Secrets of the French Police


59m 1932
Secrets of the French Police

Brief Synopsis

Strange crimes committed by a hypnotized woman are solved by a French detective.

Film Details

Also Known As
Mysteries of the French Secret Police
Genre
Crime
Release Date
Dec 2, 1932
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the series of articles Secrets of the Surete by H. Ashton Wolfe in American Weekly Sunday Magazine (4 Oct--20 Dec 1931) and the novel The Lost Empress by Samuel Ornitz (publication undetermined).

Technical Specs

Duration
59m
Sound
Mono (RCA Photophone System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
6 reels

Synopsis

Soon after the murder of Danton, an agent of the French secret police, beautiful Parisian flower vendor Eugenie Dorain is kidnapped by minions of General Hans Moloff, a half-Russian, half-Chinese madman. Then, after determining that only Danton and Anton, Eugenie's foster father, were informed of the identity of Eugenie's Russian parents, Moloff murders Anton. When police detective François St. Cyr later discovers Anton's body, he suspects Eugenie's boyfriend, Leon Renault, a notorious pickpocket, but on a hunch, decides to use him as a guide into the Parisian underworld. While St. Cyr has his undercover agents comb the city for Eugenie, Moloff cables the Grand Duke Maxim, the brother of the slain Czar Nicholas II, that he has located Princess Anastasia, Nicholas' only surviving child, then hypnotizes Eugenie and brainwashes her to believe that she is the princess. Soon after, St. Cyr hears a report that the supposed princess bears a resemblance to Eugenie and dispatches Leon to Moloff's chateau to investigate. As Moloff tries to convince Maxim that the entranced Eugenie is Anastasia, Leon breaks into the heavily guarded chateau and stumbles into Moloff's basement, which is filled with sinister looking scientific tools. Although he is chased off before finding Eugenie, Leon conveys his suspicions to St. Cyr, who is then called to investigate an automobile accident near the chateau. At the accident site, St. Cyr finds Maxim's body and a document signed by Maxim declaring Moloff's Anastasia as Nicholas II's rightful heir. After St. Cyr's men determine that Maxim's death was caused by an elaborately produced optical illusion, St. Cyr tries to question Eugenie but is turned away from the chateau. As Moloff prepares to flee with Eugenie, Leon returns to the chateau to rescue her but is caught by the general. Seconds before her death at the hands of Moloff, St. Cyr and the police break into the chateau and force Moloff to kill himself using his own instruments of death.

Film Details

Also Known As
Mysteries of the French Secret Police
Genre
Crime
Release Date
Dec 2, 1932
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the series of articles Secrets of the Surete by H. Ashton Wolfe in American Weekly Sunday Magazine (4 Oct--20 Dec 1931) and the novel The Lost Empress by Samuel Ornitz (publication undetermined).

Technical Specs

Duration
59m
Sound
Mono (RCA Photophone System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
6 reels

Articles

Secrets of the French Police -


This wildly entertaining mashup of then-current events, true crime, bald-faced fabrication, and Grand Guignol excess could only have come from the Hollywood dream factory during the laissez faire years before the censorious Production Code was put into effect. RKO Radio Pictures purchased an option on a series of crime chronicles about famous French police cases (many of them featuring forensics pioneer Alphonse Bertillon, inventor of the mug shot), published in American Weekly Magazine under the byline of H. Ashton Wolfe. A purported investigator for the Lyons police department, Wolfe was in reality a con artist, whose scam fell apart while RKO lawyers were still vetting the material, resulting in a last minute change from police procedural to pulp fiction bordering on Gothic horror. Frank Morgan stars as Sûreté inspector St. Cyr, charged with locating a beautiful Paris flower seller (Gwili Andre) whose Russian heritage has inspired madman Gregory Ratoff to pass her off as "the last of the Romanovs" in a bid to grab a fortune secured in trust for the lost Anastasia in a London bank. Directed with an eye for the grotesque by A. Edward Sutherland (also responsible for the surpassingly unpleasant Murders in the Zoo that same year), Secrets of the French Police was written by future Hollywood Ten scribe Samuel Oritz, who used H. Ashton Wolfe's discredited memoirs as a springboard for his own published novel The Lost Empress, and Robert Tasker, who shared a writing credit as well on that year's equally ghoulish Doctor X (1932).

By Richard Harland Smith
Secrets Of The French Police -

Secrets of the French Police -

This wildly entertaining mashup of then-current events, true crime, bald-faced fabrication, and Grand Guignol excess could only have come from the Hollywood dream factory during the laissez faire years before the censorious Production Code was put into effect. RKO Radio Pictures purchased an option on a series of crime chronicles about famous French police cases (many of them featuring forensics pioneer Alphonse Bertillon, inventor of the mug shot), published in American Weekly Magazine under the byline of H. Ashton Wolfe. A purported investigator for the Lyons police department, Wolfe was in reality a con artist, whose scam fell apart while RKO lawyers were still vetting the material, resulting in a last minute change from police procedural to pulp fiction bordering on Gothic horror. Frank Morgan stars as Sûreté inspector St. Cyr, charged with locating a beautiful Paris flower seller (Gwili Andre) whose Russian heritage has inspired madman Gregory Ratoff to pass her off as "the last of the Romanovs" in a bid to grab a fortune secured in trust for the lost Anastasia in a London bank. Directed with an eye for the grotesque by A. Edward Sutherland (also responsible for the surpassingly unpleasant Murders in the Zoo that same year), Secrets of the French Police was written by future Hollywood Ten scribe Samuel Oritz, who used H. Ashton Wolfe's discredited memoirs as a springboard for his own published novel The Lost Empress, and Robert Tasker, who shared a writing credit as well on that year's equally ghoulish Doctor X (1932). By Richard Harland Smith

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

The working title of this film was Mysteries of the French Secret Police. An early pre-production Film Daily news item announced that detective fiction author Rufus King was writing the screenplay for the film. King's contribution to the final film has not been determined. According to RKO inter-department memos, after investigating the legal ramifications of portraying actual people in the film, including the late French detective Bertillon, studio representatives discovered that writer H. Ashton-Wolfe, who was reported to be a former assistant investigator in the Lyons police department, was a fraud and was wanted on swindling charges in France and England at the time of this production. Ashton-Wolfe's character was subsequently dropped from the script and replaced with "St. Cyr." Studio executives also worried about possible lawsuits resulting from their portrayal of Princess Anastasia, whose existence was being contested by a woman in Europe, but deemed it unlikely that any legal action against RKO would be taken.