Reign of Terror

1949

History / Romance / Thriller / War

1
IMDb Rating 7 10 1360

Synopsis


Uploaded By: FREEMAN
February 01, 2020 at 10:30 AM

Director

Cast

Russ Tamblyn as Pierre's Oldest Son
Norman Lloyd as Tallien
Dabbs Greer as Bridge Guard
Richard Basehart as Maximilian Robespierre
720p.BLU 1080p.BLU
823.29 MB
968*720
English 2.0
NR
23.976 fps
12 hr 0 min
P/S 2 / 9
1.49 GB
1440*1072
English 2.0
NR
23.976 fps
12 hr 0 min
P/S 1 / 21

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by bmacv 7 / 10

Mann, Alton view French Revolutionary adventure through film noir's lenses

Out of the chaos and carnage of the French Revolution, Anthony Mann fashions not a sweeping historical epic à la A Tale of Two Cities but a tight and shaded suspense story. His gifted collaborator is director of photography John Alton, whose preference for the murky suggestively limned with light was never so evident as in his work here, in country inns and the cellars of bakeshops and the cobbled pavements of torchlit Paris.

The plot centers on Robespierre (a peruked Richard Basehart), who has embarked on a spree of mock trials and executions of his rivals in preparation to having himself proclaimed dictator; he's just disposed of Danton. A less than adulatory element loyal to the ideals of the newly formed Republic, but not to its current leaders, aims to stop him. One of their operatives (Robert Cummings) infiltrates Robespierre's inner circle by posing as the `butcher of Strasbourg,' a regional tyrant as bloodthirsty as Robespierre himself.

But in the circle of men closest to the power of the state, trust is a commodity in short supply; they watch their own backs and scheme to stab each others'. It's Cummings' job to negotiate this maze of duplicity and locate Robespierre's `black book,' in which he records neither his amatory conquests nor vintages he's sampled but his next victims. Exposure of this book will mean Robespierre's downfall. With the aid of proto-Bondgirl Arlene Dahl, Cummings races the clock in a round of near-fatal wild goose chases.

Reign of Terror remains a costumed adventure – a chase movie – but Mann paces it swiftly and slyly. And, fresh from some ground-breaking work in film noir, he and Alton give it a compellingly sinister look. Most period pieces are lit as if on the equator at high noon; this has to be the inkiest costume movie ever filmed (even Charles McGraw, as a bearded soldier of the Republic, goes all but unrecognizable). The darkness doesn't limit itself to the lighting – the script, by Aeneas MacKenzie and Philip Yordan, rustles with ambiguous motives and queer twists. There's even an ironic note of premonition sounded at the end, when the slimy survivor Fouché (Arnold Moss), asks the name of a young soldier. `Bonaparte,' comes the answer. `Napoleon Bonaparte.'

Reviewed by joe-pearce-1 9 / 10

Near Hitchcockian on a Smaller Budget

This is a unique film, nothing quite like it on the French Revolution having been seen before or since it was made. The director and cameraman manage to disguise the fact that it is quite a low-budget affair by means of near-fantastical camera work and angles. Even the near-final scene between the 'citizens' and Richard Basehart's maniacal Robespierre seems to be shot with him in close-up, but in front of a back screen of people screaming for his blood. Perhaps this was a way of not having to pay extras for several days of work until Basehart, or the director, or the cinematographer, could get the difficult scene totally under control. Whatever the case, it works beautifully. This is the only true 'costume' noir I can recall, but that French term was neither in existence nor even thought about when Anthony Mann was making this film. Mann went on to a huge career in both spectacles and major Westerns, but directorially he did nothing much better than this. (Any man who can effectively direct the diverse talents of James Stewart, Alec Guinness, Charlton Heston, Sophia Loren and Mario Lanza has much to recommend him!) I saw this when it came out in 1949 and didn't even know what "reign' was, going home to Mom and telling her I'd just seen 'the raygen of terror'. She looked perplexed, so maybe the later title of THE BLACK BOOK was a better choice; it certainly sounds more noirish. Some ill-advised comments have been made here about the two leads, but Robert Cummings, although he excelled in light and sometimes silly comedy, had a solid grounding in excellent dramatic work - between 1942 and 1954 he was also the star of KING'S ROW (yes, he had the starring male role, not Ronald Reagan), Hitchcock's SABOTEUR, then FLESH AND FANTASY, THE LOST MOMENT and SLEEP, MY LOVE, and also as co-star of Hitchcock's DIAL M FOR MURDER, not to mention taking a lovely turn as an angel in a movingly bittersweet and still little-known comedy-drama Western called HEAVEN ONLY KNOWS, where he comes to Earth to escort a little boy's soul back to Heaven, but finds him still alive; the rest of the film's lightness of heart is burdened by the fact that while we get close to the little boy, both we and the angel know he must die; Cummings makes it all work in what can only be termed a near-angelic performance! (Mann also used, more than once, the somewhat similar Dennis O'Keefe, an excellent dramatic lead who was also a phenomenally good farceur - even better than Cummings - when given the opportunity.) Low budget or not, they had to borrow Arlene Dahl from M-G-M for this one, and I'd strongly suggest that anyone who thinks Ms. Dahl could provide only beauty to a good acting cast has obviously never seen her as the two-timing and grasping lead of NO QUESTIONS ASKED or as Rhonda Fleming's psychopathic bad sister in SLIGHTLY SCARLET. A load of top-flight character actors - Arnold Moss, Norman Lloyd, Charles McGraw and Beulah Bondi - take turns at almost stealing the film, but the leads hold onto their characters and do full justice to their best reputations, most especially Basehart (an actor who, despite a near-profound acting versatility, never seemed to quite find his niche in movies, which probably says more about us than it does about him). Anyway, it really deserves a 10 rating, but I must restrict myself to a 9 due to that damned budget, which encourages imagination on the parts of all concerned but still leaves you wishing a more Hitchcockian funding could have been found for the film. But Hitchcock had, earlier on, excelled at making masterpieces on starvation budgets and Mann follows nobly in his footsteps, for this remains a delightfully suspenseful and engrossing outing from beginning to end.

