The Fantomas Trilogy


Director: Andre Hunebell
Year: 1964 - 1967
Rating: Various
Country: France

Fantomas (1964) – 7.0

Enjoyable though rather light treatment of the Fantomas character from French literature. This is the first in a trilogy of Fantomas films that turn the books into campy Bondesque adventure stories. If you are not familiar with Fantomas he was the villain - the man of a thousand disguises - whose capers were created by Marcel Allain and Pierre Souvestre beginning in 1911 and going for some 43 novels. But unlike a number of other books of the time that were took a sympathetic the view of the criminal - Fantomas was not a Gentleman Thief as was The Saint or The Lone Wolf for example. Fantomas was a true psychopath with no compassion and unrelenting cruelty. On his trail was usually the policeman Juve and the journalist Fandor.

The same goes for the film in which the blue faced Fantomas - the blue face being a creation of the film - plans his crimes from his bizarrely decorated lair and has no compunction about killing. Against him are Juve and Fandor, but none of this is taken too seriously - Juve is portrayed as a near Inspector Clouseau character and Fandor often seems more interested in women than catching Fantomas. The final third of the film is basically one long chase and done reasonably well. Not fabulous by any means but I look forward to the next two films.

Fantomas Unleashed (1965) – 6.0

The first in this trilogy - Fantomas (1964) had an enjoyable mix of comedy and suspense but in this second film they decide very firmly to go with comedy as the focus shifts to the Inspector Clouseau like Juve with his gadgets and incompetence. There is very little of the blue faced Fantomas. It involves his dastardly plan to kidnap scientists to produce a machine that can do mass hypnosis. Fantomas has a very cool lair again but he is becoming much too benign.

Jean Marais who plays the journalist Fandor was one of France's great classical actors having worked with Jean Cocteau in The Beauty and the Beast, Les Parents Terribles, Orpheus and a number of adventure films such as The Count of Monte Christo and Man in the Iron Mask.

Fantomas vs Scotland Yard (1967) – 5.0

This third and last film in the trilogy of Fantomas from director Andre Hunebelle sort of skids off the road and falls into tedious territory. The first two films were at best only ok with a few highlights of action or weirdness but this one is just silly with Juve seeing ghosts and running around a castle in Scotland. Yes, Scotland. For some reason they take the film to the highlands of Scotland which perhaps to a French audience in the 1960's was exotic, but I love seeing films shot in Paris.

All the usual characters are gathered together again - Fantomas with a plot to extort money from the richest men in France; Inspector Juve acting like a nincompoop; Fandor who disappears for much of the film and Helene played by the blonde bombshell Mylene Demongeot. They all run around a lot and not much else. All in all this trilogy was a disappointment - it should have been much better.