Jackson the ventriloquist (Eddie Constantine) is sentenced to twenty years in solitary confinement. However, prison bars cannot hold him for long and he quickly breaks out, returning to his Parisian haunts in search of a woman called Francoise whom he believes can provide him with an alibi. However, Francoise is shot and injured by gang members working for nightclub owner and criminal Simon. As she lies injured, Francoise tells Jackson to recover her daughter Sophie from a hotel room where she has been hidden. However, Simon's gang are on the trail, so Jackson and Sophie have to keep one step ahead of Simon and his gang whilst Jackson seeks to clear his name.
This is a lame, pedestrian and poorly motivated adaptation of Day Keene's superior crime novel Strange Witness (see previous entry). The tin-eared dubbing doesn't help, but it's the radical narrative alterations that hobble the film so that it limps to an unsatisfactory end. Setting aside the narrative ellipse at the start that fails to explain how Jackson breaks out of solitary confinement, one is still left with the red herring Sophie.
Rather than being a deux ex machina who could provide Jackson with the alibi to save him, Sophie serves no narrative purpose whatsoever, and neither does the large stuffed rabbit she insists Jackson buy for her; unlike in the novel where it provides for a key plot twist. Featuring one of the least exciting cinematic car chases, the type of wimpy hoods who hand over information after one light slap to the face, compliant women who find Hart so irresistible that they fall for his charms almost as soon as he opens his mouth and a plot that is mostly tell rather than show (the 86 minutes really do crawl by), and one is left with a highly unsatisfactory adaptation that fails to do any kind of justice to its fast-paced - if not exactly flawless - literary origins.
AFTERWORD: Although his literary output was prolific, Day Keene's work was not well-served by screen adaptations as surprisingly few of his books have been filmed. Apart from this film, Rene Clement's Les Felins (aka The Love Cage and Joy House), which was based on Joy House, and the Elvis Presley vehicle The Trouble With Girls, and which was adapted from Keene and Dwight Vincent's novel Chautauqua, are the best known. The film's Belgian poster - which I have scanned in from my collection - is more atmospheric and evocative than anything in the film, which is available as a VoD DVD-R from Sinister Cinema, and whose sound and image quality are serviceable enough.