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FRENCH

ACTION/THRILLERS

THE GENTLEMAN FROM COCODY (1965)-In French with english subs. Rare Eurospy film starring Jean Marais! An embassy attache (Jean Marais) opposes diamond smuggling and a secret society terrorizing the Ivory Coast. This is a comedy /action/ adventure. And it's a lot of fun. Jean Marais is great in this, as is the female lead, Liselotte Pulver . The great Robert Dalban is also in this.

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JUDGE FAYARD: SHERIFF (1977)-In French with english subs, letterboxed print.  Shérif is a very good political thriller, based on true events : an honest judge was killed when his investigations began to unearth some uneasy truths about French high-level civil servants or politicians, presumably by some right wing rogue organization, the name of which was actually used in the movie (but replaced by a convenient "beep" when it played in theatres).Yves Boisset directs with his usual gusto and Patrick Dewaere, although a bit young for the part, plays the doomed judge with great talent. As is almost always the case with this kind of French cinema, the supporting actors are also very good and have unforgettable faces.

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POISON IVY (1953)-In French with english subs. Here is the movie which made Eddie Constantine a star in France. Lemmy Caution is an American FBI Agent sent to Casablanca to investigate a stolen shipment of gold. The film plays as cross between a detective film noir and a spy film. Interesting to see note some of the similarities to the early James Bond films in this French flic from 1953. But a highly entertaining film in it's own right.  Lemmy Caution is bad ass; fighting, smoking, drinking, and charming the femmes!

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FANTOMAS VS FANTOMAS (1949)-In French with english subs. The film opens with Fandor overhearing other café customers talking about a newspaper item which speculates that Juve and Fantômas are the same person and notes that Juve has been arrested as a "witness." Cut to the room of Père Moche (Fantômas in disguise, of course), where he is turning over rent receipts to a bank messenger. The messenger goes upstairs to collect the rent from Paulet and Nini, a pimp (it's implied) and his woman. When Nini opens the door (blocking the camera's view) Paulet smashes the messenger over the head with a hammer—we see only the messenger's body falling forward into their apartment after the impact. In the confusion, Père Moche sneaks upstairs, grabs the messenger's satchel, and returns to his office to put it in his safe. When Paulet and Nini confront him (Paulet attempts to stab him), Père Moche disarms Paulet and then offers to help them out of their predicament.

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LAST KNOWN ADDRESS (1970)-In French with english subs, letterboxed print. Excellent French thriller/cop film by Jose Giovanni. A veteran police inspector (Lino Ventura) is reprimanded after killing a youth who goes on a murderous killing spree. He is sent to a provincial police station where he is helped by his assistant (Marlene Jobert) in solving local crimes. As the duo embarks on a witness search, they begin to develop feelings for one another.

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LAW OF SURVIVAL (1967)-In French with english subs, letterboxed print. Stars Alexandra Stewart and Michel Constantin. Stan, an adventurer, comes back to Corsica to visit a friend's grave. In an isolated house, he meets an enigmatic woman who seems to be forced into prostitution and decides to help her out...'La loi du survivant' is adapted from the same José Giovanni's novel as Les aventuriers. It seems that Giovanni was quite disappointed that Robert Enrico chose to keep only about half of the material in the book. Thus the decision to make another movie with the other half...The movie itself is not flawless but it remains a very effective crime/drama. It's also a less mainstream movie than 'Les aventuriers' where you can really feel the uncompromising and very particular moral code Giovanni had. Giovanni was an ex-gangster and an ex-con (once sentenced to death then pardoned) and it is certainly something you can feel here...  

