The Black Book AKA Reign of Terror

french-revolution-6I’m on a bit of a French Revolution kick, mainly because I’m reading that Tom Reiss biography of Alex Dumas, French revolutionary era general, ex-slave, hero, and dad to the novelist, Alex Dumas. It’s proving to be a pretty great read.

One thing that surprises me is the fact that no one’s ever done a Cthulhu mythos, French Revolution mash-up. So much of it seems like it would fit together: secret societies (the Jacobin clubs), the Cult of the Supreme Being, the master/pupil relationship between Saint-Just* and Robespierre. I could see it working and am surprised no one’s done it.

One thing I did find is this old costume drama from the 1940s called The Black Book. It’s one of those pictures where time and space can be conquered simply by showing a single silhouetted rider cross the screen while the music score swells. “… and he made full speed for Strassburg.”

What’s cool about it is that it’s directed by Anthony Mann. Mann started as a b-movie director, specializing in Film Noir and went on to make westerns and epics. The Black Book is made right in the middle of his Noir phase, so it plays out less like an epic of the revolution and more like The Maltese Falcon. Robespierre hires a special operative to find his missing black book. Several other factions want the book. There’s a femme fatale, a shady cop adept at picking locks, and double crosses. Yeah, it all descends into mad coach rides and women-in-peril, but at seventy-five minutes I won’t complain.

You can watch it at the Internet Archive or Youtube.

* According to wikipedia, Saint-Just wrote an epic poem in the style of Orlando Furioso, except with dollops of the Marquis de Sade heaped in. Yet another reason he’s perfect as a Lovecraftian anti-hero.

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