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09.24.08

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Phaedra

Belphégor: Phantom of the Louvre

One disc; Lionsgate; $19.98

Reviewed by Michael S. Gant


Sophie Marceau (Bond babe Elektra King) stars in this 1971 big-screen adaptation of the French phantom/mummy icon Belphégor, created back in the 1920s by novelist Arthur Bernède and made over many times—as a silent serial, a TV show, a comic book, etc. Marceau's Lisa lives in a fabulous apartment across from the Louvre; thanks to some underground construction, she can enter the famous museum without paying an admission fee. That access tunnel comes in handy when a restless spirit being is released from an unearthed mummy deep in the bowels of the Egyptology department. The cloaked phantom starts bumping people off and inhabiting the bodies of unsuspecting humans like Lisa in its quest for some vital ritual objects that can help return it to the afterlife in style. Lisa's new boyfriend (Frédéric Diefenthal as an electrician who makes prompt emergency night calls—that's Paris for you), a policeman (Michel Serrault) and a visiting archaeologist (Julie Christie, indifferently dubbed) try to help solve the mystery. The best bits come when the demon susses out its victims' deepest fears and slays them accordingly. The film is a matinee trifle, but it uses its on-site locations to great effect (it does for the Louvre what The Relic did for the Chicago Natural History Museum) and avoids the overkill of CGI that mars the American Mummy franchise. In one revealing aside about age-old European rivalries, the French Egyptologist disses the shoddy curatorial practices of his English counterpart. No extras.

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