Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Film: Joy House based on a Day Keene novel

“Joy House,” a French thriller from 1964, is the story of a gigolo and con man, played by Alain Delon, who beds the wrong wife enraging her gangster husband who dispatches a crew of bad guys to find and kill Delon. They nearly catch him before he finds refuge in the secluded mansion of a wealthy and beautiful woman, played by Lola Albright, and her younger cousin, played by Jane Fonda.

This 97-minute movie has a fast-paced and intriguing opening, followed by an exciting chase, but then falls into a boring story of Delon hiding out in Albright's mansion on the Riviera with Fonda sexually tempting him in all their scenes together. The bad guys eventually catch up with Delon again, restoring the pace and excitement to the story. There are also some odd and loopy touches and a twist that would make the movie worth watching if it had not induced an hour-long nap in the middle.

The picture was filmed on the Riviera in black and white. Perhaps that choice was for budget reasons, otherwise why shoot the beautiful scenery in anything but color?

“Joy House” was directed by Rene Clement, who four years earlier directed the excellent “Purple Noon,” with Delon from a novel by Patricia Highsmith.

The script for “Joy House” was by Clement and Pascal Jardin based on a novel by Day Keene, with dialogue by Charles Williams.

The photography was by Henri Decae, who filmed many of the French New Wave films as well as thrillers by Jean-Pierre Melville.

(For more Overlooked Films, check out Todd Mason’s blog.)


  1. I probably won't cross paths with this one, but I'll hopefully get to a couple of Keene's books at some point>

  2. Elgin, I like the premise of this film and will see if I can track it down.

  3. It was fairly standard, even in 1964, for European crime films to be shot in black and white, beautiful scenery notwithstanding.I would recommend this claustrophic noirish piece to anyone. It's bookended by the outdoors which only serves to emphasise the plight of Delon who is more or less trapped in the house with his freedom subject to the whim of either woman. What hell it must be to have to choose between Lola Albright and Jane Fonda. I own a Spanish copy of this film and have stayed awake through it at least three times in the past ten years. But my brother-in-law did fall asleep the first time I saw it. I blame the heat of that Spanish summer, not the script.

  4. Sorry to hear that it drags so much in the meddle, it otherwise sounds just like my kind of thing, being very partial to French crime movies of the period.

    1. Sergio – I too am a fan of French crime films. Maybe it is just me, or the mood I was in when I watched this movie, but the picture started one way, then took a left turn and became something else.