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4.4 out of 5 stars
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4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 29 January 2015
This is a wonderful movie and a beautiful story.

Please be aware though that I'm reviewing an item of a different quality altogether from what I ordered.

I purchased a Studio Canal dvd but was sent a 'World Cinema Collection' dvd instead. I didn't realise the mismatch until after I began to watch the movie and realised I had been sold a 'pig in a bag'

The quality is absolutely awful. It has been videotaped from a tv screen or so it seems. You can even see the tv 'rolling' half way through as though it needed retuning. The subtitles are a 3rd of the way up the screen and for a large part of the movie, are unreadable. There has been no restoration to sound or vision and it's an absolute dog.

Ok, I paid under £3.00 for it but I would have preferred to have received what I ordered.

The seller is Rapid-DVD so be aware.
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on 23 June 2017
Oddly I had never seen the original before, only the blander and less believable American remake with the famous -?notorious= quote from a too smooth Charles Boyer who could never replace Jean Gabin.
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on 26 April 2005
One of the defining moments in thirties French cinema(perhaps the greatest era in motion picture history), Pepe le Moko c'est la masterpiece. It is the work of a proficient director united with imperious French acting legend, Jean Gabin(La grande Illusion, La Bete Humaine) successfully creating a thriller that functions consumately on a poetic level. Usually filmmakers with thrillers in their oeuvre are typically devoid of any poetic intuition in their movies but Duvivier elevates this film to a transcendent plateau rarely frequented by other films in the genre.
The texture of the cinematography has a warmth and richness of visual expression, enhanced with the vernacular architecture of the Casbah, a labyrinth of obscurely named streets which glow with lucidity. Duvivier perfectly articulates the expression of doomed love, and Gabin's aesthetic charm, posture and countenance portray beautifully the gangster le Moko. Put simply this film is cast iron, avant garde masterwork of French cinema.
Word on the DVD. For a 1936 film, it is restored beautifully. Conversely, the waterfall home entertainment release of this film is an abomination, an odious mess that is sheer insolence and impudence in the face of the customer. BUY THIS RELEASE!
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Pepe le Moko is one of those films that seems to actually improve each time I see it, and not just because it set the mold for every exotic doomed Hollywood romance from Casablanca on. Jean Gabin is at his best here, capturing both the legend and the vulnerability of his criminal king of the Casbah, `ruling' in hell but longing for the heaven beyond its gates. The atmosphere is wonderful, the script sublime, Duvivier's direction superb, and the film so filled with memorable moments that you can forgive the blandness of the leading lady (to be fair, the attraction is meant to be more the lure of the old life and places back home that Pepe once knew) and the over the top performance of Lucas Gridoux, overdoing the Uriah Heap routine as his nemesis Slimaine, potentially the film's most interesting character.

Sadly, unlike Criterion's excellent NTSC DVD, this release is bare bones, but the film itself is more than enough reason to buy.
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"Pepe le Moko," (1936) is a classic French film, a black and white crime/drama/romance, and an early film noir, made before the concept was even codified, by the French. It was based on a novel by Henri La Barthe, writing under the nom de plume of "Ashelbe," which is simply the author's initials: he also did the screen play. Julien Duvivier directed. It concerns the notorious Pepe le Moko, Parisian gangster, on the lam after pulling off a big Marseilles bank job in which there were casualties. He's a wanted man, and he must cool his heels in the labyrinthine Casbah of Algiers, in what was then the French colony of Algeria, in Northern Africa. Within the Casbah, the native quarter, he is beloved, extremely popular with the women, and safe from the police, who, however, never stop scheming as to how they may yet net him. And then he meets and falls for Gaby Gould, a gorgeous Parisienne, and leaves the Casbah for her. It is his undoing.

The magnetic young French actor Jean Gabin, who was born in Montmartre, Paris, embodied the title role magnificently: he had the presence, the chops and the charisma to make it his. Mireille Balin played the gorgeous adventuress. Gilbert Gil plays Pierrot; the well-known theatrical star Marcel Dalio, who played Gabin's friend in La Grande Illusion - Special Edition [DVD] [1937], and the croupier in Casablanca [1942] [DVD], plays L'Arbi. The film was made at the height of French interest in its colonies: it is exotic, moody, atmospheric as all get-out and gives us a great sense of the sun washed, multi-ethnic, menacing city. Black and white photography has seldom been used to better purpose: you can just about feel the heat.

It has been said that, if "Pepe le Moko" had never been written, it would have had to have been written as a vehicle for Gabin, and I believe it. Later in his life, he had great success as Simenon's detective Maigret, but he's more than a little rough around the edges, and makes an entirely convincing gangster; he played many. It has also been said that, if "Pepe le Moko" had never been made, the tremendously popular, Oscar-winning "Casablanca" would never have been made, and I believe that too. "Casablanca" borrows the sense of the atmospheric, mysterious, menacing northern African city, jammed with many different ethnic groups, in its entirety.

