Following ethical criticisms about his earlier crime serials, prolific director Louis Feuillade created Judex, a quirky, shadowy hero with an underground lair and secret identity (not unlike Batman). The film begins in much the same way as Feuillade’s other works, with Judex targeting a wealthy banker. However, we soon discover that his motives aren’t so much led by personal politics as personal feelings – he has fallen for the banker’s daughter. This sets the scene for the rest of the serial, a piece quite remarkably astute in the emotional responses it expects. Further exploration of Judex’s psyche comes from the rather sombre seventh installment, wherein we discover more about his mother’s desire for revenge. While tonally discordant with other episodes, its style anticipates the suspense-ridden horror classics of the twenties, adding another facet to the project.
What does detract from the series is the use of the Licorice Kid, a child parallel to Judex, a character conceivably worked in for younger audiences. This was to sadly set a loathsome precedent for the thriller genre. On the other hand, the photography is consistently spectacular, the light playing more than an ancillary role. One moment in the penultimate episode looks like it could have been extracted from a Bergman film, and another, which lingers on a sunlit seascape, enthrals the viewer using very little action. The tints too are used excellently, sometimes deliberately jarring with the tone of the scene. It comes as no surprise to learn that Feuillade was revered by Surrealists.