Drôle de drame ou L’étrange aventure de Docteur Molyneux
Review by Matt Bailey
Posted on 10 July 2004
Source Home Vision Entertainment DVD
I normally start film reviews with a brief plot synopsis. If my life depended on it, I don’t think I could provide an accurate one for this film, so what follows is the closest approximation I can muster.
Michel Simon, that great actor of the classic French cinema, plays meek English botanist Irwin Molyneux. He is also Felix Chapel, the pseudonymous author of several mystery novels, but no one knows this because no one has ever met Chapel in person. Mr. Chapel’s novels are criticized by conservative and religious types, including Mr. Molyneux’s own cousin, the Archbishop of Bedford, and a radical vegetarian serial killer who is hell-bent on murdering mystery authors and butchers for their lack of morals. After one protest, Molyneux invites his cousin for dinner, not knowing that his cook and butler have both quit that same day. In an attempt to forestall gossip and to preserve their social position, Mrs. Molyneux hides from Bedford in the kitchen and prepares the meal herself, leaving her husband to make excuses for her. Bedford, when he begins to see through the ruse, suspects Molyneux of murdering his wife, thus setting off a wild chain of events that doesn’t stop until the last minutes of the film. Also somehow involved are a narcoleptic reporter, a maid and her milkman boyfriend, and a fatuous police detective. I should add that all of the above happens in the first fifteen minutes of the film and this forced hilarity goes on for about another hour and twenty minutes.
I like French farce, really I do. I can guarantee that I was the only kid in my high school reading Molière for pleasure. But this movie was an absolute chore to watch. I had to stop it twice just to take a break from the drudgery. What’s worse — I didn’t laugh once. The film is filled with some of the most talented actors of the 1930s and was created by the same writing and directing team that went on to make several true classics of film including Les Enfants du Paradis and Le Jour se lève. The talents of all involved are utterly wasted on the material. A disappointment in every way.