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L'ALLIANCE (1971)-In French with english subs, letterboxed print.  French beauty Anna karina stars in this little seen French horror film. With the help of a marriage agency, a young veterinary surgeon, Hugues, manages to find his ideal wife, Jeanne, who fulfils his main requirement: she is the owner of a large apartment in Paris.  Although they are happy together at first, Hugues begins to find his wife’s placid behaviour unsettling, suspecting she may be seeing another man.  Jeanne is equally perplexed by her husband’s strange behaviour, as he buries himself in his research into his animals’ powers of perception. A simple fact will act as a trigger and liberate all the madness between them... Although it is little known today, L’Alliance is a film which is well worth seeing, a bizarre mix of black comedy and psychological thriller, which still appears surprisingly fresh and modern.  Its strident, eerie music and the creepy cinematography, coupled with some even creepier acting performances from Anna Karina and Jean-Claude Carrière, makes this a compelling drama in paranoia and obsession. Christian de Chalonge somehow manages to sustain a Hitchcockian level of suspense right up until the last shot, constantly teasing the viewer but revealing the absolute minimum.  This is one of those films where the spectator has plenty of freedom to make his own interpretation and draw his own conclusions, making it an ambiguous yet extremely intelligent work of cinema. Both the plot (taken from Carrière’s own novel) and film’s construction are breath-takingly original, allowing the film to develop a unique atmosphere which is both unsettling (certainly for anyone expecting a conventional film) and totally engrossing.  The film combines the banal with the frighteningly surreal to chilling effect.

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GRAND GUIGNOL (1987)-In French with english subs. Directed by Jean Marboeuf. Extremely obscure French horror based on the theater of the macabre that originated in France. Quite an unusual film in French cinema. It deals with an unsuccessful theatre troop trying to revive the Grand Guignol. It's kind of a comedy with very desperate characters, adultery, voyeurism, sleazy situations, weird fantasy sequences and plenty of fun special effects. No masterpiece but definitely a strange object. Stars Caroline Cellier, Guy Marchand and Michel Galabru.

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POLICEMAN OF LITTLE IMPORTANCE (1973)-IN FRENCH WITH ENGLISH SUBS, LETTERBOXED PRINT.Starring Robert Hossein and Marc Porel (who also wrote the screenplay), Camille, Dov and Joëlle live on the edge of society and are involved in petty theft helping them to buy their drug doses and to survive as best they can. One day, while attempting to rob a movie theater, they activate the alarm signal and it is Pierre, Camille's brother, who is doing a heist in the same building, who is arrested red-handed. The three young people decide to kidnap a police officer and exchange him for Pierre.

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RIFFI IN TOKYO (1963)-IN FRENCH WITH ENGLISH SUBS, LETTERBOXED PRINT. Charles Vanel gathers a cool-headed Karl Boehm and an unstable electronics expert, Michel Vitold, to rob a bank vault for a diamond. As in The Asphalt Jungle, things do not work out quite as planned.The film makes really excellent use of outdoor Tokyo locations. Especially at the start and finish, the Japanese cinematographer takes us back to the best days of noir blacks and whites and shadows. At the start, we see the target building in detail. It is highly geometric, with rectangles. Very stalwart and formidable. But outside the vault in which the jewel is kept is a ceiling decor casting shadows like a web. In the heist itself, there is an excellent use of texture of the outer stone as the building is breached. In between, we get views of many aspects of Tokyo, both orderly (especially trains and fences) and disorderly, juxtaposed.The acting is uniformly excellent. The script develops a subplot that involves Vitold's wife, Barbara Lass, whom he has brought along. (Boehm and Lass were married between 1963 and 1980.) Another subplot involves a Japanese gang that is interfering with Vanel's efforts all the way.The movie has a tone of world-weariness, fatality, the last chance, neurosis, greed, and obsession, depending on the character and situation.Director Jacques Deray has put it all together very nicely indeed. He went on to make many more thrillers and neo-noirs. The music of Georges Delerue is discreet and well complements the action. Attractive Keiko Kishi provides good support as well. She was Eiko in The Yakuza (1974), a movie likely to be more familiar to American audiences.

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THE LAST MAN (1969)-In French with english subs, letterboxed print. Obscure French SF film. A man, his wife, and a female friend emerge from a cave exploring expedition to find that the rest of the world has died from a nuclear disaster.  Complications arrive when the man begins to neglect his wife and fall in love with the other woman. France has only produced a handful of sci-fi works.This one is obviously handicapped by a shoestring budget and an amateurish playing -although the male lead ,Jean-Claude Bouillon became famous in the seventies in his native country with the "Brigade du Tigre" miniseries. The neutron bomb has destroyed all the human beings but three :a man and two women (to be precise four if you include a she-goat not counting ants).There's the rub: if these were spared because they were underground, many more should have been saved too. The director was probably burning with a desire to get a brand new message across :Man is evil ,he invented war and destruction, so why not trying a new world it is never too late to build ? This time, there will not be Adam and Eve but two Eves (with a baby boy for one of them was pregnant by the male survivor).

