Critically lambasted and shunned by postwar French audiences upon its
release in 1947, Julien Duvivier’s Panique has since come to be recognized as
a long overlooked treasure of French film noir. The film was the first of several
adaptations of Mr. Hire’s Engagement, one of the finest novels by legendary
Belgian crime writer Georges Simenon, a coal-black tale of the scapegoating
of the eccentric bachelor Mr. Hire following the murder of a woman in his Paris
neighborhood: Mr. Hire has the double misfortune of knowing too much for his
own good and falling for the real murderer’s girlfriend… Yet as played by the
towering, stony-faced Michel Simon, the prim and proper oddball is anything
but meek and pathetic: Simon’s Mr. Hire is an enigma, but also the film’s moral
center. Viviane Romance, one of France’s brightest stars of the period, gives
a chilling performance as Alice, the hard-luck woman whose blind love for
an unscrupulous crook leads her to become a ruthless femme fatale and
frame Mr. Hire. While Panique is first and foremost a thrilling movie, both for
its iconic performances and Duvivier’s confident use of set pieces (several
scenes in a fair, a desperate rooftop escape), it also provides deep insight into
the mentality of the lynch mob and the pessimistic world view that existed in
the immediate aftermath of World War II.

Julien Duvivier

Julien Duvivier & Charles Spaak
Based on the novel Mr. Hire’s
Engagement by Georges Simenon

Michel Simon
Viviane Romance
Paul Bernard

91 min.
France, 1947

Rialto Pictures

$350 – DVD
$450 – DCP