JUDEX (Louis Feuillade, 1916, France, 300m, BW)
Directed by Louis Feuillade
Produced by Robert-Jules Garnier
Written by Arthur Bernède
Starring René Cresté
Music by Robert Israel (new score)
Cinematography André Glatti
Distributed by Gaumont
19 December 1916
300 minutes (total)
Language Silent film
Judex is the title of a 1916 silent French film serial concerning the adventures of Judex, who is a pulp hero, similar to The Shadow, created by Louis Feuillade and Arthur Bernède.
Feuillade had made two earlier serials, Fantômas and Les Vampires, about cunning criminals. Though popular with audiences, the serials both drew criticism for glorifying outlaws. Feuillade answered these concerns by creating the hero Judex, who had the sinister trappings of the flamboyant villains so popular at the time.
Judex anticipated later pulp heroes and superheroes in many respects; he was a masterful fighter, an expert at disguise, and boasted a secret headquarters in the subterranean passages beneath a ruined castle - which was lavishly outfitted with high-tech gadgets. His secret identity - Judex (Latin for judge) - was the nom-de-guerre he adopted in his quest for revenge. While Judex was derivative of Fantômas and Les Vampires, its story, with the hero's quest for revenge, bore many similarities with The Count of Monte Cristo.
The story is complex and is told in 12 chapters. The basic plot involves a corrupt banker named Favraux, who is the target of Judex's revenge. It is eventually revealed that Judex's real identity is Jacques de Trémeuse, a man trying to avenge his family ruined by Favraux. Complicating matters is Favraux's beautiful and innocent daughter Jacqueline, with whom the avenger has fallen in love. A final element comes in the form of Diana Monti and her criminal gang who are working at cross purposes with Judex.
Judex was played by French matinee idol René Cresté and Diana was played by Musidora, who had previously played the villainess Irma Vep in Les Vampires.
A serial in twelve episodes. Prologue; Episode 1: The Mysterious Shadow; Episode 2: The Atonement; Episode 3: The Fantastic Dog Pack; Episode 4: The Secret of the Tomb; Episode 5: The Tragic Mill; Episode 6: The Licorice Kid; Episode 7: The Woman in Black; Episode 8: The Underground Passages of the Chateau-Rouge; Episode 9: When the Child Appeared; Episode 10: Jacqueline's Heart; Episode 11: The Water Goddess; Episode 12: Love's Forgiveness.
Morales and his partner-in-crime, Diana Monti, are scheming to get their hands on the wealth of Favraux, a corrupt investment banker. Posing as the governess Marie Verdier, Diana has insinuated herself into Favraux's household and has seduced him with her charms. At the same time, Amaury de la Rochefontaine, a dissolute aristocrat who needs cash to pay off his debts, is courting Favraux's daughter Jacqueline, a young widow, in order to gain access to the Favraux fortune. When Pierre Kerjean--a victim of Favraux's phony investments and now a destitute tramp--request's Favraux's assistance in locating his missing son, Favraux turns him out rudely and later runs over him with his car. A mysterious figure named Judex sends Favraux a letter ordering him to give over half his fortune to the Public Assistance Bureau to atone for his crimes. When Favraux refuses, he is apparently killed by an embolism while toasting his daughter's engagement. Jacqueline then receives a letter from Judex directing her to give all of her father's estate to the Public Assistance Bureau. Devastated by the knowledge of her father's crimes, she complies with the demand, and as a result must send her son Jean to be raised in the country while she struggles to earn a living. In the meantime, we learn that Favraux is in fact alive, held prisoner in the castle of the black-caped Judex and his brother Roger. Diana Monti, Morales and Aumaury de la Rochefontaine, together with the bumbling private detective Cocantin, try to locate Favraux in order to prove he is alive and get a share of his estate, kidnapping Jacqueline and then Little Jean to gain leverage over Judex. Moreover, Judex's plans to mete out justice are complicated by his growing love for Jacqueline.
Today Louis Feuillade (1873-1925) is regarded as one of the most important French directors of the silent era, arguably eclipsing the more self-consciously arty style of directors like Louis Delluc, Germaine Dulac and Marcel L'Herbier. Coming from a devout Catholic family in the south of France, Feuillade studied in a seminary then enlisted in the military before starting a career as a journalist. Intrigued by the rapidly growing film industry, in 1905 he signed up with Gaumont to write scripts, directing his own films within a year. Remarkably prolific, he directed an estimated 700 films, most of them short or medium-length. They included chase comedies, prestige pictures on religious and mythological subjects, realistic "slice of life" dramas, and the successful comedy series "Bebe" and "Bout-de-Zan." Rene Poyen, who plays "The Licorice Kid" in Judex, starred in the Bout-de-Zan series. Similarly, Marcel Levesque, who plays the private detective Cocantin, previously appeared in Feuillade's La Vie drole series.
Feuillade's reputation, however, rests mainly on his crime thriller serials: the five Fantomas films (1913-1914), Les Vampires (1915), Judex (1916), La Nouvelle Mission de Judex (1917), Tih Minh (1918) and Barrabas (1919). While the Fantomas films were adapted from the popular novels by Pierre Souvestre and Marcel Allain, the stories for the subsequent serials were created by Feuillade himself, often improvised on the spot. The first two, Fantomas and Les Vampires are noteworthy for their diabolically clever, almost superhuman villains. Their subversive undercurrents, combined with the realistic settings and dreamlike logic of their plots, bore a great influence on Surrealists such as Andre Breton, Louis Aragon and Luis Bunuel. The hero of Judex, in contrast to the previous films, is squarely on the side of justice; this reversal was Feuillade's (and Gaumont's) concession to complaints that the earlier serials glorified criminality. Les Vampires, for example, was initially banned by the Paris police.
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