette Andréyor, Olinda Mano, and (of course) René Poyen away from the troubles in Paris to a beautiful seaside estate. Somewhere they can all just relax, safe from Musidora’s evil machinations.

Except, of course, lovestruck René Cresté can’t help but rent the estate next door so he can woo Andréyor (in his own identity). He has to bring his prisoner along with, so he also needs the prisoner’s caretaker. Apparently it never occurs to Cresté someone might see supposed dead Louis Leubas and recognize him. Andréyor’s only his daughter, Mano’s only his grandson.

And Mano is the titular Child who appears. Mano’s encounter with Leubas, which returns Leubas to an active role in Judex for the first time since the prologue, isn’t even the most dramatic thing. No, Musidora is also in town. She’s followed private investigator Marcel Lévesque from Paris, bringing once again evil Jean Devalde along. Devalde has gray hair as a disguise, Musidora dresses as a man.

Still. Apparently no one was worried about Lévesque being an obvious target. And when Mano tells everyone about Leubas living next door, it’s clear Cresté doesn’t have a plan for revealing the truth to Andréyor. He’s just a dope in love.

The chapter ends with Lévesque getting a deus ex love interest in (an uncredited) Lily Deligny. She’s swimming the Mediterranean and just happens to be an ex-girlfriend. Lucky Lévesque.

The serial can get away with some of the contrivances just because of the pace–and Musidora’s scheming–but there’s a decided lack of drama this episode, even though it keeps promising it.

CREDITS

Directed by Louis Feuillade; written by Arthur Bernède and Feuillade; directors of photography, André Glatti and Léon Klausse; production designer, Robert-Jules Garnier; released by Gaumont.

Starring René Cresté (Judex), Yvette Andréyor (Jacqueline Aubry), Musidora (Diana Monti), Louis Leubas (Favraux), Marcel Lévesque (Cocantin), Jean Devalde (Robert Moralés), Édouard Mathé (Roger de Tremeuse), Olinda Mano (Jean), René Poyen (The Licorice Kid), Gaston Michel (Pierre Kerjean), Lily Deligny (Miss Daisy Torp), Juliette Clarens (Gisèle), Georges Flateau (Vicomte de la Rochefontaine), and Yvonne Dario (Comtesse de Tremeuse).


Judex (1916, Louis Feuillade), Episode 8: The Underground Passages of the Chateau-Rouge

The Underground Passages of the Chateau-Rouge shows the audience the most of Judex’s base so far. There’s a finished bedroom and some castle interior hallways. Not just the ruins and then laboratory. Some of it is revealed when brothers René Cresté and Édouard Mathé show their mom, Yvonne Dario, around the base.

She wants to make sure they’re torturing Louis Leubas enough.

But there’s some more of the base revealed when Jean Devalde–who managed to stay a good guy for the entire previous episode, which he didn’t appear in–falls back under Musidora’s charms and brings henchmen to the base to kidnap Leubas.

It doesn’t go according to plan.

The chapter eventually teams Cresté and Marcel Lévesque–all is, of course, forgiven when it comes to Lévesque’s work for Musidora–which leads to the serial’s first gunfight.

A lot happens in the chapter, but only with supporting cast–Leubas, Devalde, and Georges Flateau. I’m assuming the action will return to the principals once Cresté discovers Devalde’s return to the dark side.

CREDITS

Directed by Louis Feuillade; written by Arthur Bernède and Feuillade; directors of photography, André Glatti and Léon Klausse; production designer, Robert-Jules Garnier; released by Gaumont.

Starring René Cresté (Judex), Yvette Andréyor (Jacqueline Aubry), Musidora (Diana Monti), Louis Leubas (Favraux), Marcel Lévesque (Cocantin), Jean Devalde (Robert Moralés), Édouard Mathé (Roger de Tremeuse), Olinda Mano (Jean), René Poyen (The Licorice Kid), Gaston Michel (Pierre Kerjean), Lily Deligny (Miss Daisy Torp), Juliette Clarens (Gisèle), Georges Flateau (Vicomte de la Rochefontaine), and Yvonne Dario (Comtesse de Tremeuse).


Judex (1916, Louis Feuillade), Episode 7: The Woman in Black

The Woman in Black introduces the first new character to Judex since the first chapter. There’s the prologue and then the first chapter; The Woman is the first new character since the first chapter. It’s Judex’s mom, played by Yvonne Dario (mostly in some awesome old age makeup–Judex is great with the old age makeup).

The chapter opens with her reminiscing about her sons, which turns out to be the secret origin of Judex. Dario has made René Cresté and Édouard Mathé swear to avenge themselves upon Louis Leubas–Leubas sought to financially ruin their father, as well as turn him into a cuckold. Of course, it was when Dario rejected Leubas’s advances–I’m assuming it’s Leubas, if so the old age makeup is even better–he retaliated by ruining the family.

Or at least temporarily. But long enough for tragedy.

The action then returns to the present, with Cresté visiting and trying to Dario to understand he’s in love with Yvette Andréyor and maybe he’s not capable of murder. Dario’s not having it and decides she’s going to take care of things herself.

Meanwhile, pals René Poyen and Olinda Mano decide the adults need to get them reunited, which is a whole production since Georges Flateau is staking out the house where Poyen is hiding. There’s some nice stuff with Marcel Lévesque, whose previous sins are apparently all forgiven (as he’s adorable and babysitting Poyen).

Will the boys reunion be ruined by Dario’s arrival and demand for vengeance?

