Saturday, December 24, 2016

Espions à l'affût (aka Heat Of Midnight) (1966) French Sexploitation Noir

Max Pécas (born 25 April 1925 in Lyon  died 10 February 2003 in Paris) (noted for the three-film "Saint-Tropez" series at the end of his career ) was known primarily a director of campy B-sexploitation movies, sort of the French Russ Meyer. He did direct a few thrillers one of which Espions à l'affût, was quite noir-ish.

Written by Maurice Cury and Max Pécas. Cinematography by Robert Lefebvre (Casque d'Or (1952), The Grand Maneuver (1955)  The Gates of Paris (1957) ). Music was by Louiguy.

The film stars Jean Vinci as Fred Langlois, Jean Claudio (Darling (1965)) as Max Savelan, Claudine Coster (Keep Talking, Baby (1961)) as Fabienne, Anna Gaël ( The Bridge at Remagen (1969), Therese and Isabelle (1968)) as Sybil, Robert Lombard as Henri.  Michel Vocoret as Pascal, and Dominique Santarelli as one of Pascal's goons.

Fred Langlois (Vinci) a jewel thief is in heavy debt to an effete gambling club owner Pascal who practically prances around while cuddling his pet pekinese. Fred plans a scheme to pretend to pay off his debt to gain entry to the home of Pascal. Fred has an accomplice Henri (Lombard) with him outside who will gain entry and get the drop of the club owner and his henchmen while they are occupied with Fred. All goes as planned and they recover the jewels and scoot.

Fred (Vinci) getting patted down

Henri sneaking in to Pascal's

Fred (Vinci) and Pascal (Michel Vocoret)

Henri getting the drop on Pascal and his goon

However the house was under surveillance by insurance detective Max Savelan (Claudio) who had traced the jewels from Fred to Pascal. Suspecting the heist from Pascal by Fred and Henri, Max jumps in his car and sets off in pursuit of them. Caught at a railroad crossing Max loses the car with Fred and Henri and it looks as if all is lost.

Max caught at the railroad crossing

Henri (Robert Lombard) double crossing Fred

While driving down the road, Henri pulls a gun on Fred takes the jewels double crossing him. Henri tells Fred it's the end of the line. Fred manages to grab Henri and during the resulting struggle is able to kill him. Fred though is wounded, grazed in his upper arm by a bullet. He jumps back in the car and drives away leaving Henri. Shortly afterwards Max finally catches up arriving on the scene.

Fred continues to head towards the border. Weakened by the bullet wound and loss of blood, he decides to look for some sanctuary. He decides to drop in on the estate of his rich ex wife Fabienne (Coster) who is now decadently living in an open lesbian relationship with Sybil (Gaël). Fabienne agrees to help Fred. Secreting Fred in one of the mansion's many rooms, Fabienne carries on as if nothing has changed.

Fabienne awakens, hearing a car drive up to the mansion

"Hi honey I'm home".

Fabienne (Claudine Coster 

Fabienne hiding Fred
While Fred gets reaquainted with Fabienne, Max arrives on the scene and stakes out Fabienne's house. While the girls are out of the house Fred hides the jewels in Sybil's room. At first, Fabienne tries to hide Fred presence from Sybil but Sybil finds out by accidentally seeing their silhouettes upon a window, and she begins to play her own games with Fred. All this and Sybil's later abduction provides director Pécas with excuses for bits of tame (for today's standards) sexploitation.

Sexploitation Noirsville Style

Sybil (Anna Gaël) 

Fred's arm wound

Fabien and Fred getting re-acquainted 

Sybil teasing Fred

Fred spanks Sybil

Fred rekindling his relationship with Fabienne and having a pretty good time of it at the mansion decides to go straight and send the jewels back.

Max sneaks into the mansion and confronts Fred about the jewels. Fred gets the drop on Max and with Max incapacitated actually does mail the jewels back to their rightful owners bringing Max along to the post office to witness it. Once the jewels are mailed off Fred lets Max go.



Fred hiding the jewels in Sybil's room

Fred and Max mix it up

Max (Jean Claudio)

Mailing the jewels back

Pascal and his pekingese about to torture Sybil

Sybil belted on the boobs

Pascal's goon (Dominique Santarelli)


Sybil about to suffer a fate worse than death

Pascal and his minions arrive at Fabienne's figuring out that it's the logical place for Fred to hole up and they devise a plan to get the swag back that involves kidnapping Sybil. Max foils Pascal's plans.

The final denouement that involves a roadside ambush near the mansion is quite clever and one of the things besides the stylistic Noir cinematography that elevates this film from obscurity.  Film is currently available dubbed in English on Daily Motion (where the screencaps originate from BTY) under its English title Heat Of Midnight. Entertaining enough, 6/10.

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