Reviewed by theowinthrop 7 / 10

France's First Revolutionary Dictator

The question will never be really answered: What was the exact set of goals of Maximillien Robespierre, lawyer from Arras, France, who was (from July 1793 to June 1794) the central figure of public attention in France and the apparent dictator of the country? We won't know because he failed in the end - in possibly the most satisfactory fall from power of any dictator in modern history. His secrets died with him.

Robespierre has been painted as the great "green-eyed" monster of the Revolution. That was the phrase used by Thomas Carlyle in describing Robespierre in Carlyle's classic history of the revolution. A prissy, powder-wigged figure, who never found a kind word to say about anybody who was in power - and so undermined several rivals while he grew more powerful. He did give lip service to the Revolution's ideals, but apparently was more in love with the concept of mankind, than in individual men and women. He spoke about a cult of pure reason (an idea he gathered from the philosophes, especially Jean-Jacques Rousseau)and even held a festival for the cult shortly before he fell from power. Not really much to say about his program, except that his proscription made the Reign of Terror what it was.

But was he blown out of size? Some historians in the 20th Century feel that he was not all powerful. He was elected head of the Jacobin Club, and he was a member of the Committee of Public Safety - with eleven other men. The Committee was actually a committee set up with extraordinary powers by the National Assembly, and was supposed to run the war effort against Europe, and keep a lid on the problems on the home front. The historian R.R. Palmer (in "Twelve Who Ruled") makes a good case that Robespierre was not the only one with authority, but that all these men did valuable work. In particular, Louis Lazare Carnot, an amateur who turned out to be one of military history's most amazingly, unexpected geniuses. Carnot built the great French Revolutionary armies that were to be the weapon that Napoleon and his marshals used to conquer most of Europe.

But it was Robespierre (along with his two closest allies on the Committee: Robert Couthon and Antoine St. Just) who was the most fanatical in searching for hidden internal enemies. Their standards are the model for later similar "witch hunters", like Heinrich Himmler, Laventi Beria, and Senator Joseph McCarthy - you find a weak point, spread a lie, and then pound the lie into everyone until it becomes the truth. Robespierre did this with the Royal Family, the Girondists (moderates), General Lafayette (fortunately in an Austrian prison when denounced), General Dumouriez (who decided to surrender himself for safety sake to the Prussians), and then the radicals. He did not have to go after all his rivals. Jean Paul Marat would be stabbed by Charlotte Corday (the Girondists later said they wished she had consulted with them, they would have pointed out another target). But he did confront and destroy his right of center moderate rival Georges Danton, and later his far left rival Hebert.

There are, oddly enough, very few films dealing with this story. Robespierre does show up at the end of "Marie Antoinette", and is Chauvin's boss in "The Scarlet Pimpernel". The various versions of "A Tale Of Two Cities" do not need him (he's not in Dicken's novel). Only two films deal with him that I am aware of. A French film, "Danton", deals with his duel to the death with the great moderate and orator (played by Gerard Depardieu), and how Danton warns the country of the dangers of Robespierre's policies and personality but is unable to avoid being proscribed and executed.

Then there is this film. Directed by Anthony Mann, it paints a dismal view of the Paris of the months of May - June 1794, and how Robespierre finally is brought down. Played (very well) by Richard Basehart, his Achilles heel is a book of names of allies and enemies, and when he will destroy them to achieve total power. Robert Cummings and Arlene Dahl, with a cynical assist from Arnold Moss (as Joseph Fouche, Napoleon's future secret police chief) demolish Robespierre by getting the book into the right hands.

Did the book exist? We don't know. Stanley Loomis, in his interesting "Paris In The Terror" shows that it did not need to actually be in existence. Robespierre always had a proscription list in mind, and had he been smart he could have revealed it and reassured many who would not have stood in his way. But he was too arrogant and refused to do so. Fouche, who was an enemy of Robespierre, spread the word to almost every member of the National Assembly that they were on the hit list. Robespierre was shouted down when he tried to finally explain his plans, and was shot in the mouth just before he was arrested. On July 11, 1794 ("Thermidor" on the French Revolutionary Calender), he, Couthon, St. Just, and a dozen close associates were all guillotined. Although conservative, reactionary "White Terror" occurred in 1795, it was short and not as wholesale. Robespierre's Reign of Terror cost about 14,000 lives in France...and don't forget it was planned to continue for quite a while afterward. As Loomis writes in his study, the Terror died with him.

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