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Film / The Walls of Malapaga

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The Walls of Malapaga (Au-delĂ  des grilles, French for "Beyond the Grating Doors") is a 1949 co-production between France and Italy, directed by Rene Clement.

Pierre (Jean Gabin) is a Frenchman who is on the run after he murdered his girlfriend. He has escaped from France by paying a ship's captain to hide him in the anchor well of his ship, but as the ship enters Genoa, he is suffering terribly from a toothache. He is compelled to leave the ship and go into the city to find a dentist, even though the captain warns him that it will be difficult to return, since the gate to the docks is guarded.

Pierre wanders around the city trying to find someone who speaks French and can take him to a dentist. Finally he runs into Cecchina, a girl of about 12 years of age who speaks French because she and her mother only recently arrived from Nice. Cecchina leads him to a dentist, who pulls his tooth. Having taken care of his tooth, Pierre goes to the cafe for dinner, where he meets Marta (Isa Miranda), a friendly waitress—and Cecchina's mother. Romance blooms between the lonely waitress and the fugitive, but the police are on Pierre's trail.


  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Marta's estranged husband is an unstable psycho. She flees all the way to Italy to escape him, only to fall hard for Pierre the fugitive murderer.
  • And Starring: Vera Talchi (Cecchina) gets the "And Introducing" credit.
  • Chekhov's Gun / Chekhov's Gunman: The pickpocket, and the counterfeit money that he gave to Pierre. Towards the end of the film the pickpocket is arrested, with Pierre's wallet still in his possession; that's how the cops know that Pierre the wanted fugitive is in Genoa. The counterfeit money is the Chekhov's Gun, as that is how the cops trace Pierre to a particular cafe and find out that he's in the company of Marta.
  • Counterfeit Cash: A con man changes out Pierre's real French francs for some fake Italian lira. It's not clear why he bothered, as he's a Percussive Pickpocket too, which is how he steals the rest of Pierre's roll.
  • Hero Antagonist: The Italian police detective, who after all is trying to catch a murderer.
  • Ignored Vital News Reports: Pierre and Marta are out and about in town, while the cops are establishing a dragnet in Marta's neighborhood. Cecchina sneaks out via underground passageway, and scrawls "ATTENTION: PIERRE" warnings all over the place. Somehow, Pierre and Marta miss a warning written on a stair that they are climbing.
  • Jail Bake: Discussed Trope. Marta the waitress brings a to-go order to the jail. The cops rip up the bread roll and confirm that there's nothing in it before
  • Off-into-the-Distance Ending: Marta and Cecchina walking up the steps after Pierre has been arrested.
  • Percussive Pickpocket: Pierre's situation is made more difficult when just such a pickpocket takes his wallet.
  • The Place: The ruins of Genoa's medieval debtor's prison, called "Malapaga" (Italian for "bad payer"). Pierre and Marta go walking there.
  • Psycho Ex-Girlfriend: Giuseppe, Marta's abusive husband. He shows up in Genoa demanding that she and Cecchina return to France. After she refuses, he's in the process of strangling her when Pierre shows up and saves her.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Pierre needs to get past the gate to make it back to the ship; he tries at night but is stopped by a patrolman. Cecchina suggests that if she goes with him, no one will think to challenge what appears to be a father and daughter out walking. It works, as they stroll through the gates in broad daylight.