APES ON FILM: Ne me quitte pas — Maneaters and the Men Who Love Them in Kino Lorber’s FRENCH NOIR COLLECTION

Posted on: Mar 16th, 2023 By:

By Lucas Hardwick
Contributing Writer


Welcome to Apes on Film! This column exists to scratch your retro-film-in-high-definition itch. We’ll be reviewing new releases of vintage cinema and television on disc of all genres, finding gems and letting you know the skinny on what to avoid. Here at Apes on Film, our aim is to uncover the best in retro film. As we dig for artifacts, we’ll do our best not to bury our reputation. What will we find out here? Our destiny.


4 out of 5 Bananas
: Jean Gabin, Marcel Bozzuffi, Annie Giradot, Gérard Oury, Jeanne Moreau, Philippe Nicaud, Lino Ventura, Franco Fabrizi, Sandra Milo
: Gilles Grangier, Édouard Molinaro
: Not rated
Studio: Kino Lorber
Region: A
BRD Release Date: November 29, 2022
Audio Formats: French: DTS-HD Master Audio Mono, French: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080p
Aspect Ratios: 1.66:1, 1.37:1, 1.33:1
Run Time:  300 minutes total


Noir flicks are usually good for scratching a moody itch. Style is the name of the game, typically supplemented by some oozy shadows, a girl in trouble, and a private detective who says stuff like, “dame” and “broad.” Take all that and put a French spin on it, and you’ll be surprised at how unsettling the combo can be. The folks at Kino Lorber put this mix to the test with their new FRENCH NOIR COLLECTION featuring three parables of unsavory deeds that’ll exploit your emotions and reveal your own darkest allegiances in the face of infidelity.

Gilles Grangier’s LE ROUGE EST MIS (1957) (a.k.a. SPEAKING OF MURDER) is a pretty standard caper at the outset. It’s got the usual set of heavies, their hideouts, stashes of guns, and getaway cars. Louis Bertain (Jean Gabin) and his crew know their business to a T: get in, get the money, get out, change the plates on the car, hide the guns, etc. Louis even has a garage business that works as a great cover and gives him access to any number of vehicles. And while Louis may be a hulking, middle-aged grumpy gut, he still lives with his mother (who may or may not be around the same age), and he’s incensed to learn that his cuckold brother Pierre (Marcel Bozzuffi) is still fooling around with two-timing floozy Hélène (Annie Girardot) the hairdresser who is only interested in him for his promise of fur coats and all that entails.

Les Rouge Est Mis (1957)

Sure there’s another caper to be had in this film, but the story is Louis’ intervening in his brother’s relationship. Louis goes out of his way to woo Hélène away from work to not only vet her gold-digging tendencies, but to also threaten her to keep away from his baby brother. But should Pierre find out that Louis is spooking his girl, Pierre may turn out to be the authorities’ best informant regarding a string of robberies happening in and around Paris.

If it wasn’t written by French crime novelist Auguste Le Breton (Rififi), Le Rouge Est Mis — which translates directly as The Red Light is On — could easily be a bedroom farce or an episode of Frasier. This film is wildly entertaining from start to finish, and the rate at which the narrative unfolds is atypical of what most would consider “film noir.” Cinematographer Louis Page doesn’t go all-in for the noir look, but presents the film the only way the story will allow — quick and to-the-point, never exhibiting any of the usual noir flair involving deep shadows, dark alleyways, and convenient window treatments.

Beyond lacking the usual noir tropes, the heart of this movie is less interested in thrilling with swashbuckling robberies and daring-do, but is rather more compelled to appeal to audiences’ frustrations regarding family business — as in not minding one’s own. Louis’ inevitable downfall doesn’t necessarily occur by way of mouthy informant, but by his need to protect his brother from the dangers of a bloodsucking Jezebel. The thieving and murdering and evading the cops suddenly doesn’t seem so bad and it’s the business with Hélène that sticks in your craw. The opportunistic hussy is where the noir lives in this film, and it’s the distraction included that throws Louis off his game that causes him to miss the rat right under his nose.

Louis Bertain may be good at what he does, but even the best crooks are susceptible to complications beyond simply being chased by the cops. Any expectations for a moody noir thriller are swept away with Italian-esque expediency to reveal a narratively infuriating denouement where the only score to be had is made of astrakhan.

