That Man from Rio (L’homme de Rio)

Movie Information

In Brief: Perhaps the most famous star of the French New Wave, Jean-Paul Belmondo, and almost certainly the least remembered director of that same Wave, Philippe de Broca, team up — along with Catherine Deneuve's tragically short-lived sister, Françoise Dorléac — for this wild and wooly adventure romp. Promoted as a spy spoof, though it really wasn't one, That Man from Rio is more of a globe-trotting action/thrill comedy with a plot that would be perfectly at home in a 1940s serial film. It's ostensibly about some religious icons that were ... appropriated from a tribe of South American Indians, but this mostly serves as the means to set the adventure in motion so that on-leave soldier Adrien Dufourquet (Belmondo) has to chase after his not-quite fiancee Agnès (Dorléac) when she's kidnapped by whatever mysterious villains are after the complete set of three statuettes. This takes on a wild ride from Paris to Rio to the then-under-construction city of Brasilia to the supposedly impenetrable Amazonian jungles. (Think of it all as a nascent Raiders of the Lost Ark with three little statues instead of the Ark of the Covenant and greedy, power-mad villains and possibly dangerous Brazilian natives instead of Nazis.) Fast, funny, exciting, exotic, colorful — and wonderfully preposterous.
Genre: Adventure Comedy Romance
Director: Philippe de Broca
Starring: Jean-Paul Belmondo, Françoise Dorléac, Jean Servais, Roger Dumas, Daniel Ceccaldi, Adolfo Celi
Rated: NR



Philippe de Broca’s That Man from Rio is a film from my childhood. Why? Because it was on the bottom half of a kiddie matinee at the State Theatre in Lake Wales, Florida. Now, who the hell knows why it was on a kiddie matinee is something else again. I don’t really think anyone involved in this decision thought that the local youth was just dying to see a French movie (even dubbed in English) with Jean-Paul Belmondo. I mean, sure, we were a cosmopolitan lot, but even I didn’t know who Jean-Paul Belmondo was — not at the age of 10. Of course, neither do I imagine those responsible for booking it had a clue. It was just two hours of babysitting programming. (The theater referred to itself as “the cheapest babysitting in town,” which at 25 cents for four hours was indisputable. You got dropped off at 1 p.m. and picked up at 5 p.m. — it was a different world.) The thing was — I loved it at once and always kept an eye out for it on TV. Little did I know that the movie had been a huge hit in France, that Belmondo was a hearthrob, that de Broca was a semi-important director (I didn’t really know what a director was) — I just knew it was a lot of fun.




Even later when I knew these things (for years it — and Casino Royale — were my only reference points for Belmondo), it never really occurred to me that That Man from Rio would one day take on classic status. It’s not that I think it doesn’t deserve it, just that it’s such charmingly, delightfully silly fun that it seems like a long-shot for classic status. (By that I mean real classic status — not the casual misuse of the term common today.) After all, this is a movie that co-opts much of the language of more serious New Wave films for a totally unserious adventure comedy. I’m good with that, but I’m not sure about the Cahiers du Cinéma crowd. In any case, it’s now considered a classic of French film — in all its goofy magnificence.




That Man from Rio is not a film for heavy thinking. It’s a movie that serves no real purpose other than to be colorful and entertaining. That it does this with great style is almost a bonus, but it’s also why it’s colorful and entertaining. The story scarcely bears scrutiny. Even its supposed big surprise isn’t hard to guess, though its ultimate adventure gag may be another matter. Mostly, it’s an excuse Belmondo — as a singularly unlikely hero — to chase after the not infrequently kidnapped Dorléac, and to fend off bad guys various and sundry, no matter what the odds. And the odds range from thugs with air-fired blow-guns, crocodiles, climbing tall buildings, and putting up with all kinds of discomfort and humiliation. What more can you want? How about a pink car with green stars or a helpful Brazilian shoeshine boy? Well, it’s got those, too.


About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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3 thoughts on “That Man from Rio (L’homme de Rio)

  1. Errol

    Hello Ken,

    I had a very similar experience that you had with That Man From Rio. I looked for it every year, when it would come on tv. Ever since I became an adult I have been looking for the recorded the English dubbed version that we watched as a child. My sister had an old VHS tape of it, in very poor quality. I put that on dvd, but as I said, the poor quality takes away from the enjoyment. I rarely see the dubbed version eve mentioned on the internet.

    I know that it must be out there because before Turner Classic Movies existed AMC showed all the classics and showed the dubbed English version in 1991 or there about. Do you know where I might find the dubbed english version of this great classic, or who I might ask that might know?

    Thank you


    • Able Allen

      Hi Errol, I’m sorry to say that Ken passed a way a couple of years ago, so he won’t be able to help you with that.

      • Errol

        I am so sorry to hear that.

        Thank you Allen. I will continue my search elsewhere.


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