A man named Roubaud (Ledoux) murders his boss after learning that wife Severine (Simon) had slept with him to secure his position. By chance, a railroad mechanic named Jacques Lantier (Gabin) witnesses the killing. Roubaud tells Severine to convince Jacques to keep quiet, which poses no problem since Jacques is immediately infatuated with her. Still, it seems the mechanic also suffers from blackouts and recurring bouts of violent behavior, a trait that's cursed his family for generations. As Jacques and Severine's illicit romance heats up, there's little doubt that more killing lies in store.
Jean Renoir's moody adaptation of Emile Zola's book features one of Gabin's seminal pre-war performances, and an arresting turn by the sexy Simon (who'd venture stateside four years later to make "The Cat People"). Renoir's vivid location shooting around trains and train stations portrays the dusty anonymity of one isolated man, while serving as metaphor for a numb, bewildered nation about to enter the dark tunnel of occupation. A stunning, unsettling film from an acknowledged master.