Sog.: dal romanzo Zigomar (1910) di Léon Sazie. Scen.: Victorin-Hippolyte Jasset. F.: Ravet. Int.: Alexandre Arquillière (Zigomar), André Liabel (Paulin Broquet), Josette Andriot (La Rosaria), Attilio Maffei (l’aviatore), Paul Guidé, Émile Keppens, Henri Gouget, Camille Bardou, Édouard Pinto, Marise Dauvray. Prod.: Éclair. 35mm. D.: 45’ Bn
A quiz question for film buffs: in a superbly entertaining early French serial, a fascinating actress wearing a black catsuit appears in the role of a wicked female sidekick of the criminal male lead. What are the names of the dark-eyed actress and film director?
Victorin Jasset began working in the series format in 1908 and continued with it until his untimely death in 1913. In Peau d’anguille, the third and best instalment of his Zigomar series, La Rosaria (Josette Andriot), an accomplice of the bandit Zigomar (Alexandre Arquillère) has been promoted from her secondary role to the lead. At the very beginning, Andriot, in a black catsuit, glides out of a coffin – a slim, mesmerising silhouette. And we remain mesmerised long after the last scene of the film.
Her final devilish smile reveals to us how much she is going to enjoy turning imprisonment into an opportunity to hoodwink Detective Broquet and make a fool of him yet again. For no prison cell in the world is likely to detain a woman who, dressed as an oriental dancer, can deploy a circus elephant to rip a safe box full of cash out of a wall and make off with it unharmed (L’Éléphant cambrioleur) or, disguised as an elegant tourist, handle explosives and fly aeroplanes (Le Brigand de l’air). In Jasset’s subsequent series, Josette Andriot played the eponymous heroine, the shape-shifting, reality-defying spy Protéa, performing amazing stunts – the actress was an intrepid sportswoman. All this went on well before Musidora, in her famous catsuit costume, stepped into the role of Irma Vep.