Devil by the Tail
(Le diable par la queue)

1968 _ To pay for the upkeep of their château, a family of penniless aristocrats turns to renting out rooms, getting hold of the few clients prepared to stay in their home by sabotaging their cars. That works fine until the day they meet their match in César, a passing bank robber...

© 1968 STUDIOCANAL

In order to survive, a family of aristocrats who’ve fallen on hard times have transformed their dilapidated château into a hotel. Unfortunately it’s a long way from any major road. So, in order to attract customers, Amélie, the marchioness’s granddaughter, convinces a young car mechanic (who happens to be in love with her) to sabotage his customers’ cars so they have no option but to stop over in the château for a night.

One rainy Saturday night, the château has filled up with stranded motorists, when a rather surprising trio arrives. The so-called baron César de Maricorne, elegant and charming, is accompanied by two rough and sinister-looking companions.

César, who is in fact a bank robber, is a great hit with the ladies, who are desperate to dance with him. The marchioness therefore has his car repaired immediately, for fear her daughter, countess Diane, may fall for his charms.

But the next morning, the trio hit a police roadblock. César’s two companions are accidentally drowned in their car, while he himself calmly walks back to the château. Then Amélie discovers that the attaché case he won’t let out of his sight is crammed full of banknotes.

Once the other members of the family learn of this, they set to work trying to get their hands on the cash. The marchioness emerges as the enthusiastic ringleader of the operation, setting up a series of what should be fatal accidents, which César miraculously manages to survive.

The boastful baron confides in Jeanne, an old maid cousin, that he’s tired of traveling the world, and has found an ideal spot to settle down. The whole family immediately surrounds him and frees him of his briefcase…

Three months later, the château has been done up and become a thriving four-star hotel, with César at the helm of the kitchen, and indeed delightedly reigning over the whole household.

 

Crew

Production: Fildebroc – Artistes Associés (Paris) – Delphos Roma (Rome)
Producers: Philippe de Broca, Michelle de Broca.
Screenplay: Philippe de Broca and Daniel Boulanger.
Découpage : Claude Sautet.
Script: Daniel Boulanger.
Director of photography: Jean Penzer.
Editing: Françoise Javet assisted by Christiane Zack.
Music: George Delerue.
Sound technician: Jean Labussière assisted by Gabriel Salagnac.
Sets: Dominique André, Hans van Hoecke.
Costumes : Louis Féraud.
Maquette des costumes : Jacques Fonteray.
Make-up: Jacky Reynal assisted by Anne-Marie Martiquet.
Hair pieces and wigs: Jacques Dessanges.
Production manager: Jean Pieuchot.
Stage manager: Nicole Ferny.
Assistants réalisateur : Georges Pellegrin, Christian Fuin.
Script : Suzanne Durrenberger.
Press agent: Christine Brière.

 

Cast

Yves Montand / le baron César Anselme de Maricorne.
Madeleine Renaud / la Marquise.
Maria Schell / la Comtesse Diane.
Jean Rochefort / le comte Georges de Coustine époux de Diane.
Clotilde Joano / la Comtesse Jeanne.
Marthe Keller / la jeune Baronne Amélie de Coustine.
Jean-Pierre Marielle/ le playboy Jean-Jacques Leroy-Martin.
Tanya Lopert / la minette cookie.
Claude Piéplu / le client assidu Monsieur Patin.
Xavier Gélin / le petit garagiste Charlie.
Jacques Balutin / Max.
Pierre Tornade / Schwartz.
Janine Berdin / Madame Passereau.
Charles Mallet / le commissaire.
Eddy Roos / Monsieur Passereau.

Running time: 98 minutes.
Filmed: 25 June – 13 August 1968.
Location: Villefranche-sur-Saône.
Distribution : Les Artistes Associés.
Release in Paris: 7 February 1969.
Boxe office : 439 815 tickets sold in 17 weeks in six Paris cinemas.