Monday, 9 November 2015


[Spoiler-Free] Someone threatens to kidnap Bruno, the young son of famous crime fiction author Eloïse Zennefort and her husband Hadrien Debaer unless they pay 500.000 francs. 

The demand is signed "Greg Atlas", which is the name of the character created by Eloïse.

« Cadeau d'une femme, j'imagine?
- Plusieurs. Elles se sont cotisées »

L'étrange enlèvement du petit Bruno is the twelfth episode of Les petits meurtres d'Agatha Christie ("The little murders of Agatha Christie") with the Laurence/Avril/Marlène trio. Directed by Eric Woreth, it is adapted from Agatha Christie's novel The Adventure of Johnnie Waverly by Jean-Luc Gaget. Samuel Labarthe is Commissaire Swan Laurence. Alice Avril is played by Blandine Bellavoir and Élodie Frenck plays Marlène Leroix. Natacha Lindinger returns as the sophisticated and sarcastic pathologist Docteur E. Maillol (« J'ai pratiqué une autopsie sur votre petit oiseau. »), who appeared in the previous episode as Laurence's potential love interest.

« Vous me prenez pour qui? Une débutante?
- Non, une plaie. La onzième. Après le furoncle »

Commissaire Laurence goes to the luxurious castle of Eloïse Zennefort. Avril too because she got an interview with the novelist. Swan requires uniformed backup but that's not enough to prevent the kidnapping of little Bruno. Marlène speaks in abbreviations and quotes her "Tata Gilberte", someone beheads birds, Alice visits the police station cells again, Françoise Giroud works for newspaper La Voix du Nord (or not) and wasps can't drive. 

« Et la liberté de la presse?
- Je m'assied dessus. Une fesse, puis l'autre.  »

Aired last friday by Swiss channel RTS Un (ahead of French pubcaster France 2), L'étrange enlèvement du petit Bruno reaches a new high for the popular series. Valérie de Dietrich is absolutely extraordinary as the "queen of crime novels" Eloïse Zennefort. The rest of the guest cast includes Fabio Zenoni (Hadrien Debaer), Vincent de Bouard (Gilles Vanberten) Victor Le Blond (Gaspard), etc. Dominique Thomas plays Commissaire divisionnaire Tricard, Alice's editor-in-chief Robert Jourdeuil is played by François Godart and Thomas Baelde is back as Raoul Gredin.

Les petits meurtres d'Agatha Christie is produced by Sophie Révil for Escazal Films with Pictanovo (Witnesses), Conseil Régional Nord-Pas-de-Calais and the participation of France Télévisions, TV5 Monde and RTS Radio Télévision Suisse. The characters of Laurence, Avril and Marlène were created by Sylvie Simon and Thierry Debroux. The music is composed by Stéphane Moucha.

« Mon mari m'a supplié de ne pas l'acheter, cette bicoque. Mais que voulez-vous, l'argent rend con »

The magnificent castle of this episode is in fact le château des Princes de Ligne at Antoing in Belgium. Some Eloïse Zennefort's Greg Atlas novels: Le Masque de Dieu, L'Amour est une illusion ordinaire, Une position inconfortable... « Cette affaire ça ferait un très bon épisode des Cinq dernières minutes, n'est-ce pas?  »

Monday, 2 November 2015


Europe at the end of the 1920s. Charming and elegant, Arsène Lupin is a gentleman thief who steals without violence. He's a master of disguise who ridicules the authorities and the best sleuths, though himself likes detective work. Especially if a beautiful woman is involved. 

Arsène Lupin (1971-1974), starring Georges Descrières, is one of the most popular series in the History of French television. In August Koba Films released a four-disc DVD box set of its second and final season. 

« Quand un mystère nous échappe feignons d'en être l'organisateur.
- Ça c'est du Lupin, hein?
- Non, c'est de Jean Cocteau.  »

Created by French writer Maurice Leblanc (1864-1941), Arsène Lupin appeared in 39 short stories and 17 novels between 1905 and 1939. Several actors portrayed him for the cinema, including Robert Lamoureux in the 1950s. In 1960, Jean Gascon played Lupin for Canadian TV. During the decade, writer and director Jacques Nahum tried to convince French state television about an Arsène Lupin series. Nahum, who adapted The Saint with the film Le Saint mène la danse (1960), had Simon Templar in mind but couldn't get the rights. At the end of 1968, L'Office de Radiodiffusion-Télévision Française commissioned Jacques Nahum's Mars International Productions and Pathé to produce Arsène Lupin.

Stage and movie actor Georges Descrières (of the Comédie-Française) was chosen for the title role in 1969. International co-production with Germany, Canada, Austria, Holland, Italy and Switzerland allowed Lupin to travel in Europe with his chauffeur Grognard (French Canadian actor Yvon Bouchard) for most of the thirteen 60-minute episodes. The writers loosely based their scripts on Leblanc's work to favour a lighter character. The nonchalant charisma of Descrières and classy production values made of Arsène Lupin a success on the ORTF 2nd channel in the spring 1971. A Bondian title sequence (by Jean Fouchet) with the music of Jean-Pierre Bourtayre and an end title sung by Jacques Dutronc contributed to this popularity.

A second 13-episode season was commissioned to Mars and Pathé. ORF and WWF joined as co-producers, hence one episode in Austria and three in Germany. Some of the filming took place in the French region of Dordogne during the year 1973. Jean-Pierre Bourtayre composed once again the soundtrack, arranged by Jean-Daniel Mercier. The theme and the title sequence returned but a new end title song, Gentleman cambrioleur, was composed for Dutronc by Bourtayre, Yves Dessca and Franck Harvel (Alain Boublil).

