EDITOR’S NOTE: We happily discovered Dr. Pearl Brandwein while reviewing MHz Choice subscriber feedback on our programs and, after reading a half dozen or so of Dr. Brandwein’s insightful reviews, all of us here at MHz Choice had the same thought: We need to get the good doctor to write for us! Enjoy! -MHz Choice

Premiering January 4, 2022 on MHz Choice!

Arsène Lupin, Maurice Leblanc’s hero (and star of his stage play) is a modern Robin Hood who takes from the rich and gives to the rich – namely, himself, a popular predecessor of “The Saint.” Lupin is a gentleman thief when necessary, but he can also be a tender romantic when helping a damsel in distress.

By helping himself to jewelry, objets d’art and cash, he has much in common with Allmen minus the aphorisms. Both gentlemen thrive on the adrenaline rush in executing the “perfect crime” without violence and “matching wits” with a worthy nemesis. Some gentlemen are simply not cut out for a 9-5 job; they are born for bigger and better things preferring a challenging and adventurous life to a complacent and sedentary existence. We ride along for the fun, the romance, the lush scenery and the intrigues that await our hero around every corner.

Lupin comes to TV

Producer Jacques Nahum created multiple television productions centered around Leblanc’s beloved rogue. His Arsène Lupin ran for two seasons from 1971 to 1974 – a stylish Art Deco production depicting the Belle Epoque in all its glory with accurate set and costume designs. The writing/directing/editing are well-paced, complemented by beautiful cinematography. The ensemble acting led by Georges Descrieres (of the Comedie Francaise) enables him to portray the Lupin which perfectly captures the fictional character’s essence. Jacques Dutron’s jazz-inflected voice in the theme song puts the fizz into this sparkling production.

1989 – The Return of Arsène Lupin

In 1989 Nahum presented an extravagant sequel starring Francois Dunoyer as the devastatingly charismatic and indefatigable hero. Arsène Lupin makes an auspicious return in The Return of Arsène Lupin (“Le Retour d’ Arsène Lupin.”) This second production boasts more of everything–glitz and glamour, luxurious locales, lavish costumes/sets, and larger casts for more expensive and expansive plots. This clip shows Lupin slipping by the police, leading them to believe some poor schlub is the man they’re looking for. Note the improved production values compared to the production from 18 years prior.

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Francois Dunoyer (LEFT) in The Return of Arsène Lupin

Then, in 1995, Nahum produced eight more episodes – longer at 90 minutes each – also starring the dashing Francois Dunoyer as Lupin. MHz will present this last set of episodes in February 2022 as The New Adventures of Arsène Lupin.

The darker Lupin of the 1980’s and 1990’s is involved in new and challenging adventures aided by Grognard, his factotum, and a vast criminal network. He is still up to his old tricks, but he has also added some new ones – including robbing bank robbers and long-hidden gold dust from despicable aristocrats, rescuing a friend’s family heirloom, dispatching rivals, restoring tarnished reputations and bringing murderers to justice as well as battling Nazis in order to rescue Professor Einstein. While charming his hosts — politicians, or aristocrats or millionaires — and their guests along the way, Arsène still finds time to seduce their willing wives.

New challenges and paramours always present themselves. The women always await his powers of seduction as the champagne keeps flowing. What is Arsène to do? Why, enjoy himself to the fullest – of course – and never look back. He could be the inspiration for Edith Piaf’s (1915-1963) classic chanson, “Non, je ne regrette rien” (1960). Arsène seizes life by the throat thereby living “La Dolce Vita” (Fellini, 1960).

Lupin through the years

Written during France’s “Belle Epoque,” Lupin has always been big business. He makes guest appearances in the works of other writers (Carolyn Wells, R. Akechi) as well as in various plays; film and TV shows; comic book adaptations and animated films. Lupin even matches wits with Sherlock Holmes although copyright laws forced a name change to Herlock Sholmes. Robert Lamoureux starred in two French films (1957; 59), and Jean-Claude Brialy appeared on French TV in Arsène Lupin: 813 (based on Leblanc’s novel) in 1980.

Noteworthy American screen adaptations include “Arsène Lupin” with John Barrymore (1932) and “Arsène Lupin Returns” with Melvyn Douglas (1938). Aside from six Japanese films (including Hayao Miyazaki’s 1979 animated “Lupin the 3rd: The Castle of Cagliostro”), a manga series (1967-2011) featured Arsène Lupin III, grandson of the gentleman-thief in addition to three video games. Even Netflix has a program entitled, “Lupin.”

Although Arsène Lupin is over 100 years old, he hasn’t aged a bit. Regardless of the medium, his popularity endures as an archetype of the ultimate con man, whose urbane exterior exudes an easy, welcoming charm that opens all doors to the “beau monde” and its willing victims.

About the author:
A lover of Romance languages and cultures, Dr. Pearl Brandwein has a Certificate in French Culture and Civilization from the Sorbonne. She then earned both her Masters’ degree in French Language/Literature and Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from New York University. Dr. Brandwein’s areas of academic expertise include the Renaissance and the Faust Figure in European Literature in addition to 19th and 20th Century Drama. Her other interests include writing about Holocaust Literature.

Dr. Brandwein began her teaching career at Princeton University followed by faculty positions at other academic institutions. In addition to French, she has also taught German, Latin, English Composition and ESL to corporate executives. After academia, she held numerous positions in the public and private sectors working as an Editor/Instructor/Administrator and as a PR professional and business communications executive directing editorial and marketing initiatives for EU clients.

She is a cineaste and a lover of Film Noir, Westerns and foreign films as well as a theatre and opera buff; she also attends concerts, lectures, ballet performances, museum and gallery exhibitions. In her rare spare time, she reads voraciously.


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