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Film / Le Bossu (1959)

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"If you don't come to Lagardère, Lagardère will come to you!"
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Le Bossu (The Hunchback) is a French swashbuckler film directed by André Hunebelle, released in 1959. It is based on Paul Féval's eponymous novel and stars Jean Marais, François Chaumette, Bourvil and Sabine Sesselmannnote .

In the year 1701, Duke Philippe de Nevers (Hubert Noël) is an influential French nobleman at the court of King Louis XIV, and one of the richest in the kingdom. He has secretely married the beautiful Isabelle de Caylus (Sabine Sesselmann) and has a baby daughter with her, named Aurore. His cousin Philippe de Gonzague (François Chaumette), while feigning to like him, actually plots to assassinate him and his daughter in order to inherit his wealth and possessions.

The first murder attempt by Gonzague's men is thwarted by the Duke with some help from the chevaliernote  Henri de Lagardère (Jean Marais), who has been warned by a defector from Gonzague's men, Passepoil (Bourvil). To thank Lagardère, Nevers teaches him "la Botte de Nevers", his secret fencing trick to impale someone on the forehead, and they leave Paris for the castle of Caylus. Despite fending off a new wave of henchmen sent to kill him with Lagardère's help, Nevers ends up impaled in the back with a masked Gonzague's sword. Lagardère slashes Gonzague's hand to recognize him when the time of vengeance will come. He also vows to protect and raise Aurore, avenge Nevers and make sure Aurore gets her family's inheritance, not matter how much time it will take.

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Two other notable theatrical film versions of the novel were made, one in 1944 starring Pierre Blanchar and one in 1997, On Guard, starring Daniel Auteuil. Television saw a two-part miniseries in 2003, titled Lagardère.

Not to be confused with The Hunchback of Notre Dame nor any of its adaptations.


Tropes:

  • Adaptational Badass: Lagardère is already a very proficient fencer in this film compared to the novel or any of the other adaptations. The only thing he truly has to learn here is the "Botte de Nevers" fencing trick, and he doesn't really need it to kick ass.
  • Adaptational Wimp: In the novel, Passepoil is one of Lagardère's fencing masters. Here, he is his sidekick, and barely knows how to hold a sword.
  • Adapted Out: There is no mention of Lagardère learning fencing with Cocardasse and Passepoil (see above for the latter) in this version. Here, Passepoil is an entirely different character, and Cocardasse is neither seen nor mentioned.
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  • Badass Boast: Lagardère to Gonzague: "Si tu ne viens pas à Lagardère, Lagardère ira à toi!" ("If you don't come to Lagardère, Lagardère will come to you!").
  • Best Served Cold: Following the murder of Nevers and with Gonzague's men and French royal authorities on their trail, Lagardère and Passepoil travel to Spain and first settle in on a farm near Segovia to raise and protect Aurore. Then they move to Toledo, after being spotted and attacked by Gonzague's men. 15 years after Philippe de Nevers' assassination and upon King Louis XIV's death, Lagardère decides they will move to Paris to accomplish his revenge and make sure Aurore can finally inherit her father's fortune and possessions.
  • The Blade Always Lands Pointy End In: Lagardère kills one of Gonzague's mooks with a throwing dagger this way when his hideout near Segovia is spotted.
  • The Cavalier Years: The film is set at the very beginning of the 18th century, which saw the end of King Louis' life and reign and the beginning of Philippe d'Orléans' Regency.
  • Clear My Name: After murdering Nevers, Gonzague accuses Lagardère of the murder and part of Lagardère's actions once back in Paris will be to clear his name.
  • The Dragon: Monsieur de Peyrolles is Gonzague's Number Two and captain of his guards.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Gonzague is driven by envy regarding his cousin, coveting both his wife and possessions.
  • The Grotesque: Lagardère's disguise after his return to Paris is that of a hideous old hunchback.
  • Historical-Domain Character: The regent Philippe II, Duke of Orléans.
  • Identical Grandson: Sabine Sesselmann plays both Isabelle and Aurore (with barely any make up to distinguish the mother and the daugther.)
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Gonzague kills Nevers like a Dirty Coward, by impaling him In the Back with his sword.
  • Karmic Death: In the final Duel to the Death, Lagardère kills Gonzague, Nevers' murderer, with Nevers' own fencing Signature Move, the "Botte de Nevers".
  • Master Swordsman: Duke Philippe de Nevers and Lagardère are expert fencers, and equals in combat, as demonstrated by their friendly duel after mowing down the henchmen of Gonzague's first assassination attempt.
  • May–December Romance: The romance between Lagardère and Aurore at the end. Jean Marais was 23 years older than Sabine Sesselmann.
  • Mook–Face Turn: Passepoil starts off as a sword hired to kill the Duke de Nevers. Upon recognizing the Botte de Nevers on the head of one of his fellow mooks that has been killed in a mere second, he runs away and bumps into Lagardère. After Lagardère has helped Nevers to get rid of the mooks, he has a conversation with Passepoil in a tavern and convinces him to become his trusted sidekick.
  • Obfuscating Disability:
    • Upon returning to Paris with Aurore and Passepoil, Lagardère disguises himself as a hideous hunchback to gain Gonzague's trust and infiltrate his household, hence the title — according to a superstitious belief in France at the time, touching a hunchback's back is supposed to make you lucky. The disguise proves effective as Gonzague increasingly trusts him without the slightest hint of suspicion.
    • Passepoil passes for a mute in Segovia. Gonzague's men throw an egg at him, which makes him talk, and thus blow his cover.
  • Only One Name: Passepoil is only known by this name.
  • Parental Substitute: Lagardère and Passepoil become this for Aurore as she grows up.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: Passepoil, Lagardère's sidekick, is the humor-heavy character in the film. It helps that he's played by Bourvil, one of the biggest French comedy stars at the time.
  • Revenge: Lagardère has vowed to avenge Philippe de Nevers and will make sure Aurore gets her father's possessions and titles back.
  • Scars Are Forever: The scar he made on Gonzague's hand when he slashed it allows Lagardère to identify him 15 years after the murder of Nevers.
  • Sidekick: Passepoil becomes Lagardère's friend and main helper after defecting from Gonzague's hired goons.
  • Signature Move: The "Botte de Nevers", the Duke de Nevers' secret fencing trick to impale someone on the forehead. Lagardère makes it his own after the death of Nevers.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Philippe de Nevers and Isabelle de Caylus loved each other but were kept apart because of an old family feud.
  • Take Care of the Kids: As Philippe de Nevers dies, he trusts Lagardère with raising and protecting his newborn daughter.
  • Undying Loyalty: Lagardère has only met Nevers twice, yet he dedicates more than 15 years of his life to raise and protect Nevers' daughter and plot revenge for the murder of Nevers.
  • Unsafe Haven: The farm near Segovia, Spain, where Lagardère and Passepoil settled to raise Aurore is spotted and attacked by Gonzague's henchmen a few years after Nevers' assassination, when Aurore is still a little girl. Lagardère then decides they will move to a noble friend's household in Toledo, which is a considerably safer place.
  • We Will Meet Again: Lagardère's Badass Boast to Gonzague is a heroic version.

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