By Richard Winters
My Rating: 7 out of 10
4-Word Review: Their plans go awry.
Julie Wormser (Romy Schneider) is married to Louis (Rod Steiger) who is rich, but also 18 years older and suffering from impotency. A young, virile man by the name of Jeff Marle (Paolo Giusti) comes into her life and the two become lovers. They conspire to murder her husband and run off. However, their elaborate plan quickly unravels leading to many unexpected twists and turns.
Story-wise this is one of the better Hitchcock imitations. There are a lot of twists that are interesting and surprising. They are also well-explained and make sense. Nothing is thrown in that is implausible or creates loopholes. The script is like traveling on a curving, winding road in a fast car and I found myself delightfully surprised, intrigued, and entertained with each new revelation. The film takes its time in explaining each detail and plot point. I liked how the investigators are given almost as much screen time as the culprits and writer/director Claude Chabrol has everything well-thought out and even manages to get you to care for these people at the end.
Schneider is stunning. I loved her blonde tinted hair and chic outfits. She has a sultry nude scene at the very beginning, but it is only from the backside. This was pretty much her vehicle. Her character goes through a wide-range of emotions and she does a great job of conveying each one. Her facial expressions especially as the case unravels and she is being interrogated by the Judge and questioned by her lawyer are captivating to watch and perfectly realized.
Steiger is always fun. His ability to display raw intense emotion is second to none. The character was a bit cardboard as written, but Steiger manages to make him human and I had genuine sympathy for him towards the end. He does tend to border on over-acting at times, but he injects life into the scenes that otherwise could have gotten boring and slow.
Although Chabrol clearly put a lot of care into the script the visual element is lacking. The camera work is conventional and unimaginative. Certain scenes are too dark and shadowy while others look bright and splotchy. The majority takes place in an exquisite looking French Chateau, but Chabrol fails to take advantage of this. The lack of visual style makes the thing look almost amateurish and the grainy, faded DVD transfer does not help. I also felt the dialogue between the two investigators seemed stale and derivative. There was also a part were Julie complains to the investigators that they have dropped into her house for a visit at much too late an hour and then, only a minute later, she is seen walking out of her house and it is broad daylight. Also, when she hits her husband over the head and supposedly kills him in his sleep he is still seen breathing.
If one is looking for a sharp mystery done in the Columbo style then this pick could be a fun, escapist evening. Schneider’s beauty and acting will carry the rest, but just be prepared for production values that are on a TV-movie level.
My Rating: 7 out of 10
Released: March 26, 1975
Runtime: 2Hours 1Minute
Director: Claude Chabrol
Studio: New Line Cinema
Wasn’t this remade last year?
They called it it Contagion! 🙂
No, that film had a completely different premise, but a remake isn’t a bad idea. Like I said the mystery is good, but more of a visual style would make it more interesting.
Dirty Hands, Contagion… It was a joke.
I thought you were joking, but I wasn’t completely sure, so I decided to give it a serious response. However, after looking at your blog I can clearly see that you are a very humorous guy!
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I replaced the IMDB link on my blog (“Romy Schneider in Uniform, on the Trail to Bandit Country”) with your review. While my vivid memories of this film are of contempt due to my childish sensitivity to Schneider (I wanted to punch Paolo Giusti in the face!), the film was definitely worth watching. And Buñuel regular François Maistre (Commissaire Lamy) is always fun to see.
David, I love the passion that you show for Romy Schneider. There is something very commendable and unique about it. I say a person with a passion of any kind is better than someone with none at all.