Waltz into Darkness (1947) filmatized as Mississippi Mermaid in 1969

To the left: US Ballantine Books (softcover) 1983 pocket edition; to the right: the US DVD edition of the film


OK, Cornell Woolrich is my favourite crime writer and i guess that's obvious for anyone that has read this my Film Noir and Pulp
Fiction page and you can read a lot about his writings and his films here. If i have to choose a favourite novel of his this one could
well be it because of the pitch-black darkness and desperation and melodramatic romance and love. Elements combined that makes
this novel to be maybe his most depressing, hopeless, disturbing and dark EVER but also his most poetic and beautiful.
Not so well known perhaps but an absolute MASTERPIECE of writing.

Waltz into Darkness was originally published by Lippincott in 1947 under his pseudonym William Irish. The Ballantine pocket book
(pic above) published in 1983 was the first unedited version since 1947. In Sweden it was published by Centrum in 1947 under the
title "Ljuva Bonny - Farliga Bonny", a bad titlewithout the dark poetry of the original title, the essence of Woolrich writing.

Woolrich lover, frenchman Francois Truffaut had already the year before, in 1968, made the first filmatization of The Bride Wore Black
with Jeanne Moreau as the female avenger (read more about this film and novel on my Film Noir & Pulp Fiction page), and in 1969
he directed his version of the 1947 melodrama-crime novel Waltz into Darkness.

The novel takes place in 1880's New Orleans and tells the story about rich businessman, the 37 year old Lou Durand and his marriage
to personals-bride Julia Russel and the novel is filled to the brim with desperation, erotic obsession, hopeless masochistic love and
tons of darkness in a powerful romantic noir melodrama that may bite you.
It successfully summarizes Cornell Woolrich, the ultimate writer of Noir, pessimistic view on Love and it's hopelessness.

US 1946 Popular Library pocket book edition of the 1945 original. Cover art by Baryé Pihilips

Perhaps Woolrich had been inspired by Vera "Laura" Caspary's fine but forgotten 1945 melodrama noir novel Bedelia? This novel also
depicts a hopeless relation with a beautiful but psychopathic Femme Fatale. Darkness and desperate love if not on the Woolrich level.
Bedelia was filmed in the UK in 1946 (read more about this OK B movie on my Film Noir & Pulp Fiction page)

Truffaut's 1969 film version of Waltz into Darkness was a flop, but i like it better than his 1968 La Mariée était en noir (The Bride wore
Black). He re-named it Mississippi Mermaid and moved the location from New Orleans to the French isle of Reunion situated close to
Madagaskar outside of Africa. Just like his La Mariée était en noir, Mississippi Mermaid lacks the archetypical shadows, the desperation
and the romantic pulse of Woolrich and Film Noir of the 1940's, BUT Truffaut still succeeds in making his own interesting and somewhat
lighter version of it and also with homage to directors like Jean Renoir and Alfred Hitchcock.
And, the sexual, erotic obsession that's something our fine Frenchman knows about for sure.

Mississippi Mermaid starts with voices from Personal ads and with a zooming-in on the map of the French isle of Reunion, a French
overseas department, and of the city Saint-Denis, where we meet the rich factory owner Louis Mahé (Jean-Paul Belmondo).
He's merrily on his way to the harbor where he will meet his personal ads wife Julie Roussel, arriving from a long boat trip from New
Caledonia (another French overseas department). The problem is that Julie doesn't look anything at all like the photo she sent him with
her letters, and strangely enough she can't remember any details from them either.

Does this worry Louis a lot? NO, maybe bacause Julie is played by Catherine Deneuve being at her height of beauty at this time, so
all doubts are swept away. He's intoxicated by her looks. But when Julie is gone and all his bank accounts are emptied, he hires a
private detective (Yves Drouhet) to find her, and he's pissed off and out for revenge.
But, when he finally meets her again, on the French Riviera, she's using the name of Marion Vergano, and .... it starts all over again
and The Waltz into Darkness can be trodden.

The film was presented in widescreen 2.35:1 with french audio and with english subtitles, and a trailer extra

 

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