In 1927, the novelist Arthur Bernède wrote an extraordinary detective mystery for Henri Desfontaines, which for the first time in cinema, was set in the Louvre Museum. One night, in the room of the Barbarian Gods, the museum guard happens upon Belphégor; the following night, the chief guard is killed; then a journalist is attacked. Who is the phantom killer? The journalist Bellegarde, Inspector Ménardier and the famous detective Chantecoq conduct the inquiry.
Following the tradition of the 19th-century novel, the story appeared in the daily newspaper, “Le Petit Parisien”. Pathé released the film at the same time, in line with a well-established marketing process. The strategy was easy to apply: the director of “Le Petit Parisien”, Jean Sapène, was also the head of Cinéromans, which worked exclusively for Pathé. Additionally, René Navarre (Chantecoq), who played Fantômas, Mandrin and Vidocq on the screen, was one of the founders, along with Bernède, of Cinéromans in 1919.
Highly anticipated, the film received enthusiastic public and critical acclaim. The inquiry is conducted in part by the young journalist Bellegarde, a reincarnation of Rouletabille – this was two years before the birth of Tintin. Paris was filmed on location, with some scenes set in the Louvre Museum, and a mysterious ‘family connection’ is created between the investigators and the ancestral Moabite Gods. Desfontaines had already combined the past with the present in Le Roman de la momie (1911). Belphégor follows in the vein of Phantom of the Opera produced by Rupert Julian in 1925: as with the character played by Lon Chaney, the silhouette of the phantom roaming the basement of the Louvre Museum made an impression on the spectators.
Stéphanie Salmon and Manon Billaut
Cast and Credits
Scen.: Arthur Bernède. F.: Julien Ringel, André Reybas, Maurice Arnou, Robert Lefebvre. Scgf.: Louis Nalpas, Jean Perrier. Int.: René Navarre (Chantecoq), Elmire Vautier (Simone Desroches), Jeanne Brindeau (Elsa Bergen), Lucien Dalsace (Bellegarde), Genica Missirio (Maurice de Thouars), Georges Paulais (Ménardier), Alice Tissot (la baronessa Papillon), Michèle Verly (Colette Barjac), Anna Lefeuvrier (Marie-Jeanne Cautrais). Prod.: Société des Cinéromans. DCP. Bn.
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