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
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
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
Charles or the false Duval is getting help from society
woman Madelaine (Arlene Dahl) and also from someone in the inner circles
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
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