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TRAP (1968)-In french with english subs. It starts off with Fernando Arrabal in a shop full of rat poison and huge traps showing off his wares. Then after a brief interlude with a couple of nuns on bicycles, we come to the main part of the film. Those two queens of the French New Wave Bernadette Lafont and Bulle Ogier run amok in a large, old house, attacking it with axes and breaking into a safe with a blow torch. They also plaster their faces with exaggerated makeup, throw food and wander around in their undies. There is strange clanking machinery, echoes of the Frankenstein creation myth and eyes peering through the holes in a family portrait. Not really a horror film, but it ends up riffing on horror motifs.

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3 FACES OF SIN (1961)-In French with english subs, letterboxed print. Three Faces of Sin (French: Le Puits aux trois vérités) is a 1961 French language motion picture comedy directed by François Villiers, based on novel by Jean-Jaques Gauthier. The music score is by Maurice Jarre. The film stars Michèle Morgan, Jean-Claude Brialy, Catherine Spaak and Scilla Gabel. It tells the story of a painter who parts from his mistress and marries her daughter.

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FANTOMAS TV SERIES #2 (1980)-In French with english subs. The second episode in this 4 part Miniseries from 1980. A Fantômas series of four 90-minute episodes was produced in 1980 starring Helmut Berger as Fantômas, Jacques Dufilho as Juve, and Gayle Hunnicutt as Lady Beltham. Episodes 1 and 4 were directed by Claude Chabrol; episodes 2 and 3 by Luis Buñuel's son, Juan Luis Buñuel. If we can agree to put aside the highly questionable moral position of Fantomas for whom human life has no value (except of course his own and his lover and brilliant accomplice, Lady Beltham), and therefore clears off number of people without any scruple, then the series is absolutely brilliant !If we can accept the various intrigues and improbable and incredible situations that take place throughout the four episodes, then we can see as the filmmaking is brilliant. In fact it's all about atmosphere, mood and mystery, absolutely gorgeous scenery ... Directed by Juan (EXPULSION OF THE DEVIL) Bunuel.

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HANDS OF ORLAC (1960)-In French with english subs, letterboxed print. This version is 17 minutes longer than the dubbed US release!! Staring: Christopher Lee , Mel Ferrer , Dany Carrel , Lucille Saint-Simon , Felix Aylmer , Basil Sydney , Peter Reynolds , Campbell Singer , Donald Wolfit , Donald Pleasence. A pianist has a transplant operation that gives him a new pair of hands. Unfortunately, the hands belonged to a murderer, and he finds the hands starting to take over his life and commit crimes. A seedy magician suspects what is happening and tries to blackmail him.

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MOON TO MIDNIGHT (1970)-In French with english subs, letterboxed print. Starring Sylvie Fennec, Beatrice Arnac, Daniel Emilfork, Jacques Portet. A woman marries into a family of insane psychopaths in this bizarre French horror film with strong sadomasochistic overtones. Helene and her boyfriend come to visit their friend Lawrence in his family home. Once arrived in front of the house, a large stone building lost in the mountains, the couple is welcomed by father and daughter, both dressed in white mysteriously. The next day, the couple is about to leave, Laurent finally makes its appearance. Young people are invited to stay. But during their stay, inexplicable murders occur. Helen is determined to uncover the truth ...

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TIME TO DIE (1970)-In french with english subs, letterboxed print. The Time to Die (French: Le Temps de mourir) is a 1970 French film directed by André Farwagi and starring Anna Karina, Bruno Cremer and Jean Rochefort. It was entered into the 20th Berlin International Film Festival. In this murder drama with strong sci-fi undertones, Max cares for a mystery girl after she is involved in a riding mishap. She accidentally witnesses a videotaped murder and is marked for elimination by the killer. When the killer goes after Max, the girl races to give him information that can identify him.

