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Fantômas is the Lord of Terror, the Genius of Evil, the arch-criminal anti-hero of a series of 32 pre-WWI French thrillers written by Pierre Souvestre and Marcel Allain. He carries out the most appalling crimes: substituting sulfuric acid in the perfume dispensers at a Parisian department store, releasing plague-infested rats on an ocean liner, or forcing a victim to witness his own execution by placing him face-up in a guillotine. Fantômas is the master of a thousand disguises and the leader of a vast army of "apaches" (street thugs). His spies and henchmen are everywhere, spreading the seeds of chaos and terror. Fantômas is anyone and no one, everywhere and nowhere, waging an implacable war against the very bourgeois society in which he moves with such ease and assurance.
Fantômas's crimes are scenes of sublime horror: a rebellious henchman is hung in a huge bell as a human clapper, smashing from side to side and raining blood, sapphires and diamonds onto the street below. Masked bandits brandishing revolvers crash a city bus through the walls of a bank, sending money flying everywhere. Under grey Parisian skies, a horse-drawn cab gallops down the road, a wide-eyed corpse as its coachman. Fantômas strips the gilded gold from the Invalides dome each night; he poisons his victims with deadly bouquets; he crashes passenger trains and destroys steamships. And he escapes justice every time.
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