blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Enter Arsene Lupin (1944, Ford Beebe)

It’s hard to find anything good about Enter Arsene Lupin. Ella Raines isn’t as bad as the other primary cast members, though she’s not as good as some of the bit players. The film does hold some historical value both in the use of the Universal European backlot set for England–apparently, 1944 London looks a lot like a German town in the 1850s–and for director Beebe and screenwriter Bertram Millhauser’s insistence on xenophobia.

The French are, with the exception of lead Charles Korvin, treated as either blithering idiots or lovable simpletons. The English are a little better, but not much. The Greeks are worst of all, getting a particularly harsh treatment in dialogue. Americans, unrepresented in the film, must be the best.

The anti-French sentiment comes out most strikingly in J. Carrol Naish. He’s a moronic police inspector who talks nonsense, with a terrible accent, and the British treat him accordingly (like he’s a fool). But Korvin’s sidekick, George Dolenz–he cooks, of course–doesn’t get much better treatment.

Hungarian Korvin doesn’t even attempt a French accent. He’s just blandly European. He’s also supposed to be charming–he’s a gentleman thief, after all–but it doesn’t come off.

Some of the problem is Korvin, some’s Millhauser’s weak script, but most of it is Beebe’s inept direction. From the first scene, it’s clear Beebe can’t stage a scene for suspense or dialogue. The best directed moments of Arsene Lupin are the insert location shots.

It’s a dreadful picture.

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