Maigret and the St. Fiacre Case [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Kino Lorber
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (12th December 2017).
The Film

Insepctor Maigret (The Grand Illusion's Jean Gabin) revisits his roots in the countryside at the invitation of the Countess of St. Fiacre (The Hunchback of Notre Dame's Valentine Tessier) – for whom his father had served as family steward in his childhood – who has received a poison pen letter foretelling her death before the Ash Wednesday mass the following day. The countess can think of no one who might hate her or want to frighten her, and the remnants of Maigret's adolescent crush on the Countess when she arrived at the estate as a young bride seem to numb his seasoned professional cynicism; however, that does not prevent him from inventorying possible suspects in the unfriendly chauffer Albert (Marathon Man's Jacques Marin), the solicitous cleric Father Jodet (Judex's Michel Vitold), her personal secretary Lucien Sabatier (Mortal Transfer's Robert Hirsch) who has managed the selling off of various family heirlooms to various antiques dealers, and her absent son Maurice whose spending habits have been responsible for the gutting of the family library of rare volumes and the walls of paintings apart from the one of the Countess as a young woman for whom Lucien was ordered to turn down an offer of 3.2 million Francs. Maigret also learns that the Countess is unwell when he sees Lucien administering an injection to her. Late to mass the next morning, Maigret arrives just in time to see the Countess drop dead of an apparent heart attack. Family doctor Bouchardon (The Discreet Charm Of The Bourgeoisie's Paul Frankeur) seems as willing as everyone else to believe that she died of natural causes until Maurice (The Day of the Jackal's Michel Auclair) turns up believing that his mother's death was the result of a malicious article falsely reporting his suicide the day before; whereupon, Maigret puts all of his cards on the table and mounts an investigation even though he is out of jurisdiction, believing that the article was targeted to strain the Countess' weak heart. While suspicion points most obviously to Maurice – especially after Maigret learns from steward Gaulthier (Diabolique's Camille Guérini) that he has been loaning money to Maurice against the estate, and from Gaulthier's banker son Emile (The Bride Wore Black's Serge Rousseau) that Maurice had written a bad check for 800,000 Francs – but Maigret looks beyond the obvious to try to figure out who sent the false story to the paper and how the countess would have seen or from whom she would might have heard it and when (as well as who else would benefit from her death).

A follow-up to Maigret Sets a Trap – the previous Gabin vehicle based on the Maigret novels of Georges Simenon as helmed by Jean Delannoy (Pastoral Symphony) for producer Jean-Paul Guibert (The Possessors) – is a more conventional and less-psychologically probing whodunit than the earlier film; but the viewer is not encouraged to ferret out clues or observe suspicious behavior outside of Maigret's perspective, but to follow the trajectory of Maigret's investigation while knowing that it is colored by his feelings about the Countess and the his anger riled by facts and rumors that could tarnish her image, causing him to treat each of his primary with the same contempt only to decisively disarm them with moments of kindness. The killer is almost impossible to guess because of the likelihood of each of the suspects; and Maigret's gathering of everyone to expose the murderer – potentially complicated by the presence of lawyer Maître Mauléon (Elena and Her Men's Jacques Morel) with threats of slander, harassment, and the insistence that there is nothing to investigate because the doctor signed a death certificate citing natural causes – has the viewer wondering if he actually knows the identity of the killer beforehand or if he is figuring it out by turning each of the suspects against each other waiting for one or more to slip up (and how much may be for his own amusement). It is an intense climax that finds Maigret meting out a little extra punishment to the killer due to their own close relationship to the victim. The somber ending to the film is fitting not just to the storyline but to the series, although Gabin would return as the character in the unrelated French/Italian production Maigret Sees Red four years later.


Unlike the previous Maigret film, Maigret and the St. Fiacre Case was unreleased theatrically in the United States. Unavailable on Blu-ray in France, although it appears as though the same HD master may have been released on DVD separately and in a boxed set with the first film Maigret Sets a Trap and the unofficial follow-up Maigret Sees Red exclusive to the set, the Kino Lorber release was preceded by a 2014 German Blu-ray edition. Kino's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.66:1 widescreen presentation is ideally framed and the cinematography of Louis Page (Port of Shadows) here favors grays in the wintry overcast exteriors and in rendering the stone and burnished wood of the chateau, and TF1's restoration is similarly free of damage without distracting levels of noise reduction or filtering.


The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 French mono track is clean and effectively renders both the dialogue from its murmured rumors to screaming accusations as well as a more playful but still sparsely-deployed score by Jean Prodromidès (Blood and Roses). Optional English subtitles are free of errors.


There are no extras apart from the theatrical trailer and one for Maigret Sets a Trap.



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