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Diabolique (The Criterion Collection)
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Selected-scene commentary by French-film scholar Kelley Conway
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New and improved English subtitle translation
PLUS: A booklet featuring a new essay by film critic Terrence Rafferty
Top Customer Reviews
Variously known as DIABOLIQUE, LES DIABOLIQUES, and THE DEVILS, the film presents a complex story. Christina Delasalle (Vera Clouzot, wife of director Henri-Georges Clouzot), is a remarkably beautiful and considerably wealthy woman who has the misfortune to suffer from delicate health, personal timidity, and brutish husband Michel (Paul Meurisse.) The two operate a boys' school that Christina owns, and among the teachers is hard-nosed Nicole Horner (Simone Signoret), who has become Michel's mistress but who finds Michel every bit as unpleasant as wife Christina. An unlikely alliance springs up between the two women, and together they conspire to murder Michel and thereafter run the school for themselves. But although the murder seems to go as planned, the body goes missing, and the two women suddenly find themselves taunted by mysterious notes and strange happenings. Has Michel survived the attempt on his life? Or has the murder been discovered and the stage is being set for blackmail?
In the wake of DIABOLIQUE's international success, the story has been told in so many variations that many may consider the original has lost some of the shock value it possessed when it first debuted, but even so the film has much to offer. This is particularly true in terms of style of performances.Read more ›
And now, a lot of years after (ten ?), I bought the DVD right after its release. I don't know exactly why, DIABOLIQUE being not the kind of movie you always put in your 10 best list. Maybe it was due to Vera Clouzot, the director's wife, who appeared only in a few movies with her spanish accent and who, in DIABOLIQUE, with her hair nicely combed, plays a character similar to the heroins of the fairy tales of our childhood. Or is it Simone Signoret who, with Anna Magnani and Bette Davis, is a star whose light hasn't faded with the years passing by. Paul Meurisse perhaps ? Or Charles Vanel, or Michel Serrault, already perfect in a comic role ?
What I know for sure is that I can watch DIABOLIQUE again and again without being tired of it. In my opinion, it is a classic movie in the most noble sense of the term.
No extra-features with the movie, sound perfect but a copy with some scratches and often grainy. Strange when one thinks of the quality of Criterion's work on, for instance, Ingmar Bergman's THE SEVENTH SEAL.
A DVD for your library.
For anyone who reveals the surprise ending, this would be a crime even more atrocious than the one depicted in the movie, and should be punishable by a re-instated guillotine !
Simone Signoret and Vera Clouzot are unforgettable in the leads, each character playing beautifully off the other. One other comment--this is a 50s film, yet schoolboys are portrayed with brutal accuracy--they swear, act rudely, are preocuupied with sex--these are real children, not those that are found in Disney films.
The DVD is nice--some wear is visible here and there, but does not detract from your experience. Of course, the film is in French, but the subtitles are smooth. The absence of music is another plus. In some Hollywood suspense films, you can tell that "something is about to happen" because of the music--not the case here.
If you collect Hitchcock films and other suspense thrillers, your library is not complete without this true classic.
Paul Meurisse as the loathsome headmaster is excellent, as are Vera Clouzot as his frail wife and Simone Signoret as his mistress. The lesser roles (school staff etc) are also well taken.
As for the DVD, I was pleasantly surprised at the quality. Soundwise, don't worry about the rather constricted melodramatic music over the opening credits. That's the last music you'll hear, and the speech driven mono soundtrack sounds fine.
From an image point of view, the transfer was better than I was expecting, after reading other reviews of this DVD. It is correctly framed in 1.33:1, and the print used has little damage in terms of nicks or scars. Very occasionally there are more flecks than you might want, but nothing to worry about.
The image is reasonably sharp (and improves on some of the interiors, particularly the darker scenes), although occasionally it is a little soft with a touch of grain in the daytime exteriors. I also noticed that this slight softness coincided with Vera Clouzot being on screen, so perhaps it was deliberate on her husband the director's part. The lighting of this film is also superb: just check out some of the night exteriors which are superbly atmospheric.
So will this film `drive you up the wall' as the film guide says? Well, no, not really. The twist at the end is very well done, if not too surprising to modern audiences. There is at least one smaller twist after that, though, which will make you think.
A classic of the cinema which I recommend in its Criterion format.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The only other movie from this director I've seen was Wages of Fear and this only furthers my opinion that Cloutzot was a master of suspensePublished 2 months ago by RealEyesRealizeRealLies
A serious powerhouse thriller. That takes you an a ride that turns to a slow moving disturbing roller coster. A mantra and crafty unique and yet repeated with the grace story.Published 2 months ago by Ishmael
For many years, the Film Noir Foundation and the American Film Institute Theater in Silver Spring, Maryland have sponsored an annual festival of film noir known as Noir City DC. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Robin Friedman
Diabolique is one of my all-time-favorite horror movies. I have viewed both the original and the remake and positively love both of them! Read morePublished 7 months ago by RoxyG
The French Suspense Shocker that forewarned Hitchcock's Psycho. A movie based on the novel "Celle qui n'était plus là"; whose authors had written another... Read morePublished 9 months ago by Omnes