Theme Song: A French/Italian mystery from the late 60s, so you know you’re in for a lot of violins and horns.
Interesting Dated References: A child being able to sit by their self and focus on a single task, in this instance, reading a magazine, and then actually leaving the room without comment when their parents tell them that the adults need to talk.
Best Line: Said by man who has to drive himself home from a bar, and whose son was just killed by a reckless driver — “Another drink? Sure, why not!” Thought by a manipulative man to himself via voiceover — “Duplicity and deceit are the most practical talents one can possess.”
Social Context: This movie is about revenge so it’s socially relevant in the fact that all of society seems pretty much totally consumed by revenge for even the smallest infraction.
This Man Must Die is based on a book called The Beast Must Die by Nicholas Blake, which is a pen-name for poet Cecil Day-Lewis, who is the father of Daniel Day-Lewis. That’s not really social context, but it’s worth noting.
Summary: So this boy gets done shucking clams early one morning and as he’s walking home he’s hit (and killed) by a mysterious, black, Ford Mustang. All we really see from the interior of the car is a woman gasping in shock.
The boys father, Charles, begins keeping a journal where he writes about how he’s going to find, then kill or possibly murder the man who killed his son.
All the while he writes in his journal and decides the killer has to own a repair shop somewhere far away. Eventually he finds out about an actress who had a damaged car a few towns over. He immediately gets an apartment in the town and commences stalking.
He makes contact in a ridiculously raw-sienna-colored restaurant/bar and eventually begins courting then boning her. For the record, no relationship that begins with stalking ever ends in courtship and boning.
After they make love they immediately decide to go on a vacation together. Charles continues to write in his journal and isn’t sure if Helene killed his son, or her repair shop-owning brother-in-law.
So they go to meet the brother-in-law, Paul, who is an absolute cretin. He complains about everything, reads a poem his wife wrote and openly mocks it, throws food at his son, and fondles the maid.
The next day Paul takes Charles to visit his garage and see the repair business. Before they go, Paul takes a swig of some medicine and tells Charles, “It’s for the runs, pray it never happens to you.” While at the garage, Paul shows him the Mustang and offers to sell it to him because he can’t be seen in it anymore.
Paul continues to terrorize his family by beating up his son, fondling the genitals of his friends’ wives, and being an asshole overall. Helene confesses to Charles that she had an affair with Paul and wishes he was dead. Oh, and the son also wishes he was dead. Basically everyone wishes this guy was dead hence the title of the film.
So Charles decides to take him on some type of erotically-shot guy-on-guy sailing trip where he will throw him overboard, thereby making his death look like an accident. We all know this because he writes it in his journal. Once things get choppy, Paul reveals that he read Charles’ journal and knows all about the plot. He refuses to give the journal back and says he left it with his lawyer.
So Charles and Helene (who has decided to stick by his side) leave the next day. While dining at a fancy restaurant, Charles confesses about his real name, his dead son, and that he knew she was in the car. Then they hear on the AM news radio, which happens to be on at a fancy restaurant, that Paul has been found poisoned. They head back and the police accuse Charles, but he keeps pointing out that he would never kill him because he knew the guy had his journal, inside of which he had stated his plans to kill him.
It’s a whole lot of double-talkin’ jive for like 20 minutes, and then the Paul’s son, Philip, confesses. Charles is then released and goes to his insanely-raw-sienna-colored hotel room where Helene is waiting.
In the morning Helene awakes to find a note. In it Charles confesses he did do the killing and has to sail off to sea to escape prosecution. He states that she can use his written confession to get Philip released.
This Man Must Die has good acting, good pacing, and is well directed by veteran Frenchman Claude Chabrol. Lots of scenery by way of the coastline of Brittany, and nice tracking shots. It has a good 60s mystery vibe, if you’re into that. If not, I don’t know what to tell you, why are you wasting time reading this review?
Poster and Box Art: The official poster for This Man Must Die has a very Saul Bass-ish late-60’s vibe. The color choice (purple and green) doesn’t quite work, but it’s still a good layout. Most of the French/Italian posters I found were not that great.
This Polish poster is (as always) awesome. It was illustrated by Anderzej Bertrandt. Oh, and the closing credits were all done by hand.
They look really nice, but no credit is given for the lettering.
Availability: Available in the US on DVD.