Lemmy Caution

Created by Peter Cheyney
(1896-1951)

“It’s hot as hell. Away down the dirt road some guy’s playin’ one of them wailin’ Mexican fandangles which give me that twilight feelin’… maybe it’d be a relief to start dyin’.”
Don’t Get Me Wrong

Arguably his most popular creation, Australian writer Peter Cheyney’s LEMMY CAUTION started out in This Man is Dangerous (1936), as a crudely efficient, machine gun-toting FBI agent who always got his man, and wasn’t always very nice about how he “got” him.

Fortunately for the “reputation” of the Bureau,  in subsequent stories the lunkhead occasionally became a private investigator, although for the most part, he remained as nasty and menacing as ever. And since the stories are narrated in first person, full of “American” dialect (dropped Gs and slang– some of it imagined), which makes him sound as dumb as a bag of rocks.

Still, it was the success of This Man Is Dangerous, Cheyney’s first novel, that allowed the writer to chuck his job as a police officer, and turn to writing full time–a gamble that certainly paid off. Besides nine more novels and numerous short stories, there were a hugely successful string of French films, starring American singer Eddie Constantine as a particularly Bogart-like Lemmy, a popular radio show in Australia and New Zealand, and more.

Although crazy popular in France and Europe back in the day, the Constantine films today are almost forgotten, except for the 1965 Jean-Luc Godard film Alphaville, which placed Caution as a private eye searching for a missing scientist in a futuristic Paris run by robots and overseen by a dictator.

It’s a slice of sci-fi noir that wandered back and forth between parody and homage, that I’m still trying to figure it out…

Contributor Philip Eagle describes it as:

“… the oddest of Cheyney-derived projects–Jean-Luc Godard’s famous dystopian art movie Alphaville. It was originally subtitled ‘A Strange Adventure of Lemmy Caution’ and featured Cheyney’s character thrust into a surreal SF thriller with heavy philosophical overtones. Caution was played, as usual, by Eddie Constantine, who had played the role in most of the earlier, mainstream, French Caution films.

The film credited Cheyney as writer of the original novel. I haven’t read any Cheyney myself, but from what I’ve heard I sincerely doubt that the film was actually based on a Cheyney book. The credit was probably simply an acknowledgement of the character’s origins. I don’t know if you like philosophical French art-house films, but I’d recommend you see it, if only to see one of the stranger uses to which the hard-boiled archetype has been put.”

NOVELS

FILMS

  • BRELAN D’AS
    (1952;  English Title: “Full House”)
    Directed by Henri Verneuil
    Produced by Bernard Borderie
    Starring John van Dreelen as LEMMY CAUTION
    Essentially a grab bag featuring several popular detectives of the time, all clamoring to solve a mystery. The character of Lemmy intrigued the French public, and so…
  • LA MOME VERT DES GRIS
    (aka “The Gun Moll” and “Poison Ivy”)
    (1953, Pathe Consortium)
    Based on the Lemmy Caution novel Poison Ivy by Peter Cheyney
    Screenplay by Jacques Berland & Bernard Borderie
    Directed by Bernard Borderie
    Starring Eddie Constantine as LEMMY CAUTION
    American ex-pat singer and actor Eddie Constantine made a strong impression as Lemmy, and went on to play him in a long string of  French films, as well as making numerous cameos in several German films.
  • CET HOMME EST DANGEREUX Buy the DVD Watch it now!
    (aka “This Man is Dangerous”)
    (1953, Sonofilm)
    Based on the novel This Man Is Dangerous by Peter Cheyney
    Screenplay by Jacques Berland
    Directed by Jean Sacha
    Starring Eddie Constantine as LEMMY CAUTION
  • LES FEMMES S’EN BALANCENT
    (aka “Dames Get Along”)
    (1954, CICO-Pathe)
    Based on the Lemmy Caution novel Dames Don’t Care by Peter Cheyney
    Screenplay by Bernard Borderie & Jacques Vilfrid
    Directed by Bernard Borderie
    Starring Eddie Constantine as LEMMY CAUTION
  • VOUS PIGEZ?
    (aka “Diamond Machine”)(1955, France)
    Based on the Lemmy Caution novel Don’t Get Me Wrong by Peter Cheyney
    Screenplay by Victor Trivas & Jacques Doniol-Valcroze
    Starring Eddie Constantine as LEMMY CAUTION
  • COMMENT QU’ELLE EST!
    (aka “What a Girl!”)
    (1960, Prodis)
    Black & white
    Based on the Lemmy Caution novel I’ll Say She Does! by Peter Cheyney
    Screenplay by Marc-Gilbert Sauvajon & Bernard Borderie
    Directed by Bernard Borderie
    Produced by Charles Borderie, Raymond Borderie
    Starring Eddie Constantine as LEMMY CAUTION
    Also starring Françoise Brion, André Luguet, Françoise Prévost
  • ÇA VA ÊTRE TA FÊTE
    (1960)
    Based on characters created by Peter Cheyney
    Screenplay by Norman Krasna, Pierre Montazel, Clarence Weff
    Directed by Pierre Montazel
    Starring Eddie Constantine as LEMMY CAUTION
    Also starring 
    Barbara Laage, Stefan Schnabel, Claude Cerval, Saro Urzì, Norma Burgo, Clarence Weff
  • COMMENT QU’ELLE EST?
    (aka “Women Are like That)
    (1960)
    Based on a novel by Peter Cheyney
    Screenplay by Bernard Borderie and Marc-Gilbert Sauvajon
    Directed by Bernard Borderie
    Starring Eddie Constantine as LEMMY CAUTION
    Also starring
    Françoise Brion, Alfred Adam, Renaud Mary, Robert Berri, Nicolas Vogel, Françoise Prévost, André Luguet, Fabienne Dali, Jacques Seiler
  • LEMMY POUR LES DAMES
    (aka “Ladies’ Man)
    (1962)
    Starring Eddie Constantine as LEMMY CAUTION
    Also starring Françoise Brion, Claudine Coster, Éliane d’Almeida, Yvonne Monlaur, Jacques Berthier, Robert Berri, Guy Delorme, Lionel Roc, Paul Mercey, Jacques Hilling, Carita
  • À TOI DE FAIRE, MIGNONNE
    (aka ““L’agente federale Lemmy Caution,” “Your Turn, Darling”)
    (1963, Prodis)
    A French/Italian Production
    93 minutes
    Black & white, mono
    Based on Your Deal, My Lovely by Peter Cheyney
    Screenplay by Marc-Gilbert Sauvajon & Bernard Borderie
    Directed by Bernard Borderie
    Starring Eddie Constantine as LEMMY CAUTION
    Also starring Elga Andersen, Guy Delorme, Gaia Germani, Philippe Lemaire, Christiane Minazzoli, Enrico Pranzetti, Noël Roquevert
  • ALPHAVILLE Buy this video Buy this DVD
    (akaUne etrange Aventure de Lemmy Caution,”Alphaville: A Strange Case of Lemmy Caution” and “Tarzan Vs. IBM”)
    (1965, French)
    100 minutes
    Based on characters created by Peter Cheyney
    Screenplay by Jean-Luc Godard
    Directed by Jean-Luc Godard
    Starring Eddie Constantine as LEMMY CAUTION
    Also starring Anna Karina, Akim Tamiroff, Howard Vernon, László Szabó, Jean-Louis Comolli, Michel Delahaye, Jean-André Fieschi, Christa Lang, Jean-Pierre Léaud
  • ALLEMAGNE ANNÉE 90 NEUF ZÉRO
    (1991; aka “Germany Year 90 Nine Zero”)
    Based on characters created by Peter Cheyney
    Screenplay by Jean-Luc Godard
    Directed by Jean-Luc Godard
    Starring Eddie Constantine as LEMMY CAUTION
    Also starring 
    Hanns Zischler, Claudia Michelsen, Nathalie Kadem, André S. Labarthe, Robert Wittmers, Kim Kashkashian, Anton Mossine
    The second collaboration between Godard and Constantine, although not officially a sequel to Alphaville. Also the final time that Constantine would play Lemmy.