Between "Pepe" and "Casablanca," there was, of course, a third film, the 1938 Hollywood remake of Pepe,Algiers (B&W) [DVD] [1938] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]. It starred the very beautiful Hedy Lamarr as the adventuress, in which role she does quite well, her beauty sure helped; and Charles Boyer in the Pepe role. Boyer was, of course, a very handsome Frenchman, but he quite lacked the sheer working class presence that Gabin brought to the role, and cannot, actually, carry the picture as Gabin did. Walter Wanger produced the American copy; it is said that he tried to destroy all copies of the French original, which, luckily for us he was not able to do. To compare the two versions of the story is certainly instructive. It is said that actors were hired for the American copy based upon their resemblance to the French originators of the roles, and that Wanger had a Movieola running at all times in the studio as he was filming, making virtually scene for scene copies of the original. You can, in fact, see that the backgrounds are frequently identical, the lighting just the same, the placement of the actors just the same, and the actors strongly resemble those in "Pepe." There is, of course, something to be said for "Algiers," even so, but you owe it to yourself to see the original.
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on 25 April 2005
Jean Gabin, an icon of French cinema, plays Pépé le Moko, a Parisian gangster who has taken refuge in Algiers' Kasbah - a maze of narrow streets and hideaways in which the police have no hope of catching him. He is a notorious local celebrity, admired by the criminal fraternity, adored by women, but troubled. He knows he is already a prisoner - he may be at liberty in the Kasbah, but he is trapped, and longs to see Paris again, longs for the freedom of the open sea. Take one step outside the Kasbah, and the police will have him.
Into his life drifts the beautiful Gaby, a woman who has latched on to a sugar daddy who provides her with diamonds, an exotic lifestyle, and enough freedom to be able to take a walk on the wild side and explore the Kasbah. There she meets Pépé. And the police realise that she might just be the bait to lure him out into the town.
Julien Duvivier's 1937 film was hastily remade in the USA as "Algiers". Its theme of doomed romance would be echoed in "Casablanca". The tense black and white photography would help stimulate the emergence of noir cinema in the USA. It's exploration of the Kasbah will be influential on films like "The Battle of Algiers". And the cynical romanticism of its hero is even at the root of the Pépé le Pew cartoons!
"Pépé le Moko" takes the suave Gabin and creates an anti-hero of epic proportions. At a time when The Soviets were producing images of Socialist Realism - huge, muscular figures in sculpture and painting - and the Nazis were delivering parallel images of Aryan supremacy, Julien Duvivier delivers romantic realism in the form of Pépé, a symbol of working class rebellion and allusion to the dignity of the uncommon criminal (something of a 20th century Robin Hood).
And Duvivier serves up the realism of the Kasbah - a place teeming with life and laughter. There are rich undercurrents of humour in this film, not least in some of the camera angles adopted. The lighting and direction would be influential on generations of French film makers, re-emerging in the 50's and 60's with the New Wave of directors.
This is a richly entertaining cinematographic treat, still highly enjoyable for anyone wanting to watch a fine romantic narrative, and essential viewing for any film student or fan of the cinema. However, the 1936 print has suffered with the years and the earliest DVD release was bleached and scratchy, with subtitles almost impossible to read. This new digital transfer consciously retains some imperfections to add character, and the added extras are a decided bonus - including a 1962 television interview with Duvivier and a tribute to Jean Gabin.
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Pepe le Moko is one of those films that seems to actually improve each time I see it, and not just because it set the mold for every exotic doomed Hollywood romance from Casablanca on. Jean Gabin is at his best here, capturing both the legend and the vulnerability of his criminal king of the Casbah, `ruling' in hell but longing for the heaven beyond its gates. The atmosphere is wonderful, the script sublime, Duvivier's direction superb, and the film so filled with memorable moments that you can forgive the blandness of the leading lady (to be fair, the attraction is meant to be more the lure of the old life and places back home that Pepe once knew) and the over the top performance of Lucas Gridoux, overdoing the Uriah Heap routine as his nemesis Slimaine, potentially the film's most interesting character.

