The Wolf of the Malveneurs

09/08/2023 08:36

Film: The Wolf of the Malveneurs (Le loup des Malveneur)

Year: 1943

Director: Guillaume Radot

Writers: Francis Vincent-Bréchiganc and Jean Féline

Starring: Madeleine Sologne, Pierre Renoir and Gabrielle Dorziat



This was a movie that I found when searching for horror from 1943. I had to purchase a subtitled copy of this one on DVD to check it out since this is from France. It intrigued me there since seeing the title, I thought werewolf movie. My brain then shifted to Brotherhood of the Wolf. This isn’t a telling of that story, but it is a familiar concept.

Synopsis: a young governess arrives at the castle of the Malveneurs and begins to investigate peculiar disappearances.

We start this by learning about a curse in the area. It sounds like the wolves hunted the area and a man became one since he would run and hunt with them. There were crimes that were committed, with this man being punished. The legend is that he was a werewolf. There is another part with killing one with an ax and pushes the boundaries of what we know with science as well.

It then shifts to a group in a room chatting. Reginald de Malveneur (Pierre Renoir) is a scientist. He is working on cell regeneration with the pressure being on. There seems to be an illness within the family. That makes me think there could be a history of inbreeding amongst the local royalty. His wife is Estelle (Marie Olinska) and they have a daughter, Geneviève (Bijou). Magda (Gabrielle Dorziat) is the sister to Reginald and she has a commanding personality. Also staying here is a maid, Marianne (Marcelle Géniat), who is deaf/mute. There is also Édouard (Yves Furet) who seems like a groundskeeper.

Arriving to take on the role of governess to Geneviève is Monique Valory (Madeleine Sologne). She has a rough go when the man bringing her luggage doesn’t want to make small talk and drops it off part of the way there, forcing her to carry it the rest. She is met with a cold shoulder from Marianne. This is understandable. Magda is also cold, but she doesn’t like outsiders. Monique and Geneviève do hit off though.

Another character to introduce is Philippe Lafortelle (Michel Marsay). He makes friends with Monique, but Magda doesn’t like that he is trespassing. He is a painter and set up close to the castle to capture the landscape. Despite being sent away, we see him talking to Monique whenever he gets the chance.

Now to go back to the synopsis, the de Malveneurs’ gamekeeper disappears. This makes Monique suspicious when she sees Magda come in that night and the governess also finds a scarf that belongs to someone living here. Monique decides to figure out the truth before it is too late once Estelle goes missing.

That is where I’m going to leave my recap and introduction to the characters. Where I want to start is that I saw the beginning of someone else’s review about this movie. I’m wondering if we saw the same print as this feels like it is missing something. There are interesting elements, but it still feels like we are lacking a key piece to tie this together.

Now as I delve a bit deeper, I do need to reveal something. My own notions of what I thought we would get here influenced me having issues. I thought this would be a creature feature. It isn’t. It is more about the mystery. There is a curse here. Monique knows things are off and she isn’t giving the truth as to what is happening. I’m intrigued by that as it feels like it borrows from The Turn of the Screw. That is where I mean that it something we’ve seen before. Instead of ghosts and having our governess descend into madness, she goes about uncovering the truth. It could be the print that I’m seeing is missing that section and if there was a cut that I could watch to fill in that gap, I’m there. I won’t hold against the product what I wanted, but I needed more with what I got.

Even though with what I said, I do have an issue with the mad scientist thread not going somewhere. We know there is this curse over the area. There could be a werewolf. Reginald is doing experiments with cell regeneration. This all draws my interest. The problem though is that I don’t feel this gets resolved. There is a reveal near the end, but it was something that didn’t move my interest enough to care. This was a bit too much of a slow burn for my liking.

What was fine though was the acting. I thought that Sologne does well as this inquisitive character. She does something with getting into the laboratory that I don’t know if I fully buy. There doesn’t feel like enough time for her to investigate enough information to discover the truth and even if she did, she would be found. It felt contrived to move the story and to build suspense. Renoir was fine as this ‘mad scientist’ of sorts. The best performance though was Dorziat. She is so mean to everyone that it worked since she is ‘nobility’. Marsay, Louis Salou, Furet, Jo Dervo, Bijou, Olinska, Géniat and the rest of the cast rounded this out for what was needed. Interestingly as well, Olinska is Bijou’s real-life mother. The former was only in this and her daughter took on two projects.

All that is left then would be with filmmaking. I do think that the cinematography here is good. I love the castle setting. That adds an almost gothic atmosphere without fully leaning into it. The shots of the area work to showcase the isolation. We don’t get much in the way of effects. What they use comes with the sound. There is the storm raging the first night. I also believe we got wolf howling which is fitting. I’d say that this is made well enough overall.

In conclusion, I think that this has good elements for its foundation. The idea of this curse over the area and the family that share the same name is solid. Even going with a bit of mad scientist is another aspect that I can work with. The acting works as well. Dorziat being the strongest, I also thought that Sologne and Renoir were good. Bijou is adorable. This is even made well enough. The cinematography is gorgeous and the setting is good. My problem is that it is too slow. It feels like it could be missing an element for it to fully connect. Not one I can fully recommend as to what I saw.


My Rating: 5.5 out of 10