“The Black Book” Of The French Revolution

Serving up the French Revolution as an adventure story, Anthony Mann‘s The Black Book (1949), also called Reign of Terror, centers on a beastly Robespierre (Richard Basehart) and his missing death list.

Here, the brute never defends himself against the charge of wanting a dictatorship, as the real Robespierre did.  No, he makes it plain that this is what he’s after, and the good guys in the film steadfastly oppose him.  One of them is Charles d’Aubigny, played by Robert Cummings, who has neither the look nor the voice of an 18th century spy.  Another is Arlene Dahl‘s Madelon, with Dahl as undistinguished as Cummings but lovely.  Mann directed supplely and knowingly a script imparting that where there is the desire for dictatorship, there is also scorched earth violence.  Oh, wretched Jacobins!

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