This Man is Dangerous May 15, 2018
1 Hr., 32 Mins.
he American-born French actor-singer Eddie Constantine is best known for starring in Jean-Luc Godard’s Alphaville (1965), a minimalist, philosophical sci-fi film noir. In the film, he plays Lemmy Caution, a carcinomic secret agent assigned to both off the leader of a totalitarian regime and destroy a supercomputer similar to the scheming HAL 9000. In front of Godard’s avant garde aesthetics and macabre sense of humor, Constantine’s Caution is an odd man out. He’s a straight-laced, fedora-wearing spy who most closely resembles Philip Marlowe, the most indelible of private dicks. The man directing him is an iconoclastic aesthete.
Although the Godard film is among the more influential and singular science fiction movies of the era, Alphaville, at the time, was more often considered a high point in a series than the apotheosis of experimental ‘60s sci-fi: the 40-something-year-old Constantine, who had worked as a crooner for most of his career, had been starring in Caution-centric pieces since 1952.
With the exception of Alphaville, most of the Caution movies, which were based upon a series of novels written by the British author Peter Cheyney, have been forgotten. They are, in a way, the French equivalent of the Mike Hammer detective movies of the ‘50s that almost became a thing when Kiss Me Deadly (1955) became a moderate hit. They’re with their material pleasures, but are limited in their abilities to make lasting impressions.
The second film in the unofficial Caution series, which is approaching its 55th anniversary and is now available to stream on Amazon Prime, is exactly what you might expect from a low-budget, diversion-concerned detective from 60 years ago: it’s playful and anodyne, forgettable even as we’re having a good time watching it.
Called This Man is Dangerous (not to be confused with the 1952 Joan Crawford vehicle This Woman is Dangerous) and directed by Jean Sacha, it follows its trenchcoat-donning protagonist as he attempts to infiltrate an international criminal network run by the archvillain Siégella (Grégoire Aslan). Posing as a thug, he easily slips into the foe’s primary ring and gets involved with a plot to kidnap an American heiress (Claude Borelli).
What transpires is a winsome, if unexceptional, caper, packed with winking one-liners and lots of smarmy Eartha Kitt smiles courtesy of our central Constantine. There’s lots of clever composition and framing here, too: Sacha likes shooting his characters eccentrically, sometimes through holes in newspapers, from car windows, or between the no-nonsense mugs of a pair of hooligans standing side by side. That adds to an idea that this is a competently made thriller, even if it is pretty innocuous. It’s fun pulp forage — though if you’re really interested in exploring the legacy of the elusive Lemmy Caution, Alphaville is the best place to look. B-