MALPERTUIS (legend of doom house) (1972 FRANCE BELGIUM W. GERMANY) D: HARRY KUMEL W: JEAN FERRY P: PAUL LAFFARGUE/PIERRE LEVIE
A sailor (the very teutonic-looking Mathieu Carriere) on shore-leave at his hometown finds nothing left of his family and their house. Events seem to conspire to land him at the titular place "in hell", a big maze of an old house (great sets) ruled over by the God-like Cassavius (Orson Welles). Cassavius insults everyone on his death bed, and rules that the gold-digging weirdos that hang around must remain in Malpertuis if they want to get their hands on his inheritance. Susan Hampshire looks great in a triple-role. It`s pretty difficult for a synopsis to do justice to this unique adaptation of Jean Ray`s 1943 novel, but it`s a surreal and sumptuous feast of a puzzle-box (which incorporates Greek mythology) that at times inhabits a cosily morbid dreamworld not unlike the one of THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS (high praise indeed). The ambiguous ending (which quotes Lewis Carroll) may be a little blunted from years of (perhaps indirect) imitation, but still, beautiful work. With Michel Bouquet, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Walter Rilla, Dora van der Groen, Ward de Ravet, and look fast for Johnny Hallyday as a sailor. In the 120 min. version i saw, Welles was dubbed by someone else into Belgian, but he apparently provided his own voice for a (shorter) English dub. Hearing his booming voice command his servants from upstairs willl remind British viewers of a certain generation of the 80`s cartooon TRAP DOOR! Kumel had previously made the cult favourite DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS.

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