Zigomar By Adriaensens, Vito
Zigomar was the criminal mastermind of French writer Léon Sazie’s eponymous serial novel, or feuilleton, which appeared in the newspaper Le Matin between 1909 and 1910. It was in 1911, however, through a cinematic adaptation in six episodes by the Éclair Film Company and its leading director, Victorin-Hippolyte Jasset, that Zigomar and his Z-gang shot to worldwide fame. Serial detective fiction was certainly not new at the time, Éclair and Jasset led the way in 1908 with the famous Nick Carter series and multiple adaptations and imitations of Sherlock Holmes that had flooded the screens for years; however, the elevation of a criminal figure was still a very recent phenomenon—with Danish precursors such as Dr. Nikola (Viggo Larsen, 1909), Zigomar helped pave the way for classics such as Louis Feuillade’s Fantômas series (1913–14). Abel argues that Jasset’s Zigomar, played by Alexandre Arquillière, strengthened Sazie’s by transforming him into an immoral bourgeois gentleman, “a capitalist entrepreneur pushed to the point of excess” (Abel 1998: 358). As such, Zigomar was one of the first modernist antiheroes to grace the silver screen, an illustrious criminal who undermined bourgeois society by upsetting the social order and preying on its members— not, coincidentally, the cinema’s target audience.