This film made me think of Dr. Mabuse, including its climax on the road. It reminded me of a serial. It has just enough characterization to hold it together as more than a hectic serial. It has some humor. The good guys are a bit colorless and undefined, but Fantomas (Marcel Herrand) has tremendous presence and impact. Simone Signoret is around as his daughter attempting to marry a mere journalist. The serial-Mabuse aspect brings in lab settings something like a Universal horror film, with multiple scientists/engineers helping Fantomas blackmail Paris under the threat of a helicopter delivering a death ray and killing 30 people a night. Fantomas operates out of a hidden bunch of catacomb tunnels. It connects to a modernistic structure for his control center. He has a secure room with television cameras to handle the help. Shades of the Karloff-Lugosi outing (with walls crushing Lugosi in The Raven) and one of the Mabuse movies (flooded room), I think, he has a ceiling that moves up and down to crush his victims. This movie may be construed as having an impact all its own on the krimi genre. The editing employs sweeps at times, which also connect to serials. Fantomas has the means to move at will into a dinner party. He can impersonate someone. His cape and mask are turned against him late in the story.
The Raven (1935) is way, way, way above Fantomas (1947) in every way. They're not in the same league. Unlike subsequent versions, this Fantomas is looking relatively good by being noir.
Fantomas originated as serials in 1913, five of them, so it's no wonder this occurred to me while viewing it. Much more can be said about this character and the novels. And it predates Dr. Mabuse (1921), so that the influence may run from Fantomas to Mabuse.
This version seems to be in noir style because that was the style of 1947, a very intense noir period. The director, Jean Sacha, is neither a top-tier director nor a man known for noir. The 1960s versions of Fantomas are much different in execution, being more like Bond spy movies. Below are some comments I jotted down on one of those Marais vehicles. And it mentions stunts, which I forgot above. The 1947 version has some fine stunt work too, aided by the editing.
Jean Marais in a dual role frustrates himself and Commissioner Louis de Funes, 21 November 2013
"Fantomas" is, in some respects, very good escapist fare, bearing the signs of the light-hearted comedic 60s fare that engulfed spy spoof and master criminal plots.
There are 5 main characters in this farce. Jean Marais plays a journalist who is trying to sell copy about a master criminal, Fantomas, whom he also plays. Fantomas, like Mabuse, is very clever. He dons face masks to throw everyone off the track. Marais falls in with photographer Mylene Demongeot. She’s very pretty, has a terrific figure, and shows that she means to be taken seriously for her talent, which includes being a comedienne. The bumbling, loud and persistent police commissioner who is after Fantomas is played by Louis de Funes. His straight man assistant is also notable, played by Jacques Dynam.
There are 3 chases in this film. All are excellent and two are extraordinary. The stunt work is exceptionally well-crafted, in every way. This raises the films greatly. The climactic chase is a very long one that involves, among other things, cars, train, helicopter, and boats. The ending is arranged so that a sequel could follow.