Rather like a noir version of The Thin Man, this film (being French?) has some real racy dialogue (for 1942) . And the cinematography is dazzling for its time – the opening murder sequence is especially striking. And that this film was made in Paris during the Nazi occupation makes it all the more impressive.
Next month’s Classic Film is a response to those who want more comedy (and who doesn’t?). The French director Henri-Georges Clouzot (dubbed the Gallic answer to Hitchcock in the 1950s) began his filmmaking not with a thriller but with this stylish comedy.
The Murderer Lives at Number 21 (L’Assassin habite au 21) was his 1942 directorial debut – a darkly comic murder mystery involving the dapper police inspector Wens (Pierre Fresnay).
Wens is assigned the case of a killer who always leaves a calling card at the scene of the crime: Monsieur Durand. A panic ensures but a tip off puts Durand in a seedy Montmartre boarding house. Wens, accompanied by his mistress, Mila (an aspiring actress), goes under cover as a minister. As arrest is soon made, but while the suspect is in prison … well anyway let’s just say it is finally Inspector Wens who is in danger….
According to Philip French in the Guardian, ‘The script is clever, the performances engaging and the photography by the gifted veteran Armand Thirard (who later shot Clouzot’s The Wages of Fear) is remarkable, considering the wartime restrictions.’
An Imdb user writes: ‘The movie is only 84 minutes long, but feels longer due to its rapid dialogue, fast action and rich content. Although it may not be great art, it’s definitely an example of quality entertainment.’