Fulvue Drive-In.com
Current Reviews
In Stores Soon
In Stores Now
DVD Reviews, SACD Reviews Essays Interviews Contact Us Meet the Staff
An Explanation of Our Rating System Search  
Category:    Home > Reviews > Serial > Adventure > Mystery > Silent > Judex - A Serial In Twelve Chapters (French/1916-7/Silent)

Judex – A Serial In 12 Episodes (French/Silent/1918)


Picture: C+     Sound: B-     Extras: C     Chapters: B



The roots of so much adventure fiction goes back to print serialization in magazines from the turn of the century, whether Charles Dickens’ Pickwick Papers or the earliest adventures of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes.  In pop culture, one likes to think detectives came from novels, while heroic figures came out of comic strips and old Hollywood B-movies and action serials.  However, any influences outside of The States cannot be traced only to England.  The French also contributed to these genres early on, including the detective Vidocq (recently revived by director Pitof in a digital HD feature) and Judex, making the first of his four big screen appearances to date all the way back to 1916.


Louis Feuillade’s first two Judex serials were sensations; with this initial version now out on DVD from Flicker Alley, yet another winning release from the company.  Printed chapters were even issued at the same time these filmed chapters were hitting the big screen.  Unlike the later Hollywood serials from smaller independent companies and the three name sources for them, Republic, Universal and Columbia, these were far more literate and artistic.  By comparison, they were also more subversive, with the dark hero Judex (René Cresté) taking on a very wealthy and evil adversary, a banker named Favraux (Louis Leubas) and telling him what to do with his money or else!


Reactionaries and diehard capitalists would call him a terrorist, but the idea is that the alter ego of Judex is exacting revenge on a truly evil man, versus the Hollywood-like dictum (think of Potter in Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life) that people with a ton of money are above criticism and even worse.  That gives Judex some amazing edge to it almost a century later and puts the serial above kiddie fare, which is why a company that releases classics versus pop culture had to issue the DVD set to begin with.


Needless to say, this is a silent classic (even ahead of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis by eight years, if not as influential) and the chapters even have exciting titles to go with them, as follows after a prologue of some length:


1)     The Mysterious Shadow

2)     The Atonement

3)     The Fantastic Dog Pack

4)     The Secret Of The Tomb

5)     The Tragic Mill

6)     The Licorice Kid

7)     The Woman In Black

8)     The Underground Passages Of The Chateau-Rouge

9)     When The Child Appeared

10)  Jacqueline’s Heart

11)  The Water Goddess

12)  Love’s Forgiveness



That sounds like everything form the Saturday chapter-plays we know today all the way to the Indiana Jones franchise, but these programs do not have that much physical action.  They are very complex for their time and watching it is never boring throughout all 300 minutes of real entertainment.  When they do happen, action sequences here are very interesting, but the action here goes beyond the physical, which is why Judex is a must-see classic that will shock those who have no idea how powerful and entertaining silent movies they have never hear of can be.


The 1.33 X 1 image has all kinds of speckles and other damage all around, but there was still plenty of restoration that did take place and the result is that it is more watchable with a little more detail than you would expect a nearly 90 year old filmed work to be.  The solidness of the images and other enhancements help, while cinematographers André Glatti and Léon Klausse constantly make all their compositions involving and show off the terrific production design by Robert-Jules Garnier.  Tinting is not overdone and sometimes amusing, though I personally am not a fan of tinting in general.  The images with or without tinting are truly amazing in their visual density, especially for their time.


The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo sound is a newly recorded score, as is the case with so many silent films.  Robert Israel is the composer in this case and his score is not bad, featuring Pro Logic surrounds to boot.  Extras include an 18-minutes-long featurette with Israel on scoring the chapters that includes an amazing use and knowledge of various music of the time resulting in a fine score, four text pages on Israel’s amazing career thus far and a foldout inside the DVD case with some illustrations, chapter information and essay by Jan-Christopher Horak.  They are very valuable, well worth your time and Flicker Alley has done another ace job here.  A sequel serial The New Mission Of Judex followed in late 1917, a Judex 34 release in 1933 and Georges Franju (of Eyes Without A Face) remade the serial as a feature film in 1963.  Hope we see those next.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


 Copyright © MMIII through MMX fulvuedrive-in.com