THE STRANGE MR. STEVE
L’ETRANGE MONSIEUR STEVE
1957, Gaumont, 90 min, France, Dir: Raymond Bailly

Ever wonder what Jeanne Moreau was up to before she took over the Paris night in ELEVATOR TO THE GALLOWS? It turns out she was in more than a dozen French noirs, including L’ETRANGE MONSIEUR STEVE - where the action is both criminal and amorous. As the moll of a clever gangster (played by singer Armand Mestral), Moreau seduces a milquetoast bank teller (Philippe Lemaire) only to inexplicably fall in love with him - which, as they say in France, makes things très compliqué! Also on hand to create added menace is Lino Ventura as Mestral’s hulking right-hand man. MONSIEUR STEVE benefits from a witty script by Frédèric Dard, master of the San Antonio series and often called “the Raymond Chandler of France.”


LE MONTE-CHARGE
1962, Gaumont, 90 min, France/Italy, Dir: Marcel Bluwal

A highly fruitful collaboration between actor-director Robert Hossein and hard-boiled novelist Frédéric Dard (THE WICKED GO TO HELL, BLONDE IN A WHITE CAR) comes to an end with this spooky sendup of ELEVATOR TO THE GALLOWS, where ex-con Hossein returns to his old criminal haunts on Christmas Eve only to hook up with a mysterious, alluring woman (Lea Massari) whose circumstances become more complicated and bizarre as the evening progresses. In the midst of the “elevating” terror, one senses director Bluwal’s tongue subtly in cheek.


BACK TO THE WALL
LE DOS AU MUR
1958, Gaumont, 93 min, Dir: Édouard Molinaro

Before moving to comedies, director Édouard Molinaro began his career with several superb thrillers; this is his most auspicious debut. Gérard Oury is a cuckolded husband who devises an ingenious revenge against his cheating wife (Jeanne Moreau, looking just as luminous and sad-eyed as she did in ELEVATOR TO THE GALLOWS) only to have it backfire, setting in motion his increasingly desperate efforts at a cover-up. Molinaro revels in the use of classic noir devices (flashbacks, voiceovers) to create a unique mood in a film that’s guaranteed to scratch your “noir itch.” With Philippe Nicaud. In French with English subtitles.


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