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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Fantomas 1960s Collection (Blu-ray)
Fantomas 1960s Collection (Blu-ray)
Lorber // Unrated // April 30, 2019 // Region A
List Price: $49.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ian Jane | posted June 17, 2019 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

Directed by André Hunebelle and released between 1964 and 1967, the three films in the Fantômas Three Film Collection update, by the standards of their day at least, the characters created by Marcel Allain and Pierre Souvestre that were originally brought to the silver screen with the 1913 film by Louis Feuillade.

Fantômas:

The first film in the run, made in 1964, introduces us to Fantômas (Jean Marais). He's essentially a supervillain and very much a master of disguise and has the uncanny ability to accurately impersonate anyone he wants to. He uses this ability and his skills at making masks to keep his actual appearance a secret from the authorities, which obviously makes it easier for him to go about pulling off his various schemes and crimes.

When a reporter named Fandor (Marais again) prints a phony interview with Fantômas, the villain decides to take action against him. His plan? He kidnaps the journalist and holds him hostage, using his makeup and mask-making skills to create a disguise that perfectly replicates Fandor's appearance. From there, as Fandor, he goes on a bit of a crime spree and of course, everyone believes it to be Fandor. Eventually police commissioner Juve (Louis de Funès) figures out Fantômas is behind this, prompting Fantômas to create a Juve disguise he uses to a similar end. Eventually Juve teams up with Fandor and his beautiful girlfriend Hélène (Mylène Demongeot) to try and bring Fantômas to justice… but it won't be easy!

Fantômas Unleashed aka Fantômas se déchaîne:

This follow up, made in 1965, the plot begins when Fantômas (Marais) kidnaps a scientist named professor Marchand (Albert Dagnant) so that he can coerce him into creating for Fantômas the super weapon he needs to basically achieve world domination. To aid with this, Fantômas attempts to kidnap yet another scientist named Lefebvre (Marais in another role). Intrepid reporter Fandor (played by, of course, Marais!) hopes to beat Fantômas at his own game by disguising himself as Lefebvre. With his transformation complete as Lefebvre, Fandor appears at a conference in Rome hoping to trick Fantômas into kidnapping him while leaving the real Lefebvre safe and sound. And it works…

…at least until it doesn't. Once again, Juve (Funès, reprising his role) gets involved and bungles the plan that Fandor worked so hard to set in motion. Juve, however, also has an interesting assortment of Bond-esque gadgets that he hopes will aid in the quest to bring Fantômas to justice. But of course, Fantômas cannot be easily stopped, and he's got more than a few tricks of his own up his sleeve.

Fantômas vs. Scotland Yard aka Fantômas contre Scotland Yard:

In the third film, made in 1967, Fantômas comes up with his craziest scheme yet! He intends to impose a tax on Scotland's wealthiest citizens in exchange for allowing them to continue living. Those who don't pay up? They'll be put to death. When word gets out about this absurd plan, Scottish nobleman Lord McRashley (played by Jean-Roger Caussimon) invites Juve and Fandor out to Scotland to help put a stop to this. McRashley, who knows full well that he's one of those being targeted by the villain, allows his two new French associates to setup shop in his castle and together the three of them come up with a plant to catch Fantômas and hopefully put a stop to him one and for all.

All three of the films in this set work on the same level. They're campy, pulpy fun clearly inspired by the popularity of the James Bond movies that were tearing up the box office at the time. You could maybe throw in a little bit of the feel of the sixties Batman TV series as well, as there are moments where these movies give off a similar vibe. At times the films also feel inspired by Mario Bava's Danger: Diabolik!, but Bava's film came out in 1968, so it's clear that the influence ran the other way in that case. In short, they're ridiculously entertaining and while played pretty much completely straight, clearly not mean to be taken entirely seriously.

Director André Hunebelle, who also directed the popular OSS 117 series of spy films around the same time as these pictures, clearly knows how to pace a film. Each film gives us just enough character development to hold our interest, and more than enough of Fantômas bizarre schemes and tricks to keep things delightfully odd. The pictures are infused with plenty of quirky ideas, from gadgets to trick vehicles to, of course, the seemingly endless barrage of disguise tactics, and the films are all the better for it. There's plenty of creativity on display in each and every one of these films, it's hard not to get pulled into this bizarre, comic book style world.

As to the performances? It's a lot of fun to see Jean Marais, probably best known for Jean Cocteau's La belle et la bête, play multiple roles in these films. He's very good at Fandor, but of course, it's as Fantômas that he really shines. He looks positively bizarre under the green makeup he sports for much of the film, and he's just a kick to watch. Louis de Funès as the bumbling police commissioner is also pretty entertaining. His character is more of a stereotype than the others but he plays his part well. Mylène Demongeot, who plays Hélène in all three films, is also quite good here. Her performances are always entertaining.

The Video:

Kino presents all three of the Fantômas films in their proper 2.35.1 widescreen aspect ratio in AVC encoded 1080p high definition presentations. The first film sits by itself on a 25GB disc while the two sequels share a 50GB disc. Generally speaking, the films look quite nice. There are some scenes that look a tad on the blue side but otherwise color reproduction is very good, there's quite a bit of ‘pop' noticeable throughout the films. Detail levels vary a bit throughout each film, some scenes look razor sharp while others look just a tad soft. This is likely due to how they were shot rather than with the transfers themselves. The transfers occasionally show some small white specks here and there but that's about it as far as print damage goes, the images are clean for the most part. There are no problems with compression nor is there any visible noise reduction or edge enhancement, resulting in three rather good looking, film-like transfers.

The Audio:

Each of the three films in this collection gets a 16-bit French language DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track with optional subtitles offered up in English. No problems here, the tracks are clean and nicely balanced. There's a bit more depth than maybe you'd expect to hear given the limitations of the single channel mixes. Some of the action scenes sound very strong. The scores also sound quite solid here, quite lively at times and rather vibrant.

The Extras:

The main extra is the Tim Lucas commentary included for the first picture. In typical Lucas fashion, this track is extremely well-researched, providing a veritable non-stop barrage about the Fantômas franchise, the films' literary roots, the cast and crew assembled for the production, the score, the locations, critical response to the pictures, disruption history and lots more. He also details influences that work their way into the films, his thoughts on the quality of the direction and performances, the score and other related topics. It's quite detailed and very interesting.

Aside from that, we get trailers for all three of the Fantômas films and bonus trailers for the three OSS 117 films (also available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber). Menus and chapter selection are also included.

Overall:

Kino Lorber are to be commended for bringing the three sixties era Fantômas films to English-friendly Blu-ray! While the set isn't stacked with extras, Lucas' commentary is very good the audio and video presentations are quite strong. The movies themselves are a ridiculous amount of weird, pulpy fun. Insanely entertaining stuff, recommended!

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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