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Nuits rouges
cast: Gayle Hunnicutt, Jacques Champreux, Josephine Chaplin, Ugo Pagliai, and Gert Fröbe

director: Georges Franju

105 minutes (PG) 1974
Eureka DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 4/10
reviewed by Gary McMahon
Quite often I'm left feeling confused by a film, as if I didn't quite get the joke, and Nuits rouges is one of those films. I came to George Franju's weird crime caper cold, knowing nothing about it, and was amazed at what I saw unfolding before my eyes. The plot features a masked criminal called The Shadow (Jacque Champreux) and his cat-suited assistant (Gayle Hunnicut) scouring the rooftops and alleyways of Paris in search of some kind of ancient treasure that belongs to a modern sect of Knights Templar. I think. The colour scheme is what I would call saturated - it looks like an old comic book, and perhaps that was the point. The Shadow, in his red wrestling mask and tight-fitting suit, looks surreal, and the constant fights and skirmishes rapidly become tedious.

It's difficult to believe that the same director gave us the sublime Les Yuex Sans Visage - one of the most poetic and beautiful horror films ever made. This clunky affair shows none of that ethereal style, and the contrived plot lumbers along like a tank stuck in gear. Even Gayle Hunnicut's rooftop gymnastics do little to maintain the viewer's interest. There is, admittedly, a certain kitsch appeal, and the electronically-activated-red-armband-wearing killer-zombie-mannequins are pretty creepy in a retro kind of way.

A quick check online tells me that the film is a compression of an eight-episode French TV series, and this goes a long way to explaining some of its shortcomings. But the film left me wishing I'd liked it more. It has the feel of a below-par episode Emma Peel era The Avengers, but isn't anywhere near as much fun as it sounds. Perhaps if I was more familiar with the source material (Nuits rouges is apparently a parody of a series of films called Fantomas) then I'd have had more fun. As it stands, I was simply baffled.

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