Le Dos Au Mur (1958)

Few things are as satisfying as witnessing a man execute an elaborate blackmailing scheme on his cheating spouse. In Édouard Molinaro’s 1958 film LE DOS AU MUR (BACK TO THE WALL), Jacques Decrey (rard Oury) plays a vengeful long game against his wife Gloria (Jeanne Moreau) and her lover Yves (Philippe Nicaud) after quietly busting them being more than friends upon his early arrival home from a hunting trip. Jacques proceeds to squeeze the bedswerving pair for money (some of it his own) posing as one of his former employees, and does it all while keeping a straight face at home. He may come across as a cuckold to some, but Jacques has balls of steel, and his endgame isn’t what you think.

Jacques’ resolve appears obvious at the beginning of the film as he is seen silently and meticulously disposing of a man’s body by encasing it inside a concrete wall being constructed at the factory he runs. What proceeds is the events leading up to this macabre scenario told in flashback.

What LE ROUGE EST MIS lacked in noir stylings, LE DOS AU MUR more than makes up for, at times leaning into the gothic with thick inky shadows, dense fog, and an unexplained, but strikingly poetic, voice-over narration. Based on his novel, co-writer Frédéric Dard’s blackmailing plot gets pretty confusing later in the film, but at that point, it’s less about the journey and more about the destination. And with a story so well-executed, viewers can trust that a satisfying (though tragic) resolution is on the way.

There are secrets and then there’s confidentiality, and it’s important to know the difference. Jacques goes the distance when it comes to confidentiality — he never has to explain what he’s up to, and it’s what keeps his covert deeds somewhat redeemable. He’s simply not talking. But as far as adulterous lovers go, secrets are essential, especially when you’re hawking your own jewelry to keep your blackmailer’s mouth shut. Ultimately, silence is where it’s at, and it’s imbedded into this film right from the start as the opening credits roll over a hushed car ride to the apartment where Jacques has located Gloria’s classified companion. Ironically, even silence has devastating consequences as eventually confidentiality and secrets are revealed without anyone ever uttering a word.

Director Édouard Molinaro’s noir stylings return in this set’s final film, UN TEMOIN DANS LA VILLE (1959) (WITNESS IN THE CITY), and infidelity is the catalyst for murder yet again, except this time the situation is exacerbated by a rejected cab ride.

Un Temoin Dans La Ville (1959)

The film begins with a woman being thrown from a train. We soon learn she was ejected from the speeding locomotive by her lover Pierre (Jacques Berthier) who is acquitted of the murder minutes into the film. Authorities are led to believe the woman committed suicide and Pierre walks home a free man; waiting for him there to settle the score is his lover’s husband Ancelin (Lino Ventura) who is all set to exact the perfect murder when the cab Pierre called moments before, arrives to find no Pierre. From this point on a relentless blood hunt ensues as Ancelin prowls the streets of Paris tracking down the cabbie Lambert (Franco Fabrizi) who may suspect his foul play.

The film goes big on the usual noir tropes, exchanging voice-over narrative for a cool jazzy score. And much of the story takes place at night and on many a wild car chase through dim-lit Parisian streets. The camaraderie amongst the cab crew is infectious exposition. The hardscrabble gang of chauffeurs becomes a lovable union of pals we’re all rooting for by the end as they rally to stop the maniacal Ancelin. At that point Ancelin has shown his true colors and we care less about his getting away with a revenge killing and more about seeing Lambert and his girl Lilliane (Sandra Milo) run off and get married.

Molinaro’s film successfully manipulates the viewer’s emotions, at first convincing the audience of a satisfying revenge killing that eventually shifts our allegiance from the murderer to a pair of lovebirds who dominate the tale. And as Ancelin reveals his bloodthirsty ways, some may even begin to question how sordid the film’s opening really was, becoming unsure of what they truly witnessed, and dubious of any feelings about the vindictive murder that Ancelin was set to get away with.

Kino Lorber presents these three films in its FRENCH NOIR COLLECTION on high-definition Blu-ray Disc. Trailers for each of the films are the only special features. It’s a crime that the extras are so scant in this set; these films are rich enough in style and theme to at least be worthy of a few commentaries if only for insightful observation.

The prospect of French film noir may summon some snoozy reactions, but these movies are anything but. From bombastic robberies and their daring getaways to cuckolded husbands and their nefarious labyrinthine schemes of revenge, Kino’s collection is a surprise trio of refreshingly twisted and thoughtful tales of crimes of the heart.



When he’s not working as a Sasquatch stand-in for sleazy European films, Lucas Hardwick spends time writing film essays and reviews for We Belong Dead and Screem magazines. Lucas also enjoys writing horror shorts and has earned Quarterfinalist status in the Killer Shorts and HorrOrigins screenwriting contests. You can find Lucas’ shorts on Coverfly.

Ape caricature art by Richard Smith.

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