Have I the Right to Kill? (The Unvanquished) (1964): Cavalier’s Political Thriller, Starring Alain Delon and Lea Massari

Directed by Alain Cavalier
Produced by Alain Delon (uncredited)
Georges Beaume
Written by Jean Cau
Alain Cavalier
Starring Alain Delon
Lea Massari
Georges Géret
Music by Georges Delerue
Cinematography Claude Renoir
Delbeau Prod Cipra (Paris)
PCM (Rome)
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
25 September 1964 (France)
Running time 114 minutes[1]
Country France
Language French
Box office 711,339 admissions (France)[2]

The Unvanquished (French: L’Insoumis, literally “Missing without leave”) is a 1964 film noir directed by Alain Cavalier and starring Alain Delon opposite Lea Massari.



Film poster

The film’s background is the Algerian War and Alain Delon plays Thomas Vlassenroot, a deserter of the French Foreign Legion in Algeria during the 1961 uprising.[5] When a former lieutenant who now works for the OAS proposes to him to kidnap lawyer Dominique Servet (played by Massari), Thomas agrees. Caught giving Dominique water, Thomas goes on the run after a shoot out with his OAS colleagues, who subsequently begin to hunt them down.

Delon sustained physical injuries while filming and the reception of the picture by the French public was not good. The censors insisted on a number of cuts which compromised the artistic integrity of the film.[4]

Thomas Vlassenroot, a citizen of Luxembourg, after his divorce, decides to enlist in the French Foreign Legion. He is posted to Algeria but deserts to join the OAS on the order of Lieutenant Fraser (Georges Géret).

After the 1961 uprising, a disillusioned Thomas wants to return home but agrees to take part in a plan to kidnap lawyer Dominique Servet in return for enough money to enable him to pay smugglers who can ferry him to France.

Dominique is in Algiers working for the prosecution on a case involving important Europeans, her Algerian witnesses making her a target of the OAS. While guarding Dominique, Thomas gets injured during a shoot out with another OAS member. Dominique pays Thomas the smuggling fee in exchange for freeing the prisoners.

Arriving in France, Thomas takes the train back to his hometown but during a stop in Lyon he disembarks, taking that chance that Dominique will provide help again. Thomas finds Dominique at home and a doctor is called to help get Thomas into a hospital under a fake name once it is discovered how serious the injures are. They are forced to flee however after another shoot out with the OAS.

In the ensuing confrontation he escapes and Dominique drives him in her Citroën DS. On the way back to his home they go through roadblocks, get shot at and finally with the help of Dominique’s understanding husband he finally crosses the road to Luxembourg and reaches his farm.

He enters his home and finds his little girl sitting at the table. He finally collapses on the floor from his unattended wounds and dies while passing his hand over his face as if to close his eyes. Dominique still waiting outside the fence cries out his name. The film closes on a silent black screen with Thomas Vlassenroot’s name and dates of birth and death.[6]

Alain Delon Thomas Vlassenroot
Lea Massari Dominique Servet
Georges Géret le lieutenant Fraser
Robert Castel Amerio
Viviane Attia Maria
Alternative titles
Title Country
Hölle von Algier, Die West Germany
Flykten Sweden
A Szökevény Hungary
Eho dikaioma na skotoso? Greece
Have I the Right to Kill? United States
Kostajat Finland
La Muerte no deserta Spain
The Unvanquished Great Britain

Release dates: France 25 September 1964

United States 1965

Made by Alain Delon’s own company, the film was distributed by MGM, where the actor made Any Number Can Win and Joy House. He had a five-picture deal with the studio and would make Once a Thief and The Yellow Rolls Royce for them.

A film still featuring Delon was used by rock band The Smiths for the cover of their album “The Queen Is Dead.”