Judex (1963)

Judex (1963), directed by Georges Franju.

A criminal banker is getting threatening messages from the mysterious "Judex" ("Judge" or "Avenger"). Mend your ways or else. The evil-doer chooses "else".

The Shadow-like Judex is a master of disguise, an expert conjurer with a secret lair and advanced video technology, also with a team of loyal masked minions.

This is an homage to a French silent serial -- Judex (1916) -- which I have not seen. The respectful treatment causes some problems in slow pacing and narrative slackness, but the joy of old-time thrills is still there.

The plot is ludicrous: non-stop kidnappings, escapes and recaptures, cunning plans that make no sense. Incredible coincidences like the clever boy who is on hand for every important plot development.

My favorite such: an inept private detective is waiting outside a building he cannot get into when a circus wagon pulls up and out jumps an old school friend who ran away to become an acrobat. She scales the outside of building and has a rooftop fight with the chief villainess. They are both clad in skin-tight leotards and that is pretty exciting.

Édith Scob, the banker's much-kidnapped innocent daughter, was the masked Christiane in the director's Eyes Without a Face (1960).

Maurice Jarre score.

My thumbnails are from the Criterion DVD. They also have a Blu-ray edition.