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Fantômas: The Complete Saga (DVD Review)

15 Sep, 2010 By: Angelique Flores

Street 9/21/10
Kino Lorber
$34.95 DVD
Not rated.
Stars René Navarre, Edmund Bréon, Georges Melchior.

This set is a must-have for any cinephile interested in early filmmaking. This impressive collection contains the five “Fantômas” films from French filmmaking pioneer Louis Feuillade: Fantômas in the Shadow of the Guillotine (1913), Juve vs. Fantômas (1913), The Murderous Corpse (1913), Fantômas vs. Fantômas (1914) and The False Magistrate (1914).

These silent films are based on a series of pulp magazines by the same name and combine to make one compelling epic. The “Fantômas” films became the prototype for thrillers and influenced such legendary filmmakers as Fritz Lang and Alfred Hitchcock. Decades later, the films hold up well and their influence is easy to understand.

Being nearly 100 years old, these films are probably cleaned up as well as any film from that era could be. Some scenes look a little more worn than others, but the pictures are clear and even fairly crisp in some scenes.

In Fantômas vs. Fantômas, a missing sequence has been replaced with a sequence from another “Fantômas” film. Several sequences in The False Magistrate are missing due to nitrate decomposition, but intertitles are inserted to bridge the gaps in the narrative, keeping the film cohesive.

The bonus materials provide a well-rounded look at the films and Feuillade, putting things into context of filmmaking at the time.

Historian David Kalat gives an audio commentary on Shadow of the Guillotine and Juve vs. Fantômas, giving an insightful look at Feuillade and all his films.

The two included early Feuillade films, the 14-minute The Nativity (1910) and the 17-minute The Dwarf (1912) as well as the short documentary “Louis Feuillade: Master of Many Forms,” go further in depth about the filmmaker and his contributions to cinema. Alone, The Dwarf is a moving film to watch.

The gallery of images is equally fascinating, with pictures of the writers, film stills, magazine covers, posters for the much later remakes of the film in different countries, program booklets, comic books and more.

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