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The Lost Asterix Films part 2:"Deux romains en Gaule": Two Romans in Gaul

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The year is 1967AD. France is entirely conquered by the comic book Asterix. Well, not entirely… Asterix's adventures have done phenomenally well in print, but some are calling for a live-action Asterix film. On 25 February a one-hour black and white film debuts on French Television. Asterix and Obelix are not the heroes of this film but two Roman Legionaries "Ticketbus" and "Prospectus". However, the film is hugely significant in the history of Asterix in that it is set in the world of the Asterix comics, is written by Rene Goscinny, features cameos by Goscinny and Uderzo and most importantly: it contains possibly the first animated screen appearance by Asterix and Obelix. So why then do so few Asterix fans know of its existence? I myself didn't know anything about this film until a few days ago when my friend from Germany Erik Hevers wrote to me explaining the film's history. Most of the following information I am indebted to him for providing. Ever since Asterix really took off in France in the early 1960s there had been the idea to turn Asterix into a live-action film (see the feature "More Live Action Movies" on this page below). Goscinny always steadfastly refused - he believed Asterix and Obelix could never be played by real live human actors. The anatomical differences were just too great (with the release of the live-action Asterix movies we can test this theory!). However, because the demand was still strong Goscinny set about writing a script for a movie set in the Asterixian world created by Uderzo and himself, yet without the well-known characters from the books. "Deux romains en Gaule" (Two Romans in Gaul) was born. For fans disappointed that live action incarnations of Asterix and Obelix were absent there WAS a sweetener - an animated Asterix and Obelix from the books appeared in a scene where they talked to an imprisoned (real life) Roman. They were voiced by Roger Carel and Jacques Morel - Carel has voiced all of Asterix's animated screen appearances in France from Asterix the Gaul in 1967 to Asterix and the Vikings in 2006, and Morel voiced Obelix in Asterix the Gaul and Asterix and Cleopatra. This film would seemingly be hugely important in the history of the Asterix series and yet, it is well and truly lost. The movie was only ever broadcast in France, and of course before the invention of VCR recorders so no copy as been displayed in public again. There are only a few sources of information about the movie on the internet, and none on the official Asterix site. There is an imdb.com, allocine.fr and wikipedia.fr entry for "Deux romains en Gaule", as well as a mention in French on goscinny.net for which we can cobble together the following "Vital Statistics" regarding the film: Goscinny.net also provides us with a quote from Goscinny about the making of the film:

"J'ouer l'envers de l'histoire, c'est terrible ! C'est même terriblement rigolo. Et nous nous sommes terriblement amusés à tourner cette série de sketches pour la television" (Playing the other side of the story, it's terrible! It is even terribly funny. And we were terribly amused to turn this series of sketches for television)


Goscinny.net also features this regetably small ensemble of colour images from the film. This compounds the mystery of the film - if Goscinny wrote the story so he did not have to have actors portraying the roles, why is there an image of an "Obelix" looking actor?
The film does indeed have many mysteries. Not least of which, does it contain the first animated appearance of Asterix and Obelix?

Let me explain. The first animated Asterix movie - Asterix the Gaul - was made by Georges Darguad without the knowledge of Goscinny and Uderzo. The authors were unable to halt its release in cinemas in 1967 where it proved a smash hit. 1967 is significant for us here, because it was of course in February that "Two Romans in Gaul" was broadcast. I am unable to find the original French release date for Asterix the Gaul, but the German Comedix.de site has the release as late 1967. This would mean that this authorised film pipped Gaul by several months to feature the first animated rendering of Asterix and Obelix. An incidental factoid is that Asterix the Gaul was originally intended as a television movie.

But the further mystery is how "Two Romans in Gaul" fits with what we know about the production of Asterix movies at the time. The same producers of Gaul were also preparing an animated Asterix and the Golden Sickle which Goscinny and Uderzo were able to stop the release of. G&U went ahead instead with their own animated feature Asterix and Cleopatra which was released in December 1968. The question is, when was Two Romans in Gaul made? It seems it would be during the same time that Gaul/Golden Sickle were being made. In this case, we might question when Goscinny and Uderzo found out about these productions. For all 3 movies curiously use the same voice actors for Asterix and Obelix (Carel and Morel). Was Gaul already using these voice actors when the production was revealed to Goscinny and Uderzo so they hired them for "Two Romans in Gaul"? Or were they used for "Two Romans in Gaul" first? It's all very muddy and I'm not sure how this particular puzzle fits together.

There is one last source for the film which has proved most interesting for Asterix scholars. There is a 90 minutes long French documentary "Rene Goscinny - Profession Humoriste" which contains approximately 2 minutes of footage from "Deux romains en Gaule", as well as some behind the scenes footage (likely from the "Making of Two Romans in Gaul" directed by J. Locquin that Goscinny.net mentions). It is the only taste of the film that fans can partake at this present time.

It contains the following extracts from "Deux Romains en Gaule":

1. An animated Obelix emerging from a wall and joining up with Asterix to converse with an imprisoned Roman (Erik makes the observation that the rendering of Asterix and Obelix in "Deux Romains en Gaule" is of better quality than Asterix the Gaul - Asterix and Obelix are shown with five fingers on each hand in this film, while in Gaul all the characters only had four! "These early filmmakers were crazy!")
2. Goscinny as the waiter serving the legionaries. At the beginning of this clip, Uderzo(?) is drawing Asterix in chalk on the street.
3. Romans talking to Getafix looking Druids reminiscent of the Forest of Carnutes from Asterix and the Goths - there even appears to be a magic potion!

There is a small ray of hope - at least one copy of "Deux romains en Gaule" still exists. On 30.6.2007 the whole movie was screened once in a single French cinema for the 30th Anniversary of Rene Goscinny's death.

The chances are slim whether Asterix fans like you or I will ever get to see it. I hope we do - the concept sounds hilarious and the prospect of seeing Asterix, Obelix, Goscinny and Uderzo all within the one film is delicious. This episode of Asterix's history deserves and demands to be released for all Asterix fans.

Deux Romains en Gaule was released on 20.2.2013 on several of the Wildside releases of Asterix et Obelix : Au service de Sa Majesté, including the 3D DVD, Blu-ray, and Blu-ray 3D releases.[1]

References:

  1. Amazon.fr

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