Thrilling detective story
1911 French film Feature and Educational Film Co.
Paulin Broquet, the great detective, examines a number or papers in his office, referring to the robberies that have been committed at the Grand Hotel, the Pauloff bank, and a necklace stolen from an actress. A special note from the police officials of Paris states that numerous robberies are being committed by a band that is using the letter “Z” as their signature.
The detective prepares for the struggle, with the “Z” gang, and leaves his office for a few moments, only to return and find that his portfolio, with all his papers, has disappeared, and in its place finds a very insolent note signed “Z.” The detective takes up the challenge, and swears to get hold of the leader of this mysterious band and bring him to justice.
Fate seems to favor the detective in his search for the criminal, when he rescues a working girl, who is being bothered by the attentions of a strange man, and. roughly pushing him aside, causes him to drop a card. The detective picks it up, and its contents give him a valuable hint as to the meeting place of this mysterious “Z” gang. As a clever detective, he
at once goes to the place, examines the locality and prepares his plan of attack.
In the meanrime, Zigomar does not lose any time, but gives his men orders to carry away the girl from the workshop, drug her, put her in a trunk and carry her away to the robbers’ den, where she can be used as a plaything for their master.
At midnight the whole “Z” gang, obeying the orders of their chief, go to St. Magliore Church — down into the crypt and remove a tombstone. While at work they are being watched by the detective, who pretends to be a statue. He finds out the secret ot the hiding place, follows the “Z” band, in order to learn their secrets, when suddenly he finds himself imprisoned in an iron cage. He is then put in a box and carried away by a number of strong men. They lake him in the open country, place him in a van, and in their haste to get away collide with another van, which brings a number of officials on the scene. One of the officers thinks the case suspicious and orders it to be opened.
The detective appears in it. to the surprise of the police, and he borrows a horse from one of them to go in chase of Zigomar, who had taken advantage to make his escape. After a wild chase across the country he overtakes his man, but to his great surprise it is not Zigomar, but one who gives him some valuable information. He arrests his man, and finds out that Zigomar, disguised as a gypsy, goes every morning to the Abbey Restaurant. The detective also goes there, and disguised as a bandsman — having made all preparation for the chiefs arrest— takes his place as leader of the hand.
The “Z” band have spies everywhere. The detective is recognized and Zigomar is warned of his presence, and succeeds in making his escape by a series of rapid transformations. He is nearly captured as he is jumping on a train, but turns and strikes the detective a vigorous blow, which sends him back half stunned, and the train goes off at full speed.
The criminal does not lose any time on the train, holding up all the passengers, threatening them with his revolver, and then jumps off the train while going at full speed. The scene of the excitement of the passengers in the train after the robber has left, forms one of the most striking scenes in the film, as also is the leap of Zigomar from the train while going at full speed.
The detective is now furious at his failure in his second attempt to catch the criminal, and don’t know how to discover his lost trail, but while reading the newspapers discovers a note which reads that the Hotels in the Alps have been robbed by the famous “Z” gang, and he at once sets off for that place.
The detective arrives in town, sets off for the hotel, and informs the manager who he is. At night, the detective on watch, sees the light of a dark lantern carried by Zigomar, who, with a black hood over his head, comes down the stairs and tries to force a door. The detective starts forward and is about to capture his man, but with a quick move Zigomar blows out the lantern, and in the darkness once more makes his escape.
The detective is not discouraged. The strange actions of a rich traveler has aroused his suspicions, and as he is going to make a trip into the mountains, the detective joins the party as a guide.
The party is now climbing the snowy mountain peaks of Switzerland, and Zigomar, identified by the detective, is captured on the brink of a precipice, but a few minutes later he takes advantage of a narrow pass, throws his enemy into the abyss, and escapes by leaping over the glaciers. The detective slips from ledge to ledge, and stops on the edge of a precipice. He is found there senseless, but is saved by heroic efforts.
The last effort of Zigomar is to obtain a necklace, valued at $100,000, from a dancer, known as Esmee, and the detective, disguised as a Marquis, goes to protect the dancer, but the “Z” gang spy him and lock him in a dressing room.
The festivities at the ball begin by having Esmee lead the procession, wearing all her jewels, and who is about to please the public with her will-o’-the-wisp dance. In the darkness we see tiny flames light up, and Esmee appears in her fascinating dance, going faster and faster every turn, until she falls to the floor, exhausted. Zigomar takes advantage of everybody’s eyes being on the exhausted dancer, and sets fire to the hangings, so as to be able to steal what he can in the ensuing disorder. This is a terrible
spectacle. The once gay scene ends in flame and terror, with all the people rushing to the doors In the red light of fire, while Zigomar and his band stoop over those falling unconscious in the smoke and rob them of their jewels.
The detective is half stifled by the smoke in the narrow room into which he has been locked. He guesses what has happened and succeeds in bursting the door open. Entering the ball room with the police, just in time, he catches Zigomar leaning over the corpse of the dancer and removing the necklace. This time he is captured — flight is impossible.
Zigomar lays a trap for the detective, who bites, by offering to take him where the shop girl is held captive, and says he will release the girl and restore her to her fiance.
He leads the police to the crypt of the Church of St. Magliore, and frees the girl, who throws herself into the arms of her fiance and her deliverer, the detective.
Taking advantage of this moment Zigomar escapes from his guards, turns a stone; a secret he alone knows, and escapes. The detective follows to the crypt, where Zigomar takes a dynamite cartridge from a hole and blows up the crypt.
Source: Photoplay Magazine, February 1912