Criterion's NTSC DVD is among their very best, boasting a fine transfer and some excellent extras, from a 33-minute extract from documentary Remembering Jean Gabin to a comparison of the film and its first Hollywood remake, Algiers, as well as a 10-minute archive interview with Julien Duvivier, text extracts from Ginette Vincendeau's book on the film and the original French theatrical trailer. Very highly recommended.
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on 30 December 2014
The film it self is great but the quality of print isn't. The subtitles we badly done. White text on top of the film rather than below in the margin. It wait for a new release if possible but if not you'll have to struggle through the poor titles
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 6 December 2012
This 1937 gangster thriller directed by Julian Duvivier, who co-wrote the film's razor sharp screenplay with Henri La Barthe (based on Barthe's novel) is another film of this era to showcase the acting talents (in the title role) of the great Jean Gabin. If anyone (not me certainly) was in any doubts about Gabin's stature in the acting stakes, one only has to consider that in the period 1937 to 1939 not only did Gabin star in this superior 'noir-like' thriller, but he also led the way in two outstanding Marcel Carné films (Le Jour Se Leve and Le Quai Des Brumes) and in Jean Renoir's war-time masterpiece, La Grande Illusion.

With a look and feel not dissimilar to Michael Curtiz's Casablanca, Duvivier's film is set in the novel surrounds of the French colony (as was) of Algeria, and specifically the Casbah quarter of the capital Algiers. Early in Pépé Le Moko, Duvivier skilfully sets the scene for the film, as visiting Parisian police inspector Janvier (Philippe Richard) is given the run-down on why the Casbah presents such a challenge to the local police in tracking down local gang leader, Pépé. Some impressive aerial photography charts the labyrinthine, narrow, twisty streets that make up the Casbah and its inhabitants, comprising beggars, gamblers, prostitutes, traders, ragamuffins, etc, and from all corners of the world: Chinese, Maltese, Slavs, Sicilians, Negroes, Spaniards, Gypsies, etc. Indeed, it is the Casbah's community that acts as protection, shielding Pépé against the threat of police capture.

The main narrative of the film concerns a plot hatched by the police, with the help of their informant Regis (the superb Fernand Charpin), to tempt Pépé out of hiding as his young protégé Pierrot (Gilbert Gil) is duped (by Regis) into leaving the Casbah in an attempt to lure Pépé out. However, in the end, it is Pépé's own feelings of longing for his Parisian roots, together with the romantic attraction presented by bejewelled 'tourist' Gaby (Mireille Balin) - whose acquaintances find Pépé 'charming and frightening' - that eventually lead to him dropping his cover. Gabin is (as usual, I guess) superb as the suave, stylish and ruthless gang leader - a man with a taste for fine things ('I was a cabinet-maker as a kid'). His gang is suitably menacing, with fine performances being delivered by Gabriel Gabrio as the combative Carlos and by Gaston Modot as Jimmy. The scene where the gang interrogate Regis is outstanding, full of sarcasm and veiled threats, and its conclusion, as the returning gun-toting Pierrot corners Regis, is equally impressive (with the nice touch at its denouement of Regis accidentally setting off the nearby pianola). Also outstanding are Line Noro as Ines, Pépé's infatuated girlfriend, whose feelings of jealousy are aroused by the gangster's growing obsession with Gaby, and Lucas Gridoux as the 'friendly' and appropriately named sycophantic cop, Inspecteur Slimane.

For those familiar with the fate of Gabin's characters in films such as Le Jour Se Leve and Le Quai Des Brumes, the conclusion to Pépé Le Moko becomes increasingly predictable, but the final shots of Gabin framed by the bars of the harbour gates are no less impressive for that.
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on 20 October 2012
Pépé le Moko (Julien Duvivier, 1937, 94')

Directed by Julien Duvivier-Produced by Robert and Raymond Hakim. Written by Jacques Constant (adaptation), Henri Jeanson (dialogue), Julien Duvivier and Henri La Barthe (screen-play). Starring Jean Gabin, Gabriel Gabrio, Saturnin Fabre, Fernand Charpin, Lucas Gridoux. Music by Vincent Scotto, Mohamed Ygerbuchen. Cinematography Marc Fossard, Jules Kruger. Editing by Marguerite Beaugé. Distributed by Arthur Mayer & Joseph Burstyn (USA, 1941), The Criterion Collection (Region 1 DVD, 2004).

I must have first seen Pépé le Moko in a film club in Europe circa 1960 (and many times since), and already then gave it five out of five stars. The reason that I am writing about it now is that in one of my recent dvd purchases of Femmes fatales from amazon, I found, a #2 of six movies with the following text: "Algiers by John Cromwell (1938, 98') - Cast: Hedy Lamarr, Chales Boyer, Gene Lockhart. An alluring tourist (Lamarr) steals the heart of an infamous master thief (Boyer), but puts his life at risk when his mistress betrays him (this seems a deliberate change from the original-RC) to the French authorities. Nominated for four Academy Awards including Best Actor and Best Cinematography". IMDb gives the following Ratings: 6.9/10 from 1,162 users - Reviews: 36 user | 7 critic. Producer is American "independent" Walter Wanger, a genuine "hotshot" of whom more will need to be said below.

