The Murderous Corpse (1913)

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*. At 90 minutes this is by far the longest of the Fantômas films, and in the opinion of some the best. I find it a time-filler. Juve is in disguise throughout almost the entire movie. Fantômas isn’t given as much to do. Lady Beltham only briefly appears. Most of the action is given over to the detective work of Fandor, who I find to be the least interesting character in the serial.
*. The glove of human skin is a macabre bit of business, and nicely prepared for. We see Fantômas take out his knife to skin the hand of his framed victim and then there is a cut. This makes the sudden peeling off of the glove at the end a grisly climax.

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*. No, that’s not much of a search that the police do for the missing necklace. But it’s only meant as a way of showing the audience what is happening, a sort of charade. A “realistic” search wasn’t what people were expecting to see.
*. The crime lab, however, is an early nod to procedural realism. Audiences would find “anthropometry” new and interesting.
*. You have to appreciate the little things when watching early movies. Note the invisible editing in the fingerprinting scene. That’s quite well done at a time when editing was in its infancy. I think they may have skipped a finger in one cut, but you have to be watching pretty closely to catch it.
*. Given the material and the speed of production it’s no surprise to see the series falling into conventions already. Here again we see the plot advanced by telegrams and notes, Fantômas coming out from hiding behind curtains (and stealing a lady’s jewelery right out of her boudoir), and of course an almost fetishistic love of disguise.

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