Clouzot The Early Works
Henri-Georges Clouzot (The Wages of Fear, Diabolique) is considered one of the masters of French cinema. The filmmaker has a master's eye for visual storytelling. His most cherished works clearly demonstrate Clouzot's artistic brushstrokes as a director are uniquely his own. With several classic films made during his legacy as a director he is an artist who has undeniably made a mark in the pantheon of filmmaking history.

Clouzot: The Early Works is an interesting compilation of some of the filmmaker's earliest forays into filmmaking. This set showcases his beginnings as a filmmaker when he worked as a screenwriter for dialogue adaptations and as an assistant director. It also includes his directorial debut, The Terror of Batignolles (1931), a short film that only hints at what was to come from Clouzot.

As with other master filmmakers who started their prolific careers during the early era of studio filmmaking (such as the brilliant Alfred Hitchcock), Clouzot's earliest filmmaking demonstrate his finesse for the art and craft while only giving a glimpse of his later brilliance. Before making classics like The Wages of Fear he had to learn the ropes of filmmaking. This set showcases his growth from a novice to a skilled filmmaking who would one day become an auteur.

Dragnet Night (Un soir de rafle, 1931) is a romantic boxing story told with great finesse. It's the old tale: young sailor Georget (Albert Prejean) gets into the boxing racket by accident, to impress a girl. An older fighter trains him and he wins a championship, but his singer girlfriend Mariette (Annabella) is convinced that success will ruin him.

Some of the dialogue in the farce I'll Be Alone After Midnight (Je serai seule apres minuit, 1931) is sung instead of spoken, which is ironic because thirty years later its star Mireille Perrey played (sang?) a role in Jacques Demy’s The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. The witty concept has an angry, vengeful wife study a book on how to commit adultery. She sends out dozens of balloons with an invitation for any interested man to visit her for sex!

The Unknown Singer (Le chanteur inconnu, 1931) is a musical melodrama built around a star opera singer-actor, Lucien Muratore. A traveling music impresario discovers an amnesia case (Muratore) in a remote Russian town. He turns out to be Claude Ferval, a famed singer thought lost years ago in an arctic shipwreck. Because his wife has remarried, Ferval insists that he return to Paris incognito, as ‘The Unknown Singer’.

My Cousin from Warsaw (Ma cousine de Varsovie, 1931) appears to be H.G. Clouzot's first writing credit. He adapted a play by Louis Verneuil, starring the playwright’s lover Elvire Popesco, a light comedienne from Romania. Carmine Gallone again shows a sure hand directing marital hanky-panky. A comic banker takes a rest cure at his country estate and discovers that his wife has invited an artist to live-in with her. At first not realizing that he’s being cuckolded, the banker can’t react because of the visit of a wild relative, the flighty Pole Sonia (first-billed Popesco). To get her husband out of the way, the wife persuades Sonia to seduce him, while the husband asks Sonia to seduce the artist.

Tell Me Tonight (La chanson d’une nuit, 1932) is another musical comedy built around a classy singer, only this time the director is the Russian-born Anatole Litvak, who would soon earn an impressive Hollywood career. To take a break from a too-fast performing schedule, opera star Enrico Ferrara (Kiepura) runs away to an Italian mountain resort and changes identities with another not-famous singer, Koretzky (Brasseur). While pretending to be his own secretary, Ferrara romances a local luminary (Schneider). Time is spent on adventures racing down twisty roads and various romantic mixups ensue before true identities are revealed.

Dream Castle (Chateau de reve, 1933) is a less imaginative tale of romantic reversals, that perhaps brings in a few elements too many. A movie company ‘borrows’ sailors from a naval dreadnought to serve as extras; it’s as easy as pulling a boat alongside the battleship and asking with a bullhorn. From that point forward all is confusion — the officer who accompanies the sailors earns a leading role and romances the film company’s sweet leading lady. She is played by Edith Mera, earlier the femme fatale of Dragnet Night.

The films are not presented in order of release, but are arranged to best fit them on two discs. At the end of disc one is H.G. Clouzot's first directing credit, the short subject The Terror of Batignolles (La terreur des Batignolles, 1931). Although a comedy, the film has suspense touches that immediately set it apart from the lighter fare Clouzot was writing. It opens amid dark rooftops and sinister silhouettes, as a master crook slips into a swank apartment and begins to fill his bag with loot. But the owners come home early and a confrontation takes place. Although called ‘The Terror of Batignolles,’ our burglar is such a big sissy that he’s repeatedly frightened by kittens. When the homeowners turn the tables on him, Clouzot finishes with a worthy twist, one that reminds us of Mario Bava’s Rabid Dogs. Although basically silly, the show is just clever enough to be an above-average directing debut.

2xBD50, 3xDVD9 | 1080p AVC, NTSC | 511 min | 91 Gb, 23 Gb + 3% rec
Language: French
Subtitles: English
Genre: Drama, Comedy, Romance, Musical

Download Clouzot: The Early Works: The Terror of Batignolles / La terreur des Batignolles (1931), Dragnet Night / Un soir de rafle (1931), The Unknown Singer / Le chanteur inconnu (1931), I'll Be Alone After Midnight / Je serai seule apres minuit (1931), My Cousin from Warsaw / Ma cousine de Varsovie (1931), Tell Me Tonight / La chanson d'une nuit (1932), Dream Castle / Chateau de reve (1933) 3 x DVD9 or 2 x Blu-Ray Kino Lorber: