Fantômas

Five Film Collection

by Michael Barrett

18 November 2010

 

Fantômas! Fiend! Killer! Seducer! Terrorist! King of the underworld! Master of disguise! Collector of exclamation points! The sensational adventures of this amoral villain burst upon France and the rest of the doomed pre-WWI civilization from the pulpy pens of Pierre Souvestre and Marcel Allain. It was necessary instantly to turn his exploits into this series of five films from the equally prolific and inexhaustible Louis Feuillade. From book series to film series, here was the giddy James Bond phenom of its day.

Fantômas really has no character and almost no concrete existence. In these films, we rarely see actor René Navarre looking like himself, except in the introductions that show us the disguises he will wear in this particular episode so that we’ll never be confused or surprised on that point, no matter how disoriented we are by anything else. As David Kalat says in his commentary, “if he has a face, it’s the face that wears the mask”. Intriguing…

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