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Rider On The Rain
cast: Marlène Jobert, Charles Bronson, Annie Cordy, and Jill Ireland

director: René Clément

120 minutes (18) 1970
widescreen ratio 16:9
Optimum DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Gary McMahon
In my younger days I was something of a Charles Bronson fan. I loved his tough guy roles in films like Mr Majestik, The Great Escape, The Dirty Dozen, The Magnificent Seven, and even Death Wish. Back in the heyday of VHS, I'd eagerly rent anything that he was in, and saw a few gems along the way (White Buffalo, Chato's Land, The Mechanic, Telefon, among others) along with a few stinkers that I won't mention here.

Somehow I managed to miss completely Rider On The Rain (aka: Le passager de la pluie). To be honest, I'd never even heard of it until I saw the review disc. I'm glad I finally got to catch up with this underrated little gem of a film, because I think it shows Bronson at his best, and makes great use of his taciturn, muscular action-hero persona.

The excellent set-up is simplicity in itself, in terms of noir styling: a woman (Marlène Jobert) in an off-season French seaside town watches a man get off a bus in the rain. The man follows and eventually rapes her, but she manages to kill him and dispose of the corpse. Bronson appears as Harry Dobbs, an undercover US Army Colonel hunting down a serial rapist who escaped from a military prison. What follows is a wonderful (and tense) cat-and-mouse scenario, where the woman sticks to her story of knowing nothing, but Dobbs certainly knows more than he first lets on, and this includes secrets about the woman's absent husband´┐Ż then a body appears on the beach, and things become even more complicated.

The film is beautifully photographed, with riveting performances by the two leads, and there's the tense intimacy of a stage-play about the whole thing. The film evokes Hitchcock without ever copying his style, and that's no mean feat considering that the story is indeed very Hitchcockian in itself. Personally, I think it has more in common with the subdued thrillers of Claude Chabrol (particularly Le Boucher), with its European sensibility and wonderful sense of melancholy.

The only downside to the film was that because of the typically vague overdubbing of the time I wasn't sure whether it was actually filmed in French or English, so hadn't a clue which version of the audio to set on my DVD player. In the end I watched the English language version, but I may have been wrong to do so.

All that aside, this is a refreshing slice of moody French noir which deserves to be better recognised, certainly as a key film in Bronson's career.

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