Cartouche (1962)




Director:  Philippe De Broca

Starring:  Jean Paul Belmondo (Louis-Dominique Bourguignon alias Cartouche), Claudia Cardinale (Vénus), Odile Versois (Isabelle de Ferrussac), Jess Hahn (La Douceur), Jean Rochefort (La Taupe), Philippe Lemaire (Gaston de Ferrussac), Marcel Dalio (Malichot), Noel Roquevert (Le sergent recruteur, the recruiting sergent), Lucien Raimbourg (Le maréchal). Alain Dekok (Louison).

Country:  French and Italian film

Jean Paul Belmondo plays the Robin Hood of 18th century France.  Cartouche takes over a crime syndicate in Paris.



Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire movie.

The simple man Dominic (alias Cartouche) takes a liking to the looks of Madame Isabelle de Ferrussac, wife of the chief of police, Gaston de Ferrussac.  He tries to help her out of a carriage which makes the Chief of Police very angry.  Ferrussac makes Cartouche bow and scrape for the offense, which in turn makes Cartouche very angry.  The Chief of Police and his wife then take their places to watch the executioner break the legs of a man.   

Malichot, the leader of a gang of thieves of which Cartouche is a part, is a very nasty, dictatorial leader.  Cartouche tells him: "I don't like your ways" and tries to lead a little revolt against the leader, which fails.  To get away, he signs up for the army.  He and two buddies, the strong man La Douceur and La Taupe, find themselves in a battle.  They are not interested in fighting and spend their time hiding.  They are the last three of their unit standing and are declared heroes.    

The three decide to kidnap Le maréchal and grab the gold he carries in his coach.  They knock the recruiting sergeant out and kidnap Le maréchal.  They later drop him off at the side of the road and continue on with the coach and the gold.  The men then proceed to a tavern and get drunk.  In the tavern, Cartouche meets the beautiful gipsy Vénus being held in shackles and takes an immediate liking to her.  Her crime was the theft of a silk scarf.  He forcibly takes her from the two fellows guarding her and a love relationship soon develops. 

This gives the sergeant time enough to catch up with the three thieves.  He retrieves the gold and captures the drunken Douceur and Taupe.  With the help of Cartouche, the fellows escape and now Cartouche searches for the gold and Vénus.  The evil Malichot has taken both the gold and Vénus, along with his young brother Louison.  Cartouche saves Vénus and Louison, gets the gold and takes over the crime syndicate from Malichot.  He vows to only attack the rich and for this he soon is a popular hero of the people.  The law responds with a bounty on his head. 

Cartouche still has not forgotten the humiliation he suffered at the hands of the Chief of Police and he is determined to get revenge by getting the man's wife into bed.  Isabelle is the director of a young women's school.  He takes a group of his men and they go to the school to woo the women. But Isabelle resists Cartouche and he soon calls an end to the wooing.  Vénus is very unhappy to hear about the affair: "You're all pigs."  

Malichot rats to the police on Cartouch.  With his help, soldiers are able to find Vénus, Louison and Cartouche in the country on a get-away.  But the three are able to escape.  Douceur is not so lucky.  The police take him into custody.  Cartouches catches up with Malichot and punishes him.  The police try to execute Douceur, but Cartouche and his gang save him.  Then Cartouche again attempts to woo Isabelle, who is starting to weaken.  Cartouche and his men rob the Ambassador of Turkey of his jewels. 

The Police Chief decides to use Cartouche's interest in Isabelle to his advantage.  He plans to use his weakness to capture him. Cartouche's infatuation with Isabelle has affected his work.  His men complain that he is "no longer interested in rocking the kingdom."' 

Cartouche gives two huge diamonds to Isabelle but she refuses to accept them.  The love sick and blind man tries to arrange a tryst with Isabelle.  But it is not Isabelle that shows up at the proposed meeting place, but the soldiers and the Police Chief.  They grab Cartouche and take him into custody telling him that he will be hanged.  Vénus and the gang ambush the soldiers and free Cartouche.  But in the fracas Vénus is killed blocking a bullet meant for Cartouche.  Her death finally wakes Cartouche to his love for Vénus.  The gang puts her body in a fancy coach and sink it in a lake.  Cartouche says "They'll pay for this."  The response is "Yeah, with a rope around our neck" to which Cartouche responds: "The sooner the better."

Good movie.  In the beginning, it is a bit of a slap-stick comedy, which is funny, before it settles into being an action flick. It is based loosely on the escapades of Louis-Dominique Bourguignon.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Historical Background:

Louis-Dominique Bourguignon (1693-1721), a highwayman who terrorized the roads around Paris during the Régence.  The authorities finally had him broken on the wheel.  

The Régence period, 1715-1723, was the time of the minority of King Louis XV of France.  France was governed by the regent, Uncle Philippe d'Orléans.

The Regent's court was at the Palais Royal in Paris.  The period was one of aristocratic salons served as literary meeting places.  (There was also some resistance to the nation's policies.)  

Bourguignon's brothers and sisters were his accomplices.   His father obtained a lettre de cachet to put him in a reformatory, from which he fled.

With the help of his cousins, Cartouche and his brothers and sisters trained a gang of thieves.  At one time he had a gang of more than 100 thieves and associates.  Among other things, they would burglarize private mansions. 

He saves a ruined merchant from suicide, paying his creditors, and later robbing them of the money he had just paid them.

Cartouche had connections in many different areas, including some of the closest servants of the nobility and Philippe Regent of Orleans.

1719 (September) --  he comes to the full attention of the police with the capture and interrogation of three of his accomplices.

1721  -- at carnival time, Cartouchiens openly scoff at the police by putting mannequins on a cart and whipping them as the gang membes walked in the parade.  (The police would often bring criminals to public punishment or execution on a cart.)

His brothers are arrested and tortured. 

1721 (October 14) –  while brazenly going to the Opera, Cartouche is arrested, betrayed by one of his accomplices, Gruthus.





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