Paramount put a reported $2 million into this $3 million pic, produced by one of the stars (Alain Delon) via his own company, Adel. Based on the real gangster milieu of Marseille in the 1930s, pic laces together French lowlife aspects with a more probing look at organized crime in the Hollywood manner via the rise and fall of two young hoodlums. Problem is that pic [from Eugene Saccomano’s novel Bandits at Marseilles] is more a vehicle for its stars’ personalities than a more cogent insight into French pre-war organized gangsters.
Delon is a secretive, ambitious and cruel type, while Jean-Paul Belmondo is an easygoing, engaging hoodlum who is content with small jobs. They meet when Delon gets out of jail and finds his girl, a prostie, has taken up with somebody else. They join forces, the girl becomes a part of the scheme, and then begins the climb instigated by Delon.
Delon has sharp grace and poise as the handsome, more cultured, facet of the duo, while Belmondo displays his usual ease, good nature but physical deadliness with aplomb.
Others all acquit themselves well, with Corinne Marchand stately as a lawyer’s wife, Michel Bouquet ironic and menacing as the lawyer with connections, and Daniel Ivernel excellent as a police inspector who only interferes when the gangsters tread on political toes.
Title refers to the big brimmed felt hats sported by the gangsters of the period manufactured by a reputable Italo firm.