House (Les Felins)/B, C+
French seem to have a patent on clever cat and mouse suspense
dramas. Maybe it's the settings on the coast of France that make
for perfect suspense ambiance; but whatever the reason, the
pleasures extracted from these tightly played out films are
ride through the French countryside. ŠImage
(Les Felins), directed by veteran suspense master Rene
Clement (Purple Noon), stars out with crisp Film Noir strokes. A
powerful American man in a business suit questions his wife
about the affair she had with a younger man. He walks the hotel
rooms with her and then orders his henchmen to Europe to bring
him the head of the offending gigolo.
Marc is working his magic in Paris when
he is quickly trapped like a rat in his hotel room by the trio
of hunters. While one works him over in a hot bath, another
takes photographs and the third bandies a tape recorder at the
gasping Marc. They want to record the evidence of his
transgressions and bring this back to the man in the States.
In a brilliantly filmed sequence, Marc
escapes before the men can finish their job. Hiding in a church
with a group of homeless and hungry, Marc is spotted by two
attractive women in black who dole out food to the hungry. The
film takes a delicious and unexpected turn as Marc becomes the
chauffer to the recently widowed good-looking blonde. More than
meets the eye is going on and Clement takes special delight in
the twists and turns of this confined thriller.
Filmed in widescreen black and white, the
stark images enhance the restricted ambiance. Add a nifty score
by Lalo Schifrin and Joy House keeps coming at you with
Alain Delon is the perfect pretty boy
gigolo for Marc. Lola Albright is the lady of the house with a
winning smile and black widow's heart and Jane Fonda plays her
cousin, hungry for money and hungry for love.
The widescreen anamorphic 2.35 black
and white images are transferred from relatively clean elements.
A few scratches and bad splices are in evidence, but they are
minor and rarely intrude on the image. Contrast range is
comfortable and shadow detail reveals the full intent of the
director. The image is sharp with no undue edge enhancement
except in some peak transitions. The mono sound is marred by a
hum throughout. You have to work to drown out the drone. Joy
House is presented in English, which seems to be the
language it was filmed in, or French, with no subtitles.
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