Nuits rouges [aka, Shadowman] (1974)

Do mad scientist films actually qualify as science fiction?

One of my favorite films is Georges Franju’s Judex (1963), a film that combines amazing black and white compositions, steampunk-ish inventions, a pulpy plot borrowed from a 1916 French serial, and just a hint of tongue in cheek humor.  Eleven years later, he created another, very similar film, Nuits rouges, about a sinister, red-hooded villain (“The man without a face”), his criminal empire, his pet mad scientist, his mind-controlled slaves, the attempts to stop him, and the Knights Templar

Franju filmed a television version (on 16mm) and a feature version (on 35mm) at the same time to avoid using blown up 16mm for the theatrical prints.  Unfortunately, his 35mm negatives were stolen, and one suspects the final film suffers from this.

It is amusing and quite clever in places, but somehow I expected more – thanks of course to Judex.  But it is also true that Mario Bava’s Danger:  Diabolik covers much of the same territory and is vastly more entertaining.

However, the scenes of the villain’s zombified slaves marching at our heroes disguised as manikins are nicely chilling (although one has to wonder if he ever saw the Doctor Who episode, Spearhead from Space, unlikely as that seems), and it is fun to try to recognize the film’s screenwriter, Jacques Champreux, under a variety of different disguises, including an old woman.

Yes, it is an entertaining, well made film.

One just feels it should have been so much more.

 

 

 

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