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Criterion Collection: Judex [Blu-ray] [1963] [US Import]

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Criterion Collection: Judex [Blu-ray] [1963] [US Import] + Picnic At Hanging Rock - The Director's Cut [Blu-ray] [1975]
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 12 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Edward Gorey's Favorite Movie. 21 Jun 2014
By Chip Kaufmann - Published on
Format: Blu-ray
If you have never seen Georges Franju's 1963 remake of Louis Feuillade's 1917 serial JUDEX then you owe it to yourself to catch this remarkable film. Franju (1912-1987) is best remembered for his poetic, much copied horror film EYES WITHOUT A FACE (1959) but he made a number of other movies including this as well as the shocking pre-PETA documentary THE BLOOD OF THE BEASTS (1949) which was filmed inside a French slaughterhouse. He was also a co-founder of France's Cinemateque Francaise and his movies bear the striking visual look of older films especially silents. Once you've seen one of Franju's film, it's unlikely that you'll forget it. His last film, NUITS ROUGE (1974), was a remake of the 1914 Feuillade serial FANTOMAS.

After the international success of EYES, Franju decided to pay homage to France's great serial filmmaker Louis Feuillade (1873-1925) whose LES VAMPIRES (1916) would influence crime and crimefighter films for decades. He chose JUDEX because of its BATMAN like qualities which he thought a modern audience could relate to. Although set in 1917 and shot in stunning black & white, the film is deliberately anachronistic with contemporary fashions and make-up and the overall look of the French New Wave. American magician Channing Pollock makes a suitably imposing Judex although he's dubbed and the young Edith Scob (HOLY MOTORS) is a thoughtful if somewhat melancholy damsel-in-distress. The score by Maurice Jarre complements the action perfectly.

The show belongs to Francine Berge' (just as it did her predecessor Musidora) as the villainous Diana Monti. Her black outfit is straight out of THE AVENGERS although Diana Rigg's Emma Peel wouldn't show up until 2 years later. The story is essentially the same as the silent. An unscrupulous banker "dies" in the film's most remarkable set piece only to find himself captive of a black clad figure (complete with cape) intent on justice. Meanwhile a greedy governess plans to murder his daughter in the hopes of getting the family's money. After a series of abductions, rescues and narrow escapes, all works out for the best. This was reportedly illustrator Edward Gorey's favorite movie and it is truly one-of-a-kind. The Criterion Blu-Ray and the DVD transfers are stunning!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
I have enjoyed this film before but this is the first time ... 18 Aug 2014
By Eric L. Hoffman - Published on
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I have enjoyed this film before but this is the first time a beautiful transfer has been done of it for our forma. I wish they had also done one with THE MAN WITHOUT A FACE a.k.a. SHADOWMAN the same way, as they did in fact, both films were released in Britain as a 'double-bill' on dvd over there.

JUDEX is a little ethereal in its pace, but I like it...the masquerade sequence stands on its own.
Very good transfer and worth waiting for, for fans of Franju and this film 15 Nov 2014
By Jeffrey S. Dible - Published on
Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
I remember seeing this film late at night on a public TV station back in the early 70s, before VCRs, and then I saw it again at a university film club showing; it led me to find and watch other Franju films and to read critics' books about him. The Blu-Ray and DVD transfers are very good, as are the extras and the 36-page booklet. A huge improvement over the DVD-R version from 16 mm which was the only version available here in the U.S. to folks with Region 1 DVD players.

This film will please new viewers, as it has always pleases me, with its atmosphere a nostalgic sense of "innocent fun' that channels some of the trappings of the Louis Feuillade's serials circa 1916 without following all of the plot points (One of the screenwriters of this verision of "Judex" was the grandson of Louis Feuillade). The central character of Judex is a a bit of a cipher in this film, and Franju pretty obviously did not care about fleshing out the character; what we need to see and know about Judex is conveyed adequately by the rather stiff performance of Channing Pollock, a professional magician who was later the mentor of a friend of mine (now also a professional magician).

Above all, what makes this film work, if it "works" at all, are the surreal visuals (the ball at which all the guests and Judex himself wear bird masks, the black-garbed associates of Judex scaling the rough stone walls of an old building at night) and the amazing performance of Francine Berge as the wonderfully, wicked and scheming Diana Monti . . . her character is an homage to the femme fatale played by Musidora in Feuillade's Les Vampires. Jacques Jouanneau turns in a subtly comic performance as Cocantin, a private detective who stumbles onto scene after scene at nearly the right time, later with the help of a small boy who is smarter than he is.
8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Fascinating and beautifully filmed 24 Jun 2014
By Robert Ashton - Published on
Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
Georges Franju's "Judex" (the avenger or judge) is a remake of a 1916, 12 part crime serial by Louis Feuillade. He retains much of the feel of the old serial melodramas including clear scene breaks but he adds many innovations that make this a fascinating and rather strange film.

Franju is clearly interested in the visual impression he makes. The plot and acting are rather secondary. We never know, for example, what Judex is avenging (the original made this clear). He filmed "Judex" using orthochromatic cinematography, which produces a harsh tonal contrast that is key to the stunning visual impact of this movie. It is filmed in black and white but is also literally black and white, using strong contrasts of black clothes and capes with white dresses; dark furniture and white stone and so on. The final fight to the death between two women has one dressed in black and one in white. Undoubtedly, for me, the best scene in the movie is a long shot that slowly reveals Judex in evening wear and sporting a large bird's head mask and holding an apparently dead dove which he carries slowly through a masked party. It is both surreal and frightening, supported by music by Maurice Jarre. This scene alone makes the movie worth having and it must rate as one of the best shots in movie history. Criterion's Blu-ray release showcases the magnificent photography.

The story is relatively straightforward. A wicked banker (a convincing Michel Vitold), who is shown willing to kill, is apparently murdered by an unidentified avenger, Judex (played in a rather limited way by magician, Channing Pollock). In fact, due to the virtues of his daughter (the almost Pre-Raphaelite Edith Scob ), Judex has decided to imprison him for life. However, the plot is complicated by a wicked ex-governess, marvelously played by Francine Berge, who proceeds to kidnap and attempt to kill various characters. In the end, of course, right wins out and the hero gets the girl. Berge is really evil and there is good comic relief from a private detective and a young boy(Jacques Jouanneau and Benjamin Boda respectively).

Franju makes a movie that is a homage to a melodrama of the past, an early version of camped-up superheroes, a morality play and a surreal dream. Hard to accurately describe, "Judex" is the work of a master film maker.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
One of my favorites! 9 Sep 2014
By Ol' Jon - Published on
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Stunning restoration and eerie / mystical tone make this one a winner. I'd rate it PG. One of a kind.
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