Gerard Oury hit the big time with his two comedies "le corniaud" (1963) and "la grande vadrouille" ,the latter being the greatest post-war phenomenon of the whole French cinema:it really smashed all records of the box-office.Commercially,it was a tour de force;artistically,well...let's be nice!
Unfortunately,all his previous works remained in obscurity .And this one "la menace" is a very interesting if minor film noir.Robert Hossein's and Marie-José Nat's performances are first-class,ambiguous,intense.Josepha(Marie-José Nat) is some kind of female James Dean ,an eighteen-year old girl who has been an outcast most of her life.She lives with an old uncle who does not give her any affection.She tries to join the local pack,but even with these youngsters ,she's ill-at-ease.So she tries to catch their attention by accusing the chemist (Robert Hossein)of a horrible murder.
Hossein and Nat are wonderful.Of course she's attracted by him,and vice versa ,but there's something nasty in their relationship:check the chemist's attitude in the movie theater when the couple is watching Jean Cocteau's "la belle et la bête".This work owes more to Hossein than to Oury:Hossein is par excellence the novelist Frederic Dard hero ,Frederic Dard whose "toi le venin"he adapted (an IMDb recommendation).The ending might have influenced Claude Chabrol for "le boucher" (1969).
A long flashback,the movie brilliantly opens and closes :first picture is a Nat's closed eyes close-up;last one is another close-up:she closes
her eyes,and she seems doomed to endless night.