In 1917, the French army used a brutal technique in its attempt to prevent mutinies by its increasingly disaffected soldiers. After lining a unit up on parade, one randomly chosen soldier would be required to step forward and he would be shot, as an example to the others that refusal to fight would not be tolerated. He would go down on the record books as having been a traitor to his country. The general known as "the butcher of Hurlus" was particularly enthusiastic in his use of this technique. This film is an adaptation of Jean Amila's novel Le Boucher des Hurlus. The story, set in the aftermath of the war, concerns Michel (Stanislas Crevillen), a young man orphaned in this manner. He lives with his mother until she collapses under the wave of vituperation from the women in her community, who consider her murdered husband to have been a traitor. When he is sent to an orphanage, he discovers that many of the children in it are there for the same reason he is. Michel decides to escape his captivity and kill the general who ordered his father's death. He and the other children like him are able to get away from the orphanage, in the course of their journeys, they tour the grim battlefields of the recent war. Together, they return to Paris, determined to exact their revenge.
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