November 18, 2019  (Web Review)

The Champagne Murders

Kino Lorber, 105 min., not rated, DVD: $19.99, Blu-ray: $29.99

Reviewer rating: 2.0/4

Anthony Perkins stars in the first English language feature from director Claude Chabrol, the French filmmaker who specialized in murder mysteries, suspense thrillers, and crime dramas. Perkins is Christopher Belling, playboy husband of businesswoman Christine (Yvonne Furneaux) and best friend of Paul Wagner (Maurice Ronet), Christine’s partner in a champagne vineyard that she is trying to sell to an American buyer. Paul is erratic and unpredictable, still recovering from a brutal attack that landed him in an asylum, and Christopher is his wingman as he picks up women. Paul recovers from one drunken blackout only to discover that a female consort has been murdered, the first in a series of dead companions. Stéphane Audran costars as Lydia, Christopher’s mistress, completing the quartet of amoral characters at the center of this drama. Chabrol revered Alfred Hitchcock, and here he draws upon Perkins’s Psycho persona to cast suspicion onto his character and uses “doubling” (Christopher and Christine) as a narrative device. The plot, however, is incomprehensible, and the revelation of the killer leaves motivation out of the equation. The minor pleasures of this lesser Chabrol effort (shot simultaneously in English and French language editions; this is the English language version) lie in the filmmaker’s style, sensibility, and offbeat humor. Extras include audio commentary by film historians Howard S. Berger and Nathaniel Thompson. Optional. (S. Axmaker)