(aka "L'Uomo in nero")

Directed by Georges Franju

France / Italy 1963

 

The magical, rarely seen Judex -- directed by the great Georges Franju (Eyes Without a Face) -- was largely unappreciated at the time of its release in 1963. This lyrical and dreamlike picture, a putative "remake" of Louis Feuillade's own 1916 Judex, is as evocative of the silent master's own works as it is the later films of Jean Cocteau and Salvador Dalí. A French reviewer wrote in 1963: "The whole of Judex reminds us that film is a privileged medium for the expression of poetic magic". Starring the magician Channing Pollock, the divine Edith Scob, and the mesmerising Francine Bergé, Judex concerns a wicked banker, his helpless daughter, and a mysterious avenger. It plays like a fairy tale -- one in which Franju creates a dazzling clash between good and evil, eschewing interest in the psychological aspects of his characters for unexplained twists and turns in the action. The beautifully controlled imagery, superbly rendered by Marcel Fradetal's black-against-white photography, animates a natural world and the spirits of animals all at war with a host of diabolical forces. Franju's Judex and Nuits rouges both paid overt homage to the surreal, silent serial-works of Feuillade. Scripted in collaboration with Feuillade's grandson -- Jacques Champreux -- these films evince the same poetic magic that made the art of that earlier master a cause célèbre not only for the Surrealist movement, but also for the world-renowned Cinémathèque Française. It was the Cinémathèque (co-founded by the legendary Henri Langlois with Franju) that helped resurrect the reputation of Feuillade decades after he'd slipped out of the public consciousness. Nuits rouges [Red Nights] -- released in the UK as Shadowman -- was the second Franju-Champreux meditation upon the films of Feuillade. It aggressively escalates a pulp atmosphere steeped in shocking turns of events to an even more vertiginous level. Here, the object of pursuit is the fabled treasure of the mythical order of the Knights Templar -- which the filmmakers use as the jump-off point for staging a series of fantastic set-pieces. As the Fantômas-esque arch-criminal (known only as "The Man Without a Face", played by Jacques Champreux himself) violently pursues the treasure, the action intensifies amongst a cadre of post-'68 bohemians, the Paris police bureau, and a cult of cowled conspirators. The Masters of Cinema Series is proud to present Georges Franju's two most mindbending films on DVD in the UK for the first time. ---Special Features---- Gorgeous new transfers in their original aspect ratios--New and improved English subtitle translations--Video interviews, for both films, by Franju-collaborator Jacques Champreux--40-page booklet containing newly translated interviews with Georges Franju; newly translated writing by Jacques Rivette, and more!

***

There's a world of difference between the natural, "found" surrealism of Louis Feuillade's lighthearted French serial (1914) and the darker, studied surrealism and campy piety of this 1964 remake by Georges Franju. Yet in Franju's hands the material has its own magic (and deadpan humor), which makes this one of the better features of his middle period. Judex (Channing Pollack) is a cloaked hero who abducts a villainous banker to prevent the evil Diana (Francine Bergé in black tights) from stealing a fortune from the banker's virtuous daughter. Some of what Franju finds here is worthy of Cocteau, and as he discovered when he attempted another pastiche of Feuillade's work in color, black and white is essential to the poetic ambience.

Excerpt from Jonathan Rosenbaum's review at the Chicago Reader located HERE

Poster

Theatrical Release: December 4th, 1963

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DVD Review: Eureka (Masters of Cinema - 2-disc) - Region 0 - PAL

DVD Box Cover

    

Distribution

Eureka (Masters of Cinema) - Spine # 49 + 50

Region 0 - PAL

Runtime 1:33:471
Video 1.66:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 7.3 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s
Audio Mono Dolby Digital French
Subtitles English, None
Features Release Information:
Studio: Eureka (Masters of Cinema)

Aspect Ratio:
Anamorphic - 1.66:1

Edition Details:
• Interview Jacques Champreux (11:56)

2nd disc

Nuits Rouges (1973 - 1:40:30) 1.66:1 non-anamorphic

• Jacques Champreux interview (9:55)

• Set comes with 48-page liner notes booklet

DVD Release Date: August 25th, 2008
Transparent
Keep Case

Chapters 18

 

Comments NOTE: UK correspondent for DVDBeaver, Henry Kedger, has offered to review the Masters of Cinema's Judex/Nuits Rouges set. He has sent us some captures and comments below.

Gary Tooze

***

Firstly, thanks again to Gary for the opportunity to supply some information to the DVDBeaver community on this new Masters of Cinema package. I found the Franju films a new, and enjoyable experience!

This is a two disc affair with the first being the 1963 Judex - an homage/remake of the iconic Louis Feuillade 1916 serial. The Masters of Cinema DVD is anamorphically enhanced in the 1.66:1 aspect ratio, progressively transferred - residing on a dual-layered disc (taking up 7.44 GB.) It looks good but not pristine - which is actually more suitable to the silent-era homage sparking references that were constantly reminding me of Les Vampires or Fantomas. Franju's Judex is 45 years old now although the PAL image can look remarkably strong even if contrast can be slightly muddy at times. I loved all the Feuillade markers in both films with costumes, 'healthy' women, an intricate plot and a general emphasis on obtaining justice against wrongdoings. Franju's use of intertitles help evoke that aura in Judex.

 

Disc two has Nuits Rouges. The transfer is also in 1.66 and progressive but it is not 16X9 enhanced. Colors are wonderful and the image can appear extremely sharp. I should note that I am no expert on edge-enhancement and Gary could chip in once he receives his DVD(s). The film was made in 1973 but it didn't have the same appeal for me as Judex. Despite lack of anamorphic enhancement the image projected is an appealing visual presentation.

On the French mono audio - Judex had some inconsistencies in the sound department - perhaps reflecting its age. Nuits Rouges seemed stronger but had some background hiss although neither inferiority hindered my enjoyment. Optional English subtitles are available for both features.

Extras - Supplements sport two separate interviews (one per disc) with Jacques Champreux who is Louis Feuillade's grandson. They total about 20 minutes where he talks about Franju and his memories of the making of the films. Typical for masters of Cinema they include a healthy 40-page booklet with illustrations and interviews. It's a wonderful keepsake addition (as are all their liner notes booklets).

Over the past couple of years I've really come to treasure my Masters of Cinema DVD collection (although, unlike Gary, I don't have all of them). Judex/Nuits Rouges is another entertaining addition and I'd never have seen these films if not for their coverage.  

Henry Kedger

 



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 ('Red Nights' – aka 'Shadowman')


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

DVD Box Cover

   

Distribution

Eureka (Masters of Cinema) - Spine # 49 + 50

Region 0 - PAL


 




 

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