Monday 17 June 2024


Rouges sont les vendanges is a colour 107-minute French mystery TV movie produced by ORTF (Office de radiodiffusion-télévision française) and aired by its Deuxième chaîne on July 16, 1974.
It's also a very peculiar episode of the detective series Les Cinq Dernières Minutes (1958-1996).

Les Cinq Dernières Minutes is one of the first series in the History of French television. Created by journalist, director, scriptwriter and producer Claude Loursais, it was launched on January 1, 1958 on the only channel of RTF (Radiodiffusion Télévision Française), the predecessor of ORTF. Les Cinq Dernières Minutes went through several changes in three "eras" until France 2 shown its 149th episode on December 20, 1996. The first era (1958-1973) was penned by Loursais  who helmed most of its episodes  with Fred Kassak, Louis C. Thomas, Michel Lebrun, Maurice-Bernard Endrèbe, Henri Grangé, André Maheux, Jean Cosmos, etc. This version starred Raymond Souplex as the mustachioed and gruff Inspecteur/Commissaire Antoine Bourrel and Jean Daurand as Inspecteur Dupuy. Pierre Collet played Brigadier Coulomb
Originally, Les Cinq Dernières Minutes was a mystery gameshow aired live from the Buttes-Chaumont studios. Two selected viewers watched a whodunit, then the inspector asked them the solution and how to prove it with the possibility to watch again a couple of scenes. After Les Cinq Dernières Minutes dropped live broadcasting and the game format, the series explored different socio-professional environments in episodes shot in studio on video and on 16mm film for the locations (Paris, its suburbs and the regions). The popularity of the programme peaked in the 1960s-1970s and turned Raymond Souplex and Jean Daurand into TV stars. Bourrel's catchphrase (« Bon Dieu, mais c'est bien sûr! ») entered the vernacular. The series was adapted in Germany under the title Dem Täter auf der Spur (1967-1973). Les Cinq Dernières Minutes switched from black and white to colour in 1971.
Dupuy was gradually phased out of Les Cinq Dernières Minutes after Jean Daurand had health issues. In September 1972, Raymond Souplex worked on the 56th episode, Un gros pépin dans le chasselas. The shooting was interrupted by the ORTF rolling strikes of October but the scenarios of two episodes, Les griffes de la colombe and Fausse note, were ready (1) so the actor rehearsed the former on November 20. He died two days later from cancer, aged 71. Claude Loursais decided that Episode 56, finished thanks to script changes and editing, would be the last one (2). Nevertheless, four TV movies were tested between July 1974 and January 1975 (not in production order) on the Deuxième chaîne and Antenne 2: Rouges sont les vendanges, Fausse note, Si ce n'est toi (formerly Les griffes de la colombe) and Le Coup de pouce. Those films, independent from Les Cinq Dernières Minutes though built on its "formula", introduced new detectives and the famous theme music by Marc Lanjean (3) was notably absent. 

Directed by Claude Loursais, Rouges sont les vendanges (previously Les vignobles and Rouges vendanges) was masterfully crafted by Fred Kassak and Jean Cosmos. Jérôme Lebugue, the owner of a vineyard in Gironde, is about to marry Yvette Mussidan, a woman younger than him. Lebugue's former mistress is heartbroken, like his nephew who loves Yvette. When she's found dead on Lebugue's lands, Commissaire Le Carré and Inspecteur Ménardeau investigate. Le Carré wears a leather jacket and has a dog called Rougeole. He's played by Christian Barbier (La Horse, L'Armée des Ombres), who reached fame with the ORTF drama L'Homme du Picardie (1968). Rouges sont les vendanges is actually the third appearance of Marc Eyraud as the Columbo-esque Ménardeau. In Si ce n'est toi, the character was the colleague of Commissaire Lindet (Henri Lambert) and he solved the case on his own in Fausse note.

Rouges sont les vendanges is the best of the four films despite its length (Le Carré and Ménardeau arrive after 50 minutes). The both perfect Barbier and Eyraud lead a cast of quality, especially Paul Crauchet (Jérôme), Eva Damien (Françoise Lesponne), Michel Subor (Lucien Lesponne) and Jenny Arasse as Yvette. The TV movie was almost entirely shot in the city of Saint-Émilion, hence views of the Chapelle de la Trinité and Le Ban des Vendanges ceremony of the Jurade Brotherhood. « We shot between september and october 1973, during the grape harvest. We enjoyed some good wine, as you can imagine, Claude Loursais being a fine connoisseur. » remembers Jenny Arasse. There's no original music, as often for the ORTF productions. René Taquet is credited as the sound illustrator of Rouges sont les vendanges. He was an artistic director, a music producer who founded the Disques Magellan label (4) and a library music specialist.

Also starring Gérard Lartigau (Olivier Lebugue), Muse Dalbray (Edmée Lebugue), Victor Garrivier (Félix), Henri Virlojeux (Chalumeau), Maria Laborit (Marie Lesponne), Claude Confortès (Joseph), Jacques Serres, Bernard Freyd... Produced by Hélène Rambert and Serge Raggianti. Cinematography by Jean Limousin. Video editing by Christiane Coutel. Film editing by Marie-Hélène Lacroze. Le Carré and Rougeole did another one, Le coup de pouce (without Ménardeau) and Claude Loursais almost kept Christian Barbier but they didn't agree on the financial terms. The four TV movies are retrospectively considered as "La période intermédiaire" of Les Cinq Dernières Minutes. In 1974, Jacques Debary (Poker d'aswas announced  as the unnamed commissaire of Loursais' new (as yet untitled) mystery drama and that the shooting of its first episode had begun.

This episode, called Le lièvre blanc aux oreilles noires, was aired by Antenne 2 on May 19, 1975 as part of... Les Cinq Dernières Minutes. Commissaire Broussard (Jacques Debary) became Commissaire Cabrol because there was a real-life supercop named Broussard. Marc Eyraud returned as Ménardeau in the following episode for an association with Cabrol which lasted until 1991. Pierre Santini (Un juge, un flic) as Commissaire Julien Massard and Pierre Hoden (Inspecteur Antoine Barrier) were the final duo of Les Cinq Dernières Minutes from 1992 to 1996. Perrette Souplex, the daughter of Raymond Souplex, guest starred as Bourrel's daughter in a 1995 episode. The episodes of Les Cinq Dernières Minutes from 1958 to 1991 are available on Madelen, the streaming service of INA. Brigade des Mineurs, the 1977-1979 social drama series created by Claude Loursais and starring Jean Daurand as Commissaire Dupuy, is on Madelen too.
(1) Michel Lebrun in Télé 7 Jours N°744 (July 27, 1974).
(2) Télé 7 Jours N°667 (February 3, 1973).
(3) Arsenic Blues, composed by Marc Lanjean for the movie La Peau de l'ours (1957). 
Special thanks to Jenny Arasse.
See also: 
Muriel Favre - Enquête sur une émission légendaire de la télévision française: Les Cinq Dernières Minutes (1958-1973) in Vingtième Siècle. Revue d'histoire (Year 1997).
Jacques Baudou and Jean-Jacques Schléret - Meurtres en séries - Les séries policières de la télévision française (Huitième Art, 1990). 

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