Peur Sur La Ville (1975)
A highly entertaining policier, clearly inspired by Dirty Harry, Peur Sur La Ville is, as far as I can tell, the movie which set Jean Paul Belmondo off on his mid-career diversion into playing tough rogue cops and secret agents. Like Dirty Harry, the film sees Belmondo's unorthodox Paris homicide detective on the trail of a serial killer. The killer, who calls himself Minos and leaves a fragment of a photograph of himself at the scenes of his crimes, is busy targeting women he considers to have behaved immorally in some way. As in the US film, there are various sub-plots and diversions only peripherally related to the main plot. The most significant of these is Belmondo's continued pursuit of a fugitive cop-killing bank robber he'd previously tangled with - this culminates in an extended chase sequence on the Paris Metro. Unfortunately, in order to pursue the robber onto the Metro, Belmondo has to break off his pursuit of Minos, who escapes to kill again, resulting in the detective facing allegations that he put settling a personal vendetta ahead of catching a serial killer.
Central to the film's plot is the fact that Belmondo's character isn't actually a homicide cop at all - he's been temporarily transferred there from the robbery squad after the earlier encounter with the bank robber. Consequently, his approach to the Minos investigation is far less intellectual than that of his colleagues, as he tries to apply the more physical approach he employed on the robbery detail. The focus of the latter part of the film is his attempts to apply a more methodical approach to identify the killer, before he wraps up the case in true Belmondo fashion with an action orientated climax which sees the detective being lowered from a helicopter to crash through a plate glass window and engage in a furious fist fight with Minos.
Belmondo is as charismatic as ever in a movie which combines suspense with some superbly orchestrated action sequences - most of which feature the star performing his own stunts. Indeed, the middle section of the film sees Belmondo switching from one extended and exhausting chase sequence to another, firstly chasing Minos across Paris' rooftops, before breaking off the pursuit to instead chase his bank robbing nemesis through the Metro. Obviously, credibility isn't Peur Sur La Ville's strong point, but in the hands of director Henri Verneuil, (a frequent collaborator with Belmondo), it is an extremely well made and exciting cop movie, which can easily stand shoulder-to-shoulder with its US equivalents. The film's well worth a look, with the Paris locations and French police background making a refreshing change the big city US locations usually featured in this sort of film. Moreover, unlike his US equivalents, who are generally portrayed as pursuing some political agenda to achieve 'real' justice in the face of the 'liberal' law enforcement establishment, Belmondo's cop is an essentially amoral force, simply trying to achieve results by any means necessary.
Released in several different English language editionsunder various titles, the original French cut of Peur Sur La Ville is currently available on DVD, complete with an English language soundtrack. The English dubbing is of a reasonable standard, although Belmondo has a different dubbing artist than on most of his later films, which took a little while for me to get used to. That said, at least his English language 'voice' here sounds reasonably appropriate to the actor and the character he is playing, unlike many others I've encountered on the English language versions of foreign films.
Labels: Forgotten Films