1. Herlock Sholmes lance un défi. Lupin steals a necklace to the count of Dreux-Soubise (Bernard Dhéran). English detective Herlock Sholmes (Henri Virlojeux) challenges him. An enjoyable premiere adapted by Claude Brulé and directed by Jean-Pierre Desagnat, who helmed the French episodes of this season. Roger Carel is back as Arsène's nemesis Commissaire Guerchard. Also with Sophie Agacinski (Nathalie), Yves Barsacq (Wilson), Jacques Monod (Le préfet), Bernard Lavalette (Le ministre) and Michel Peyrelon as a general. Lupin/Floriani is very Groucho Marx.

2. Arsène Lupin prend des vacances. Arsène Lupin becomes Inspecteur Lenormand. In Cannes, he investigates the murder of businessman Kesselbach (Jacques Debary). Also starring Claude Degliame (Dolores), Daniel Sarky (Leduc). Adapted by Nathan Grigorieff, a very good episode including great scenes between Carel and Yvon Bouchard and a tribute to The Lady from Shanghai.

3. Le mystère de Gesvres. The steward of comte de Gesvres is stabbed during a "visit" of Lupin. Scriptwriter Albert Simonin introduces reporter Isidore Beautrelet, a clone of Rouletabille brilliantly portrayed by Bernard Giraudeau. Also with Thérèse Liotard (Raymonde), Pauline Larrieu (Suzanne) and Henri Tisot (Juge Duredant).

4. Le secret de l'aiguille. Arsène Lupin steals the jewels of the Crown and the Parchment of William the Conqueror. Herlock Sholmes teams up with Isidore Beautrelet and Guerchard. Adapted by Simonin and filmed in Étretat. Roger Carel and Bernard Giraudeau are formidable in this bravura piece where Sholmes reads Shakespeare to a dog and Guerchard uses a diving equipment. Arsène's "Commandant Delaville" resembles Filochard of Les Pieds nickelés and his "Père supérieur" speaks like Louis Jouvet. Catherine Rouvel plays Geneviève.

5. L'homme au chapeau noir. The Tout-Paris mourns for Lupin. Herlock Sholmes, Wilson and even Guerchard attend his funeral. Except the gentleman thief is alive and he can't resist to help a lady in distress. An excellent episode adapted by Claude Brulé. The pre-credit sequence refers to Maurice Leblanc, to Brulé's uncle André Brulé (who played Lupin on stage) or to season one's Countess Natacha. With Nicole Calfan (Catherine), Karin Petersen (Juliette), Gérard Chevalier (De Boisvert). Stuntman Gérard Streiff flies in Arsène's biplane.

6. L'écharpe de soie rouge. Music Hall star Jenny (Prudence Harrington, who appeared uncredited in the previous episode) marries shady financier Prévailles (François Guérin). Adapted by Brulé, this episode is carried by Roger Carel. Jenny's song is performed by Anne Germain. Also starring Sacha Pitoëff (Ignatieff).

7. La demeure mystérieuse. Model Régine Aubry (Marika Green) is kidnapped wearing a dress covered with diamonds. An average detective case penned by Georges Berlot. Also starring Evelyne Dress (Arlette), Jacques Toja (Comte de Mélamare) and Guy Grosso (Rabloux).

8. Les huit coups de l'horloge. Hunting with Baron d'Aigleroche (François Maistre), Arsène Lupin meets Hortense (Corinne Le Poulain) and her cousin Gaétan (Pierre Londiche). A good surprise adapted by Robert Scipion, with Grognard whistling the intro of the series, a car chase and a sabre duel.

9. La dame au chapeau à plumes. Arsène Lupin and Grognard have a car accident in Vienna. Amnesiac, Lupin is helped by a nurse. Adapted by husband and wife Rolf & Alexandra Becker (Dickie Dick Dickens) and Jacques-Roger Nanot, this Austrian entry for ORF sounds like an ITC show. Directed by Wolf Dietrich.

10. La danseuse de Rottenburg. Lupin saves a young woman who wanted to commit suicide. This episode and the next two are produced by Bavaria für WWF and directed by Fritz Umgelter. Adapted by R. & A. Becker with Gerôme Gresy. Günter Strack (Federlin) and Sky du Mont (uncredited) are in the guest cast.

11. Le film révélateur. Arsène turns into American film star Douglas Dutchman to steal a diamond. A pleasant episode adapted by R. & A. Becker with Jacques-Roger Nanot.

12. Double jeu. A forgettable adaptation by R. & A. Becker with Georges Berlot.

13. Le coffre fort de Madame Imbert. Lupin wants to teach a lesson to the greedy Irène Imbert (Pascale Roberts). Adapted by Albert Simonin. Also with Marthe Mercadier (Sophie), Jean-Pierre Rambal (Benoit). The music played by the blind man (Raymond Bussières) is L'Arsène, the end title song of the first season.

The 2nd channel aired this final season in winter 1973-1974. Repeats of the series helped to establish Georges Descrières as the definitive Arsène Lupin for generations of viewers, although Leblanc's fans may disagree. Jacques Nahum brought back Lupin to television with Arsène Lupin joue et perd (1980, starring Jean-Claude Brialy), Le retour d'Arsène Lupin (1989) and its follow-up Les Nouveaux Exploits d'Arsène Lupin (1995), both with François Dunoyer. Descrières played Sam Kramer alongside Corinne Le Poulain and later Nicole Calfan in Sam et Sally (1978-1980), based on the books of M.G. Braun and produced by Nahum.

Amongst familiar French faces of the era or abroad, Georges Descrières, his elegance and his disguises make of Arsène Lupin a special treat. Bonus material of the Koba Films DVD set includes a video of Jacques Dutronc singing Gentleman  cambrioleur and a Making of La demeure mystérieuse. Last month Koba released Arsène Lupin - L'intégrale, a DVD box set with the two seasons.  

Season 1: