Films de France says:
“Fantômas (1964) is certainly a very different film to Fantômas (1913), although both were targeted at mass cinema audiences. Whereas Feuillade’s film is a chilling and atmospheric work which succeeds in conveying the menace of Fantômas, André Hunebelle’s version is little more than a conventional action comedy which is far more concerned with trivial comic stunts than characterisation. Because their approaches are so different, it is difficult, and perhaps unfair, to make comparisons between the two films.”
The French dutifully line up for the latest Fantomas movie:
I disagree, and shall proceed to make comparisons between the two films. The original was wonderful, groundbreaking, while this one is a bit of fluff that would seem demeaning to the great Jean Marais – except that I somehow had him confused with Jean Gabin. Marais… let’s see, he was in those Cocteau movies and Donkey Skin, and before this he made The Iron Mask, Captain Blood and The Hunchback of Paris, so on second thought, this seems right up his alley. Marais plays Fandor the journalist, a sidekick to chief inspector Juve in the Feuillade, but here his rival. With Fandor’s type of sensationalist journalism, Fuller would’ve made him a villain, but Hunebelle makes him our hero. I think we’re supposed to like him, but it’s hard to tell, because I think by the end we’re also supposed to like Juve, a nasty, hateful little man.
A rare smile from Juve after a prolonged earplug gag:
First half of the movie is barely a movie at all, people standing still and talking. Sometimes there’s a joke, usually one that tries too hard. Sometimes cute comic sound effects play on the soundtrack. Ineffectual Juve is Louis de Funes, supposedly a big enough star to make Marais jealous, but with my fancypants Criterion-groomed New Wave bias, I haven’t heard of his other movies. Fandor’s got a fiancee (Mylene Demongeot of Bonjour Tristesse and Tashlin’s Private Navy of Sgt. O’Farrell) and Fantomas, who wears a blue robot mask when he’s not being played by Marais, has a girl (Lady Beltham – remember her?) played by some magazine model. It heats up in the second half with some fun vehicle chases, almost becoming a worthwhile action-comedy were it not for the comedy. I was glad that Mylene takes an active role by the end, taking helicopters to rescue people, and that it’s always the men who are in distress.
Jean and Mylene:
Ah, so Fandor ticks off the great criminal Fantomas by faking an interview, so Fantomas kidnaps him and commits some robberies wearing a Fandor mask. He also wears a Juve mask, getting the chief in trouble with his own subordinates. The two victims grudgingly team up and fail to catch him, because there are sequels. Hunebelle made two more in the Fantomas series with the same stars, and also a few OSS 117 movies. People in the 60’s liked this sort of stuff.
Jean Marais will return… on television!