It’s a good episode. Gets a little long at times–though the payoff of Musidora realizing Flateau’s an idiot and terrible criminal partner is fun–but good. Cresté’s acting is better than it ever has been before. While he’s still in a mope over Andréyor, at least it’s an active mope, as well as one with conflict.

CREDITS

Directed by Louis Feuillade; written by Arthur Bernède and Feuillade; directors of photography, André Glatti and Léon Klausse; production designer, Robert-Jules Garnier; released by Gaumont.

Starring René Cresté (Judex), Yvette Andréyor (Jacqueline Aubry), Musidora (Diana Monti), Louis Leubas (Favraux), Marcel Lévesque (Cocantin), Jean Devalde (Robert Moralés), Édouard Mathé (Roger de Tremeuse), Olinda Mano (Jean), René Poyen (The Licorice Kid), Gaston Michel (Pierre Kerjean), Lily Deligny (Miss Daisy Torp), Juliette Clarens (Gisèle), Georges Flateau (Vicomte de la Rochefontaine), and Yvonne Dario (Comtesse de Tremeuse).


Judex (1916, Louis Feuillade), Episode 6: The Licorice Kid

The Licorice Kid–René Poyen–gets his own chapter. Sort of. Poyen figures into it quite a bit, but it’s not his chapter. He doesn’t even save the day (he does help save the day).

While Yvette Andréyor is safe, René Cresté is still very sad she doesn’t like him after he threatened to kill her father and then he apparently died. So Cresté sends his brother, Édouard Mathé, to pick up Andréyor’s son–Olinda Mano. Except, because it’s Judex and no one can catch a break–villain Musidora is also after Mano. Having lost her previous compatriot, she’s teamed up with Georges Flateau; together, they both boss around adorable but morally bankrupt private investigator Marcel Lévesque.

Except Lévesque isn’t so sure about kidnapping a kid, especially not an adorable one like Mano, and he starts to have regrets. Lévesque wasn’t so upset about potentially murdering Andréyor a chapter or two ago, but whatever. He’s come around. And since Lévesque is himself adorable, it’s nice he’s a good guy again.

Lévesque and Mano are cute together. Poyen and Mathé–they team up to find Mano–are cute together, but not as cute because Mathé’s not adorable like Lévesque.

Thanks to the performances, Kid gets past its big problem–Judex needs someone in distress because instead of Cresté trying to track down Musidora, he sits around and mopes over Andréyor. It went from Andréyor being a target to Mano.

There’s a nice resolution for Poyen. Hopefully not his exit from the serial, but it would be a fine one.

Well-paced too. Judex is definitely hit its stride.

CREDITS

Directed by Louis Feuillade; written by Arthur Bernède and Feuillade; directors of photography, André Glatti and Léon Klausse; production designer, Robert-Jules Garnier; released by Gaumont.

Starring René Cresté (Judex), Yvette Andréyor (Jacqueline Aubry), Musidora (Diana Monti), Louis Leubas (Favraux), Marcel Lévesque (Cocantin), Jean Devalde (Robert Moralés), Édouard Mathé (Roger de Tremeuse), Olinda Mano (Jean), René Poyen (The Licorice Kid), Gaston Michel (Pierre Kerjean), Lily Deligny (Miss Daisy Torp), Juliette Clarens (Gisèle), Georges Flateau (Vicomte de la Rochefontaine), and Yvonne Dario (Comtesse de Tremeuse).


Judex (1916, Louis Feuillade), Episode 5: The Tragic Mill

The Tragic Mill earns its title. Villains Musidora and Jean Devalde kidnap currently sickly damsel in distress Yvette Andréyor and take her to an old mill. The kidnapping–Andréyor’s second in Judex (so far)–happens only before René Cresté arrives to protect her.

While the villains bicker over who has to actually murder Andréyor (it seems like they were expecting her illness to do her in, since she’s in desperate need of medical care), Cresté is back at Judex Base heartbroken. He’s not out trying to find Andréyor, he’s crying on brother Édouard Mathé’s arm. When it comes time for action, however, Cresté gets it together. The emotional scene is an interesting touch for the film; it makes Cresté a lot less disturbing when he’s in dread avenger mode.

It comes time for action because–initially through what appears to be great contrivance–Cresté’s new manservant, Gaston Michel. The Tragic Mill used to belong to him, before he went away for fraud. Turns out it isn’t contrivance in an wonderfully executed reveal. Judex has just enough melodrama behind the action, but never not enough action.

The chapter ends with Andréyor actually getting to do something for a scene. Her rescues, at this point, are almost guaranteed. Mill does put her face to face with Cresté for the first time and it’s a good moment. She gets actual character development later.

It’s an excellent entry. Breezy too.

CREDITS

Directed by Louis Feuillade; written by Arthur Bernède and Feuillade; directors of photography, André Glatti and Léon Klausse; production designer, Robert-Jules Garnier; released by Gaumont.

Starring René Cresté (Judex), Yvette Andréyor (Jacqueline Aubry), Musidora (Diana Monti), Louis Leubas (Favraux), Marcel Lévesque (Cocantin), Jean Devalde (Robert Moralés), Édouard Mathé (Roger de Tremeuse), Olinda Mano (Jean), René Poyen (The Licorice Kid), Gaston Michel (Pierre Kerjean), Lily Deligny (Miss Daisy Torp), Juliette Clarens (Gisèle), Georges Flateau (Vicomte de la Rochefontaine), and Yvonne Dario (Comtesse de Tremeuse).


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