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THE WATER SPIDER (1971)-In French with english subs. Directed in 1971 by Belgian Jean Daniel Verhaeghe, The Water Spider is a strange tale adapted from a story by Marcel Bealu, these tales of rural France who feel the countryside and ancient legends. Elisabeth Wiener in the strange role of Nadi, Elisabeth of captivating beauty and fascinating supernatural, mysterious brunette with wild eyes and pale complexion. Bernard is a writer, he lives with his devoted wife with whom he does not share anything except the routine crushing of a woman too perfect. One day during a walk along the water, he hears a voice pure, angelic, magical, from the pure water like a mermaid. A water spider, the tiny harmless spiders and aquatic called, irresistibly. Dream or reality that is the highlight of the film because we never discern the real from the dream, the fantasy. It means the viewer does not hear. But the spider is there, he picks it up, caress, brings her home, hidden in his pocket. It is a strange relationship that develops between man and the tiny arachnid. The spider cuts right, taking the place of his wife. It fascinates him, he loves her, silent relationship, he keeps the insect in a box before installing the attic and the wedding dress of his wife as a cushion.  The spider will flourish as in an oven, an incubator, terrible symbol of transgression to the staggering metamorphosis highlight of the film.

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FANTOMAS 3( 1990)-In French with english subs. Helmut Berger stars as Fantomas, master thief with an assist by Gayle Hunnicut. This episode, like the first was directed by Claude Chabrol. The Streetcar Phantom - Fandor is mistaken for a king. Fantòmas sets Fandor up for murder.

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THE KILLER PASSES BY (1981)-In french with english subs. A Killer Passes By is the story of a serial killer but bears little resemblance to a slasher movie. We know almost at once who the killer is and the emphasis is not on the murders but on his psychology as he falls in love with one of his prospective victims – a weakness which, of course, will be his downfall. Richard Berry, in one of his first starring roles, is great as the murderer who, despite his crimes, is often more likeable than the cop hunting him – a very good Jean-Louis Trintignant. As for Carole Laure, at the height of her beauty, she proves that she can be a good character actress and provides enough nudity to make up for the lack of gore.

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THE STRANGLER (1972)-In French with english subs, letterboxed print. Written & directed by Paul Vecchiali, Cast: Jacques Perrin ... Émile, Julien Guiomar ... L'inspecteur Simon Dangret. Eva Simonet ... Anna Carré. Unhappy women are being murdered by Emile (Jacques Perrin), a psychotic young man suffering from the delusion that his acts are mercy killings. The detective (Julien Guiomar) assigned to track down the killer resorts to seriously unorthodox and even unethical methods to get his man...

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THE WITNESS (1978)-In French with english subs. Oh my! Director: Jean-Pierre Mocky, Cast:Alberto Sordi ... Antonio Berti and Philippe Noiret ... Robert Maurisson. The painter Antonio Berti is called by his friend Robert Reims Maurisson to restore the paintings of the cathedral. Robert loves girls, although they have to be underage!. And indeed, he kills one of them. Found out by his friend Antonio, who at first did not understand what just happened and then by not speaking to him about it  because of the friendship that binds him to Robert. But Commissioner Guerin of the police wonders more and more about Antonio ...... When Jean -Pierre Mocky tries, his works resemble Claude Chabrol's. Such is the case of 'the témoin" which is his best film since "l'albatros" (1971).Here there is a true screenplay, no could-not-care-less directing and the results are satisfying. It takes some time to get off, but after about thirty minutes, the movie hits its stride,and it will remain interesting till the very end. Noiret kills a young Lolita-type who used to pose(as an angel!) for Sordi,a painter in charge of restoring a church. Sordi knows that Noiret killed her. Then a good psychological suspense begins, enhanced by an angelic choir in the church. Will Sordi pay for Noiret's crime?

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THE DEVIL BY THE TAIL (1969)-in French with english subs, letterboxed print. Director:Philippe de Broca and starring Yves Montand, Maria Schell, Madeleine Renaud, and Jean Rochefort. One of the most "charming" French films ever made - very well played by all the actors, like Yves Montand or Martha Keller ( in her first French film ) Never boring - a good musical score with some "classical" piano music, and the film music made by Delerue. The movie isn't outdated, even if it dates from 1969 - only the very short skirt ( and I do mean SHORT !) dates the picture in the ends of the '60ies. Yves Montand plays a gangster who is stranded in the mountains of France, in a small almost broke hotel. With the help of the daughter's lover  who sabotage some cars, more guests will arrive at the hotel, and at the end, Yves Montand with the money of a bank robbery, will restore the hotel and working as the cook.

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