(France/Italy - 1971; US release 1972)
Directed by Rene Clement. Written by Sidney Buchman, Eleanor Perry, Daniel Boulanger and Rene Clement. Cast: Faye Dunaway, Frank Langella, Barbara Parkins, Maurice Ronet, Karen Blanguernon, Raymond Gerome, Michele Lourie, Patrick Vincent, Gerard Buhr, Massimo Farinelli, Robert Lussac, Franco Ressel. (PG, 97 mins)
French filmmaker Rene Clement (1913-1996) dabbled in various genres over his career, achieving notoriety for some WWII-themed films like 1952's Oscar-winning FORBIDDEN GAMES, 1963's THE WAY AND THE HOUR, and 1966's all-star epic IS PARIS BURNING? But beginning with 1960's PURPLE NOON--from the same Patricia Highsmith novel that was the basis for 1999's THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY--and especially with 1970's RIDER ON THE RAIN, he carved a niche for himself as a sort-of French Hitchcock. After RIDER, Clement would maintain that image by focusing exclusively on mystery and suspense thrillers for the remainder of his career until his retirement after 1975's WANTED: BABYSITTER, generally considered his worst film. After the worldwide success of RIDER ON THE RAIN, which was also the key film in establishing Charles Bronson as an international superstar (much like PURPLE RAIN did for Alain Delon), Clement followed in rapid succession with 1971's THE DEADLY TRAP, and 1972's AND HOPE DIE. Both films have just been released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber, because physical media is dead.
THE DEADLY TRAP opening in Toledo, OH on 11/15/1972
THE DEADLY TRAP airing in prime time on CBS on 8/15/1978
(France - 1972)
Directed by Rene Clement. Written by Sebastian Japrisot. Cast: Jean-Louis Trintignant, Robert Ryan, Lea Massari, Aldo Ray, Jean Gaven, Tisa Farrow, Andre Lawrence, Nadine Nabakov, Daniel Breton, Louis Aubert, Beatrice Belthoise, Don Arres, Mario Verdon, Emmanuelle Beart. (PG, 141 mins)
After the middling THE DEADLY TRAP was greeted with shrugging indifference by critics and moviegoers, Rene Clement quickly returned with 1972's AND HOPE TO DIE, a loose adaptation of David Goodis' 1954 novel Black Friday that also reunited him with RIDER ON THE RAIN screenwriter Sebastian Japrisot. The end result is even more eccentric than RIDER, and one of the most unusual and offbeat European crime films of its day. Loaded with references to Lewis Carroll and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass from the opening shot of a mirror and a bookstore window adorned with the grinning visage of the Cheshire Cat, AND HOPE TO DIE is a fascinating, metaphorically oblique puzzle that's never quite solved, starting with a shy child being taunted by some other kids (including a very young Emmanuelle Beart, 15 years before MANON OF THE SPRING) and an onscreen quote "My love, we're simply overgrown children running around before we go to sleep." Clement cuts to a train arriving at a Montreal station in almost spaghetti western fashion, as three members of a gypsy clan are waiting for Antoine "Tony" Cardot (Jean-Louis Trintignant), a French fugitive who manages to get away, hitching a ride and hiding out in the abandoned American Pavilion (later turned into the Montreal Biosphere) at the Expo 67 World's Fair site. Tony's luck doesn't get any better, as he happens to stumble into a shootout where corrupt ex-cop Renner (Louis Aubert) is whacked by cohorts Rizzio (Jean Gaven) and Paul (Daniel Breton). Just before he dies, Renner hands Tony a wallet and an envelope with $15,000, but after stuffing the money down his pants, he's caught by Rizzio and Paul before he can get away. They handcuff him and take him by car (where he manages to push Paul out of the vehicle, causing a serious head injury), then by boat to a vacant inn being used as a hideout for their gang of criminals led by the fearsome Charley (Robert Ryan), with the gypsy mystery men following close behind and not letting Tony out of their sight.
LOLLY-MADONNA XXX, THE OUTFIT, EXECUTIVE ACTION, and THE ICEMAN COMETH, the last three being posthumously released in the months after his death in July 1973 at 64). He doesn't look well here, but he doesn't allow cancer to hinder him in the slightest (that would especially be the case with his brilliant final performance in THE ICEMAN COMETH), participating in a few action sequences and getting into rough scuffles with Trintignant and Ray throughout. Though they're revoiced in French (with the American cut seemingly lost and no clips of it on YouTube to verify--not even a US trailer--it's possible Clement shot two versions of the all dialogue scenes, one in French and one in English, like he did with RIDER ON THE RAIN), Americans Ryan and Farrow are phonetically speaking/mouthing the language, and Ray, who previously worked with Ryan in 1957's MEN OF WAR and 1958's GOD'S LITTLE ACRE, goes one step further by delivering his entire performance in French with his actual voice. Aldo Ray fluent in French? Who knew? It's a jarring sight and sound, and an unexpected level of commitment from a guy who was notoriously difficult in his prime, was a couple years away from slumming in Al Adamson movies, who would cap off the decade by appearing in a non-sexual co-starring role in the 1979 Carol Connors hardcore porn western SWEET SAVAGE, and would later have his SAG membership temporarily revoked in the mid '80s for taking quick cash in non-union projects. AND HOPE TO DIE has totally fallen off the radar in the decades since its release, but this new Blu-ray will hopefully be the start of a long-overdue resurrection and reappraisal. It's an often impenetrable, strangely haunting, one-of-a-kind film that stays with you for days after seeing it, and deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as revered Clement essentials like FORBIDDEN GAMES, PURPLE NOON, and RIDER ON THE RAIN.