Film is an excellent recreation of a colorful French period. Brisk in style and full of pictorial interest, it soberly recounts a famous turn-of-the-century love affair. This love, which ends in murder and the guillotine, takes place in the Gallic gangster apache milieu. It has fine atmospheric quality, brilliant thesping and topflight production and technical values.
Based on a true story, it recounts the love of apache moll Marie (Simone Signoret) for the honest, direct and sympathetic Manda (Serge Reggiani). The affair is spiked by the sly, brutal Leca (Claude Dauphin), head of the mob, who wants Marie for himself. Manda, following the apache code, is forced to kill a rival to gain his Marie. Leca has him hauled off to prison on a frame. Manda escapes, and tracks down Leca.
Jacques Becker’s direction is perfectly controlled and free of artifice. Signoret gives Marie a cynical, sensual exciting appeal. Reggiani is excellent as the forthright Manda who follows his passion to the guillotine. Dauphin is perfect as the oily Leca who poses as an honest wine merchant while cheerfully masterminding his band of cutthroats.
Casque d’Or is the gang name for Marie, who wears her golden mane like an old Spanish helmet.