Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

French Director Displays Touch of Hitchcock at Best

Cleveland Press August 4, 1970

Like the Hitchcock films of yesteryear is "Rider on t;he Rain," a movie by French director Rene Clement. The comparison is to the vintage Hitchcock, not the recent Hitchcock.

"Rider" displays that same mixture of suspense and humor, the telling visual images, the pacing and the climaxes that kept audiences guessing, that tended to dazzle you so you didn't watch the holes in the plot.

It has what too many movies lack these days -- a sense of style.

THE SETTING is a tranquil seacoast town in the south of France. A quiet and timid young woman (Marlene Jobert) who goes by the name of Melancholia is raped by a stranger. Later she discovers her attacker hiding in the basement, lets at him with both barrels of a shotgun, loads the body into a station wagon and dumps it into the sea.

She has a husband, an airline pilot, who is conveniently away through most of the film. She says nothing to him of the incident but the next day, at a wedding, an American named Dobbs (Charles Bronson) lets her know that he suspects her of murder.

For the next several days he hounds her about the killing. She steadfastly refuses to admit knowing anything. There is a mystery about the man -- is he a blackmailer, a partner in crime of the dead man, an investigator?

CLEMENT THROWS a few curves along the way -- another corpse, a huge sum of money, another woman accused of murder, a strange gang of shady characters.

Not all the plotting can stand careful scrutiny but Clement leaves little time for scrutiny, moving right along from one episode to another.

Some of it even becomes silly -- Bronson force-feeding the girl whiskey to get her to talk, rescuing her from the clutches of a strange gang by coming on like the U.S. Marines -- but even the silly bits work.

DIRECTOR CLEMENT LIKES little tricks and sign posts -- the ticking clock for one. And is his heroine's all white wardrobe done on purpose, an indication of innocence in spite of all that has happened?

Miss Jobert is a fine heroine, a gamin, not beautiful in the usual sense, and looking weak and helpless but showing a strong streak of defiance.

Bronson is perfect. An underrated actor limited to television roles and a few secondary roles in major movies, Bronson here proves that he can carry a film more effectively than many star performers.

Wearing a steady smile throughout the movie, he manages to maintain an odd suggestion of mixed sadism and romanticism, an enigmatic figure that enhances the mystery.