Our next film on this seemingly never-ending list is a star-crossed love story set in the unique, foreign French section of Casbah in Algiers. Pépé le Moko is when a criminal on the run falls in love with a beautiful Parisian woman that could compromise his situation with the police.
Think of this film as the French version of Casablanca in which a man is lonely but considers the Casbah to be his safe haven away from a lengthly jail sentence. I consider the Casbah to be treated as a very important component in this film as we see a place where different races and nations have come together in this one place. This is a place that the police are afraid to enter because of just how different it is from other places- making it the perfect hideout for Pépé. Then Gaby comes along and sparkles Pépé with her jewels and he’s hooked. He wants to leave with her but fear of being caught by the police conflicts his decision. You can already get the sense that one of them will say “We’ll always have Paris.” The dramatic climax that occurs is completely epic and powerful that will leave you emotional by the end.
Pépé Le Moko became an international hit when it was released but unfortunately didn’t hit the U.S. until four years later. Why? Because the U.S. decided to remake the film called Algiers which was very successful in the U.S. The director of the remake Walter Wanger wanted to destroy all copies of the original but luckily that didn’t occur. I wonder why he wanted to do that. Could it be so he could claim the idea of Algiers all to himself? Suspicious… So because of the success of Algiers, Wanger felt compelled to finally release Pépé Le Moko and audiences loved it. A musical was made based on this film as well as a Warner Brothers cartoon. Wanger was this close to destroying a French classic and we’re very happy it still exists.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a copy online. Here’s the trailer for the film and you can find the full film if you have a Hulu account: