In the post-Napoleonic period in France the pursuit of money was the ruling passion. Based on Balzac's novel, "La Raboilleuse", this film tells how it was the principal aim of Philippe Bridau. He climbs the ladder, beginning as a small-time gambler and swindler and ending as a rich and respected man, but he has lost all humanity.
His heart has been turned to stone by the treachery of the dancer Mariette, the only woman he loved, who left him in order to marry a rich duke. He betrays to the police the names of accomplices in an anti-Bourbon plot, and thus loses the last sympathy felt for him. Having become completely unscrupulous, he journeys to Issoudun to his rich uncle, Jean Jacques Rouget, with the aim of acquiring his fortune. He finds other fortune hunters: Flore Brazier, called the "Crab Catcher", his uncle's housekeeper and mistress, and her lover Maxence. Bridau kills Maxence in a duel, and gets rid of his uncle after marrying Flore. He gains the title of Count de Brambourg and leaves his wife. Ultimately he reaches the summit of his ambitions: but others are already on the scene, ready in their turn to gain his fortune.