Judex (1963)

Judex (1963)

“I don’t understand what it is that this Judex wants.”

When her corrupt banker-father (Michel Vitold) is kidnapped by a mysterious caped crusader known as Judex (Channing Pollock), a waifish widow (Edith Scob) enlists the help of a bumbling private detective (Jacques Jouanneau), not realizing that she will soon be kidnapped herself by a woman (Francine Bergé) posing as her daughter’s nanny, who is working in league with her devoted lover and accomplice (Théo Sarapo) to secure Vitold’s riches.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Comics and Comic Strips
  • French Films
  • Georges Franju Films
  • Kidnapping
  • Millionaires
  • Superheroes

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that director “Georges Franju not only wanted to make a feature remake of French master Louis Feuillade’s 1917 serial but to also re-create the fun and excitement present in all of Feuillade’s early serials, including his classic Fantomas.” However, he notes that “while Franju’s film of the caped crusader” — “who has his own unlawful ways of meting out justice” — “also mixes the fantastic with relevant social criticism, it is more poetic, unreal (rather than being surreal), melancholy, subtly humorous, and slowly paced than Feuillade’s work.” He asserts that this “enjoyable film keeps surprising you,” with “most surprising… how little Judex himself accomplishes after his initial rescue of Jacqueline early in the film.”

While Judex “promises to protect her,” “she is kidnapped and would die a couple of times before he reaches her if it weren’t for a couple of fluke happenings (chance plays a major part in this film).” Indeed, it’s really “greedy, cunning, sexy villainness Diane Monti” (Berge) who takes center stage in the storyline:

As Peary writes, “Whether putting on her moral act, plotting a crime while doing a hip-bopping dance with Morales”:

… “checking her looks in the mirror while wearing her habit, stabbing Jacqueline in the back, or coming on to a tied-up Judex”:

… “she has a lot of flair.”

Meanwhile, during a crucial rescue scene, after “Judex daringly climbs the outside of a tall building in order to capture Diane and Favraux” only to be “conked on the head and tied up,” it’s “a woman, Daisy [Sylva Koscina]” — the “circus-performer girlfriend” of Jouanneau — who “just happens along [at the right time] in her circus garb, climbs [a] building, and unties [Judex].”

This is a girl-power film for sure. With that said, fans of Franju’s incomparable Eyes Without a Face (1960) will be disappointed to see that Edith Scob’s character here is neither compelling nor energized:

Again, it’s Berge’s show all the way, and she alone makes it worth a look.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Francine Bergé as Diana
  • Marcel Fredetal’s cinematography

  • Fine sets and costumes

Must See?
No, though it’s worth a one-time look for its historical relevance.


One thought on “Judex (1963)

  1. First viewing. Not must-see, though I would recommend it for its unique place in French cinema history.

    I only had a rough idea of what to expect here so I was delighted to discover just how captivated I was as the film began and the story developed. I definitely perked up early on. I was quite taken with its deliberate tone / pacing, its particularly inventive sections, and the decided quirkiness of its characters. (Jouanneau, in particular, amused me quite a bit throughout.)

    Ultimately, this most likely isn’t a film for the average ff – and some may feel it’s a little slow. As it moved into its latter half, I began to sense (for some reason) that the film didn’t quite maintain the confidence exhibited in the first half. (As well, a few transitions seemed odd.)

    Nevertheless, I remained engaged overall – and thought that I might want to give the film a second look at some point in the future.

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