Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Visiteurs, Les

French movie (1993). Gaumont/France 3/Alpilles/Amigo/Canal Plus/Languedoc Roussillon. Pr Alain Terzian. Dir Jean-Marc Poiré. Spfx Buf Compagne, Duboi, Jean-Marc Mouligné. Mufx Jacques Gastineau. Screenplay Christian Clavier, Poiré. Starring Christian Bujeau (Jean-Pierre), Marie-Anne Chazel (Ginette), Clavier (Jacquoille la Fripouille/Jacquart), Tara Gano (Witch of Malcombe), Valérie Lemercier (Frénégonde de Pouille/Comtesse Béatrice), Jean Reno (Godefroy, comte de Montmirail), Pierre Vial (Eusebius/M. Ferdinand Eusèbe). 107 mins. Colour.

In 1122 Godefroy is made comte de Montmirail, and goes to woo the fair Frénégonde. En route, his party captures the Witch of Malcombe, whom he proposes to burn; but she makes him see Frénégonde's father as a bear, which Godefroy kills. His life ruined, Godefroy consults the Wizard Eusebius, who prepares a Potion that will transport Godefroy back through Time to the moment before the deed, which he may then avert. But instead Godefroy and vassal Jacquoille are transported into the future. Just before their departure the remorseful Eusebius tells them he will leave the antidote in the château dungeon for them to find in whatever future age they may arrive. In the 1990s, after much miscomprehension, they eventually enter the household of Béatrice (today's comtesse de Montmirail), her yuppie dentist husband Jean-Pierre and their terrified/mortified children. The old château de Montmirail is now a hotel owned by the camp Jacquart, who proves a descendant of Jacquoille; there is displayed the very Ring that Godefroy bears on his finger, the time paradox almost creating a rift in time's fabric. Godefroy and Jacquoille open the secret entrance to the dungeon and discover that Eusebius' grimoire has rotted with age; near it, though, is a scribbled telephone number, which leads them to the wizard's descendant Eusèbe and the recipe. Jacquoille has rediscovered a stash of jewels he stole in the 12th century and decides to stay in the 20th with strumpetish Ginette; he sends Jacquart in his place with Godefroy to the 12th century.

This Time-Travel fantasy is a madcap romp, and often hilarious; it contains elements of contemporary social Satire (although strictly en passant), of the bawdy humour of the UK comic Benny Hill (very popular in France), of Monty Python (most overtly Monty Python and the Holy Grail [1975]) and of numerous Slick Fantasies based on the comic misunderstandings endured when historical characters are magicked into the modern age; an obvious precursor was the UK tv series Catweazle (1970-1971). For all this lack of apparent originality, it has an immediate freshness, as if Clavier (like Lemercier a Parisian café théâtre star) and Poiré had reinvented the concepts and scenarios. LV was colossally popular in France, breaking all box-office records for a home-produced movie and outgrossing even Steven Spielberg's contemporaneously released Jurassic Park (1993). [JG]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.