ⓘ Malpertuis (film)


ⓘ Malpertuis (film)

Malpertuis is a 1971 Belgian fantasy horror film directed by Harry Kumel, based on the 1943 novel of the same name. It was selected for the official selection and was presented "in competition" at the 1972 Cannes Film Festival. A Flemish "directors cut" version of it was released in 1973.


1. Plot

Jan Mathieu Carriere, who is a young seaman, returns to land, and while searching for his childhood home, is mysteriously abducted. He awakens in an isolated old mansion called Malpertuis, where he find himself among various relatives, including his sister Nancy Susan Hampshire, as well as a strange taxidermist and a resident madman called Lampernisse. The mansion turns out to be a labyrinth of corridors, staircases, and secret chambers, belonging to his family.

His bedridden occultist uncle Cassavius Orson Welles is about to divide the estate to his heirs, but, as it turns out, only if they commit themselves never to leave the premises. They find themselves trapped in a mystery where they enact gods from Greek mythology, which Cassavius believes them to be, while anyone who tries to escape is found horribly murdered. The plot remains obscure to the end, as Jan tries to unravel the mystery and seems to spiral into a dreamlike madness.


2. Cast

  • Sylvie Vartan as Bets
  • Susan Hampshire as Nancy / Euryale / Alice Alecto / Nurse / Charlotte
  • Daniel Pilon as Mathias Crook
  • Dora van der Groen as Sylvie Dideloo
  • Michel Bouquet as Dideloo
  • Jean-Pierre Cassel as Lampernisse
  • Mathieu Carriere as Jan
  • Walter Rilla as Eisengott
  • Orson Welles as Cassavius
  • Charles Janssens as Philarette

3. Versions

The English language version of the film that premiered at the 1972 Cannes Film Festival had been edited, by the American distributor, from the original 1971 version, and retitled The Legend of Doom House. It was subsequently edited further by other distributors. The Royal Belgian Film Archive, together with director Harry Kumel, worked to restore the uncut Flemish version of the film, which was released in 1973 as "the directors cut". This version is 20 minutes longer, containing some of the best scenes of the film, which had been edited out. Although this version is more complete, the original voice of Orson Welles is missing from it.


4. Reception

Neil Smith of BBC gave the film 2/5 stars, calling it "Bizarre, lurid and baffling". Michael Barrett from PopMatters rated it 7/10 stars, calling it "ragged and dizzy, full of sharp zooms and frantic cuts." On his website Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings, Dave Sindelar called it disorienting, slightly disturbing and sometimes infuriating movie"