CAMEO APPEARANCES IN FILM & TELEVISION BY EDDIE CONSTANTINE AS LEMMY CAUTION

  • PANISCHE ZEITEN
    (aka “Panic Time”)
    (1980; German)
    Film
  • KOTTAN ERMITTELT
    (1976-83; Austrian)
    TV series
    A long-running TV series, Eddie showed up in two episodes in 1983.
  • TIGER – FRÜHLING IN WIEN
    (aka “Springtime in Vienna)
    (1984; German)
    Film
  • MAKARONI BLUES
    (1986; Norweigian)
    Film

FILM COLLECTIONS

  • COFFRET EDDIE CONSTANTINEÇA | Buy this set
    Includes Ça va Barder, L’Homme et L’enfant and Cet homme est dangereux

RADIO

  • LEMMY CAUTION
    (1940s)
    Broadcast in Australia and New Zealand

COMICS

  • THIS MAN IS DANGEROUS
    (1951-52, Western Mail [Australia])
    Based on the novel by Peter Cheyney
    First strip: November 29, 1951,
    Last strip: October 23, 1952
    Art by Bradford.

GRAPHIC NOVELS & ALBUMS

  • THIS MAN IS DANGEROUS Buy this book
    (2018, CreateSpace)
    Based on the novel by Peter Cheyney
    First strip: November 29, 1951,
    Last strip: October 23, 1952
    Art by Bradford
    Collects almost the complete run of the daily strip, plus promotional comics for Alphaville.

TELEVISION

  • LE RETOUR DE LEMMY CAUTION
    (1989)
    (TV mini-series)
    Starring Eddie Constantine as LEMMY CAUTION

RELATED LINKS

Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith. The Alphaville poster was by Spanish artist by Macario “MAC” Gomez.

3 thoughts on “Lemmy Caution

  1. Great site

    IF you know where i could buy a copy of ” this man is dangerous ”
    …. please advise – i would be very grateful
    best regards
    thomi wroblewski
    London Uk

    PS i don’t mind if its home burned disc
    as long as picture and sound are good

    1. Hmmm… I see it’s available to stream and on DVD from Amazon.com (I’ve added the links above), but not Amazon.co.uk (probably due to some copyright voodoo), but at least it’s out there somewhere, and not one of those films everyone forgot about until it no longer existed. It’s a sin how many old films simply died, simply because nobody ever thought to preserve them.

      But thanks to you, this week will be Peter Cheney Week, as I update and transfer all my Cheyney-adjacent files to the new site.

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