Judex (1916, Louis Feuillade), Prologue

The prologue to Judex mostly concerns banker Louis Leubas. He’s rich, he’s French, he’s corrupt. He wants to carry on with a younger woman–Musidora–but he’s got a widowed daughter (Yvette Andréyor) and a grandson living with him. So he decides to marry off Andréyor to a presumably suitable suitor (Georges Flateau) and settle in with Musidora.

Musidora, however, is actually in league with villain Jean Devalde (though his villainy is only defined by his status as an ex-con, which is peculiar given something I’ll get to in a moment). It’s okay though, because Flateau is in debt up to his ears and probably only interested in marrying Andréyor for her money.

Everything is going along fine–at least so far as Leubas knows–until an aged man shows up at the castle gate. Leubas is castle rich; it turns out it’s partially because he’s been ripping people off for years. The old man, Gaston Michel, has been in prison twenty years; Leubas bankrupted him before Michel turned to a life of crime. So, not all ex-cons are bad.

Leubas isn’t satisfied turning Michel away (though Michel just wanted some help reuniting with his missing son). Leubas runs Michel down because the old man won’t get aside for Leubas’s car.

Leubas goes from being a dirty old man to a villain real quick.

But then Leubas gets a threatening letter signed Judex and employs private detective Marcel Lévesque to protect him.

Can Lévesque–a newbie to the private investigation game–keep his client safe?

As a prologue, it’s a little odd. There’s very little hint at what’s going to come subsequent. No one gets much time onscreen except Leubas (and, eventually, Lévesque). Lévesque is rather funny, but he’s still probably not going to be a consequential character in the rest of the serial.

It all moves well–director Feuillade and co-writer Arthur Bernède fit a lot in–but it’s Leubas’s show. And he’s not going to be a big part of what comes. So as a narrative prologue, it works. As a pilot for the serial proper? Not so much. Presumably the next chapter will give a better indication of how Judex is going to play.

CREDITS

Directed by Louis Feuillade; written by Arthur Bernède and Feuillade; directors of photography, André Glatti and Léon Klausse; production designer, Robert-Jules Garnier; released by Gaumont.

Starring René Cresté (Judex), Yvette Andréyor (Jacqueline Aubry), Musidora (Diana Monti), Louis Leubas (Favraux), Marcel Lévesque (Cocantin), Jean Devalde (Robert Moralés), Édouard Mathé (Roger de Tremeuse), Olinda Mano (Jean), René Poyen (The Licorice Kid), Gaston Michel (Pierre Kerjean), Lily Deligny (Miss Daisy Torp), Juliette Clarens (Gisèle), Georges Flateau (Vicomte de la Rochefontaine), and Yvonne Dario (Comtesse de Tremeuse).


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