The Black Book (Reign of Terror/Der Schwarze Buch, 1949)

German Koch Media film Noir series no.14 DVD edition

This was a film i had never heard about or seen on a DVD. An unusual Anthony Mann movie as it's a hybrid of historical drama and
Film Noir. It takes place in Revolution time, Paris, France in 1794 and the Robespierre reign of Terror is at it's peak. Real and imagined
enemies of the state, the regime, are jailed and/or killed and the atmosphere of absolute terror is looming over Paris and France.
Anyone could be executed anytime and as this film was made in 1949 it could be seen as a commentary to the terror of Stalin in Soviet.
This film is impressively dark and with a claustrophobic atmosphere of Evil and maybe disturbing for some.
Someone that made that feat possible was legendary cinematographer John Alton.

Robespierre (Richard Baseheart) has called for "The Terror of Strasbourg", the prosecutor Duval, known for his lust to execute people
and a man in Robespierre's taste. But, before Duval has arrived to Paris a nobleman, Charles (Robert Cummings) has taken his place as
the false Mr. Duval. The latter is ordered by Robespierre to find his lost and secret Black Book, in which he has written the names of
those he's about to execute, including his closest staffers and even ministers.
If the book should turn up in the wrong hands it could lead to chaos (even more that is) and to the halt of the Revolution. In 2 days
time, at the Peoples Convent Robespierre's plan is to be proclaimed Dictator.

Charles or the false Duval is getting help from society woman Madelaine (Arlene Dahl) and also from someone in the inner circles around
Robespierre, the Chief of Police, played very charismatically by Arnold Moss, in the fight against Robespierre.

Yes, this is a lowbudget movie from the Eagle studio, but as the director are the skilled Film Noir director legend Anthony Mann he manages
to infuse this hybrid of historical drama and Noir with an almost overwhelming atmosphere of dread and terror. Very intense.

Robespierre finally had to taste his own medicine and was killed, him too. Richard Baseheart is GREAT as Robespierre, a stiff inhuman and
execution-proned bureaucrat and a very unlikeable role figure, but when he's killed, or lynched, the violence makes me sick, and i'm sure
this was Mann's intention too. The tiresome inhumanity of our species, violence and murder, it never ends!
Baseheart was very, very good also in Alfred Werker's 1948 He Walked by Night, recommended viewing.

The film is presented in 4:3 fullscreen original ratio, black & white, english audio 2.0, a picture gallery and a nice Booklet with text written in
German about the director and the movie. The DVD has a cool fold-up sleeve


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