Albert (Henri Rollan) is a watchman at the Eiffel Tower. His room is at the top of the tower. One morning he wakes up as usual and descends from the tower to the street below. While walking through the streets of Paris he finds that he is the only one around. Normally the city is bustling with people at this hour. He checks his watch and sees that it stopped at 3:25 in the morning. The clock on the nearby tower also says 3:25. Eventually he finds a few people in the streets but they are all frozen as if they fell asleep wherever they happened to be. This is at first puzzling and then humorous. The watchman takes over someone’s car and beings driving around the city.
At length he runs into a group of people who are not frozen in place. They say that they just landed at the airport. The group consists of the Pilot (Albert Prejean), a Detective (Louis Pre Fils), his prisoner a Thief (Marcel Vallee), a rich Industrialist (Antoine Stacquet), and a world traveler (Madeleine Rodrigue). The Industrialist is anxious to get to his fiancé to check on her. The group drives over to her house. No one answers and the door is locked. The Industrialist is beside himself with worry so the thief is called upon to bypass the locks. The Industrialist is appalled to find that his fiancé is in the presence of another man. Both of them are frozen in place. Since they still don’t know what is going on, the group decides to spend the night in the watchman’s room at the top of the Eiffel Tower.
After a rather cramped night the gang heads back into the streets to look for something to eat. They go into a local restaurant where they help themselves to champagne. Thus begins the fun of having a whole city basically to yourself to do with as you please. In due course the six find themselves bored with being the only ones in the vast city. With five men and one woman in what seems like the entire world, the five men begin to look differently at the woman. They begin to fight over her.
Then they hear a voice over the radio. The voice gives them an address to come to. They rush over and find a young woman (Myla Seller). She tells them that her uncle and mad scientist (Charles Martinelli), invented the Crazy Ray and used it to suspend all motion in the city, perhaps even in the world. She was against what he wanted to do so he locked her up. Now that they know what really happened, is there anything that can be done to reverse it?
“The Crazy Ray” AKA “AT 3:25” AKA “Paris Qui Dort” (Paris which sleeps) was released in 1924 and was directed by Rene Clair. Clair is considered an Avant-Garde filmmaker. The movie is considered an experimental film in that it looks, in detail, at the effects one change has on the characters of the film. In this case what do people do who are not restrained by any rules or regulations? It is a French science fiction comedy and a silent film. There are several versions of the film. The original movie is said to be 67 minutes long. There is a version that is about 55 minutes long and then there is a shorter version released in the US that is about 35 minutes in length. Not all versions of the film are available.
It is a charming little fantasy film. There are also some moments of humor. What makes it different from most mad scientist movies is that it’s told from the perspective of those that are not affected by the ray rather than from the mad scientist’s point of view. The mad scientist doesn’t even come into play until the end of the story. In a way it is a lighthearted apocalypse tale.
The film could use a serious restoration. It is known for its wonderful views of 1924 Paris, unfortunately they are hard to see since the film is blurry and scratchy. A nice restoration would bring it back to life and give it more wonder.