Henri-Georges Clouzot’s 1942 film, The Murderer Lives At 21 (L’Assassin Habite Au 21) is a comedy/thriller which sees Pierre Fresnay’s Inspector Wenceslas Vorobechik hunt Monsieur Durand, a serial killer who leaves a calling card with each of his victims.
The detective learns that Durand is living in a boarding house on 21 Avenue Junot and he takes a room, disguised as a priest, in an attempt to flush out the killer. There’s one slight problem: Vorobechik’s ‘wanna-be’ singer girlfriend Mila (Suzy Delair) tags along in the hope of catching the killer and raising her public profile.
An interesting whodunit, The Murderer Lives At 21 has many twists and turns as Vorobechik attempts to find the killer. There’s something of The Thin Man here as our bickering couple attempt to overcome their personal problems, in an attempt to have a unified front in the investigation. The first act is a bit disjointed as the film tries to find its groove. However, once the action arrives at ‘number 21’, the pace picks up and the plot kicks into high gear.
Clouzot’s film is visually impressive, and there is some classy camera work. Fresnay delivers a retained performance as the detective caught up in the politics of the police investigation, while Suzy Delair is a touch too shrill as his over-eager better half. The film features an interesting cast of characters, all of whom could be the mysterious Monsieur Durand.
The Murderer Lives At 21 is a wonderful little comedy-thriller that packs a lot into its 82 minute running time. It features all the usual traits of the genre, and will keep you guessing right up until the end.