Blue Panther (1965)

The Eurospy film isn’t just the domain of the Broccolis and the Italian, Mexican and American filmmakers that attempted to make their own OSS 117, Matt Helm, Santo and Kommisar X movies to take on Bond. At times, even those of a more artistic mind got involved.

Also known as Marie-Chantal contre le docteur Kha* and based on a series of novels by Jacques Chazot, this film was written and directed by Claude Chabrol, who wrote for Cahiers du cinéma before making his own films as an originator of the French New Wave. “The Balzac of Cinema,” he was suited to making mystery films that were often indebted to Hitchcock.

His heroine is French It girl Marie-Chantal, who is played by a real-life French It girl Marie Laforêt. She was a singer who brought the folk music of America to France, including her version of “Blowin’ in the Wind” that had a B-side of “House of the Rising Sun,” along with versions of songs by Peter Paul and Mary; The Rolling Stones; Simon and Garfunkel and Marianna Faithful. Her best-known song was 1977’s “Il a neigé sur Yesterday,” which was a song about the breakup of The Beatles.

As she travels by train to spend the winter with her cousin, Marie-Chantal is given a jewel in the shape of a tiger with ruby eyes that contains a virus that can destroy mankind. Now, spies from every nation are dispatched to get the jewels from her by any means necessary.

If you’re coming to this hoping for some of high art from Chabrol, you will be disappointed. If you’d like to see a great Eurospy, though, it has its rewards.

Kino Lorber’s new release of this film — available directly from them — comes complete with trailers, a 4K restoration from the original camera negative and audio commentary by film historians Howard S. Berger, Steve Mitchell and Nathaniel Thompson.

*Even the title is a playful joke, echoing the French title of Dr. NoJames Bond 007 contre Dr. No.

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