Algiers, shot by shot, turned out to be a copy of Pépé le Moko in such a blatant way that I did not trust my eyes: Not only shots were copied, but angles and lighting - no wonder about the quality, Algiers was the work of China-born camaraman James Wong Howe, of whom Wikipedia says "James Wong Howe, ASC (Chinese 黃宗霑; pinyin: Huáng Zōngzhān) (1899-1976) was a Chinese American cinematographer who worked on over 130 films. A master at the use of shadow, he was one of the first to use deep-focus cinematography, photography in which both foreground and distant planes remain in focus. During the 1930s and 1940s he was one of the most sought after cinematographers in Hollywood. He was nominated for ten Academy Awards for cinematography, winning twice. Howe was judged to be one of history's ten most influential cinematographers in a survey of the members of the International Cinematographers Guild."

Regularly working for the likes of Samuel Fuller, Howard Hawks and David O Selznick, Howe was also the cinematographer in Drums of Fate (1923), The Thin Man (1934) - a comedy-mystery film directed by W S Van Dyke - based on the same name-novel by Dashiell Hammett, Fantasia (1940) - (uncredited) for the Philadelphia Orchestra sequences, Fritz Lang's famous Hangmen Also Die! (1943) - on a text by German émigré author Bertolt Brecht, Daniel Mann's The Rose Tattoo (1955) - after a Tennessee Williams
 play and screenplay, starring Anna Magnani and Burt Lancaster, Alexander Mackendrick's film noir Sweet Smell of Success (1957), and the Kim Novak/Jimmy Stewart vehicle Bell, Book and Candle (1958).

So much about James Howe because his imitation is perfect - while other elements are only proxies: Identical dress did not turn the inimitable Charles Boyer into the equally inimitable Gabin, it worked more with the other males, while the Algiers-Females are more Hollywood-trimmed down to bras and fashion. Algiers is altogether too neat and clean, no messy corners or beggars, and while Hedy Lamarr is admittedly an attractive woman and good actress, she fits the bill less than her less known parallel in Pépé. But lets her two of amazon's Top Reviewers, who also bringup further aspects:

>>>Pepe le Moko is one of those films that seems to actually improve each time I see it, and not just because it set the mold for every exotic doomed Hollywood romance from Casablanca on. Jean Gabin is at his best here, capturing both the legend and the vulnerability of his criminal king of the Casbah, `ruling' in hell but longing for the heaven beyond its gates. The atmosphere is wonderful, the script sublime, Duvivier's direction superb, and the film so filled with memor-able moments that you can forgive the blandness of the leading lady (to be fair, the attraction is meant to be more the lure of the old life and places back home that Pepe once knew) and the over the top performance of Lucas Gridoux, overdoing the Uriah Heap routine as his nemesis Slimaine, potentially the film's most interesting character. <<< Trevor Willsmer (London) wrote on 6 May 2007 under the title "Without Pepe le Moko (his rating is 4 out five stars), Casablanca would still just be a name on a map".

>>>Between "Pepe" and "Casablanca," there was, of course, a third film, the 1938 Hollywood remake of Algiers [1938]. It starred the very beautiful Hedy Lamarr as the adventuress, in which role she does quite well, her beauty sure helped; and Charles Boyer in the Pepe role. Boyer was, of course, a very handsome Frenchman, but he quite lacked the sheer working class presence that Gabin brought to the role, and cannot, actually, carry the picture as Gabin did. Walter Wanger produced the American copy; it is said that he tried to destroy all copies of the French original, which, luckily for us he was not able to do. To compare the two versions of the story is certainly instructive. It is said that actors were hired for the American copy based upon their resemblance to the French originators of the roles, and that Wanger had a Movieola running at all times in the studio as he was filming, making virtually scene for scene copies of the original. You can, in fact, see that the backgrounds are frequently identical, the lighting just the same, the placement of the actors just the same, and the actors strongly resemble those in "Pepe."<<< Stephanie DePue (Carolina Beach) wrote on 1 July 2010 - her rating is five out of five stars - "A Magnetic Gabin IS Pepe le Moko".

The two new aspects are (1) to what length Hollywood went when it came to secure a project: Casablanca barely emerged from the onslaught, and (2) that Walter (Feucht-) Wanger, himself a jew, should have known that burning films (in secret) is about as effective as burning books in public - the Nazi operation (1933) was still recent!

195uk - Pépé le Moko (Julien Duvivier, 1937, 94') - The Original, beware of imitations - 20/10/2012
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