Diabolique (1955) Poster

(1955)

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9/10
Mystery Extraordinaire
Lechuguilla26 August 2007
Set in a French boarding school for boys, "Les Diaboliques" tells the story of two teachers, Christina (played by Vera Clouzot), and Nicole (played by Simone Signoret), who conspire to kill the sadistic headmaster, a man who also happens to be Christina's abusive husband.

Like most murder mysteries, the story is highly improbable; nevertheless, the film is still hugely entertaining, thanks in part to plot twists and turns that even Agatha Christie would admire, and to the film's B&W lighting, that renders a noirish, sinister atmosphere.

The first half is interesting and tightly plotted. But the real strength of the film's underlying premise begins at the mid-point plot turn. The second half is riveting, because the tight plot begins to ooze with mystery and suspense. It builds to a final ten minutes that are as frightening as almost any ending in film history; dark interiors, shadows, ominous light at the end of a long hallway, a general absence of sound, a gloved hand, a scream, and an unexpected image. It's the very definition of spine-tingling suspense.

There is a clue to help solve the story's mystery in the film's first ten minutes; but like any good mystery, that clue is very subtle. All the film's acting is excellent, even down to the children actors. And, Simone Signoret is as wonderful here as she is in all of her other movies.

English subtitles require a little more work for viewers who cannot understand the French dialogue; yet, the story, the acting, and the cinematography should more than offset this minor irritation. Background music occurs only during the film's title sequence and closing credits; this general absence of music thus enhances suspense.

Although not strictly speaking a whodunit, "Les Diaboliques" is a classic murder mystery that has earned a well-deserved reputation for setting the standard for cinematic suspense. The story is riveting, and the film is technically well made. More recent films have tried to copy it; but this is the original.
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10/10
Watch this film alone......and be afraid.
terraplane6 July 2003
Are you alone? good. Have you turned off the lights? good.Is there a storm brewing in that dark foreboding sky?Excellent. Do you like brilliant black and white movies? Wonderful.Now, sit back and enjoy the best of the best. This is quite simply the best psychological thriller ever made.Often imitated but never bettered. If you have a problem with subtitled films then don't worry because you will understand this film without reading them. If you want slash and gore, go elsewhere.If you want sophisticated entertainment,you've come to the right place.Georges Cluzot's finest work is a thing of beauty as is his wife Vera, who stars opposite Simone Signoret as the schoolmaster's wife.From the very start it is very clear that all is not as it seems. But why? and who? What is the terrible secret of the swimming pool and later on, the bathtub? As the tension builds to an unbearable climax, we sit and hide behind our hands, peering through the gaps in our fingers.Oh my God!! it can't be!.....it is! Do not confuse this movie with the disgraceful remake starring Sharon Stone. All copies of that disaster should be burned. Watch this movie if you are a serious film buff. Rent something else if you have the attention span of a goldfish.Brilliant. 10/10
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10/10
Hold your breath suspense
mantone18 December 1998
Les Diaboliques is one of the tightest, pure suspense movies I have ever seen. The story starts out slowly, but as it moves on, peculiar things start to happen. This movie keeps you guessing in such a way, you are riveted to your seat, hoping for a quick resolution to the suspense. Yet, as the story unfolds, the suspense deepens. The final scene of the movie had me sitting back holding my breath.

This movie does not offer cheap, pop out and scare you tactics. Rather, it makes the viewer expect things to happen that don't. You wait on the edge of your seat for the quick jump out and scare you event to take place, but instead, it sneaks up from behind you. What an effect!

Les Diaboliques is a classic film that delivers the complete suspense package. It's not surprising that many suspense movies of the modern era have tried to copy the plot. This movie is well worth renting in a video store, if you can find it.
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A Great Thriller - See It As Soon As You Can
Snow Leopard23 May 2001
"Les Diaboliques" has one of the best plots you will ever find in any mystery or suspense thriller. The excellent directing, acting, and writing combine with the story itself to make it a memorable experience.

If you enjoy quality mysteries or thrillers, you will almost certainly enjoy this one - and if you have not seen it yet, you might just want to buy or rent it now, before you read any more reviews. This comment will avoid any discussion at all of the actual plot itself, because the less you know in advance, the more you will enjoy it. The few implausible elements in the story do not detract at all from the enjoyment.

A great plot does not all by itself make a good movie, and everything works especially well here because of the expert pacing by director Henri-Georges Clouzot and good, mostly understated acting by the main actors. We are drawn into their world very nicely. Everything about the characters and events is built up perfectly, to give the brilliant climax its full effect. Once again, see it before you find out any more.

Even if you do not normally watch black-and-white films or foreign movies (this is in French), if you enjoy thrillers, watch "Les Diaboliques" as soon as you have the chance.
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10/10
The Greatest Film Hitchcock Did Not Make.
nycritic10 April 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Hitchcock must have forever wondered how he managed to allow this story to slip out of his hands, but the fact remains: had he filmed CELLE QUI N'ETAIT PAS into his own version of what is known as LES DIABOLIQUES, there very well might not have been a VERTIGO, also an adaptation from the authors of the aforementioned one and D'ENTRE LES MORTES. All in all, this is an excellent horror film that has strong Film Noir overtones and precedes New Wave by a couple of years and its simple yet powerful direction by Jean Georges-Clouzot elevates it from a standard thriller to one to which all others are measured spawning countless imitations with much less satisfying degree. One wonders what treatment Hitchcock would have given it, and interestingly, it's all here: the almost casual presentation of spousal abuse that occurs off-camera in one chilling scene early on, the events that lead the women (Vera Clouzot and Simone Signoret) to make a drastic decision concerning killing Clouzot's husband (Michel DelaSalle), and then the growing, deadly certainty he may not be quite dead after all... and may be after the terrified women. The last 15 minutes are one of the most tension-inducing I've ever seen in any climactic montage (even if it does veer into a certain implausibility but the intent is to tell a suspense story and Hitchcock has often mentioned the "suspension of disbelief" factor) and have long gone into history as one of the most horrific moments in cinema.

To those interested in watching LES DIABOLIQUES, please do NOT watch its American remake, DIABOLIQUE, with Sharon Stone and Isabelle Adjani. It pays to read the subtitles in this film.
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Masterfully crafted suspense-film
Camera Obscura9 September 2006
DIABOLIQUE (Henri-Georges Clouzot - France 1955).

I must admit I found Clouzot's earlier WAGES OF FEAR(1953) slightly disappointing and therefor temporarily held back from watching any other films he made but how wrong I was! This much discussed classic was one of the most frightening and disturbing films I've ever seen. The music theme played during the opening credits with the organ and the singing schoolchildren still makes the hairs in my neck stand up, even at this very moment.

The story revolves around the tyrant schoolmaster Delasalle (Paul Meurisse) of a seedy boarding school, his wife (Vera Clouzot) and his mistress (Simone Signoret). An he maltreats them both, they decide to work together to murder him. They drown Delasalle in the bathtub and dump the corpse in the abandoned swimming pool next to the school. But then, eerie things start to happen. When the pool is drained and no body is found, the two women grow increasingly fearful that Delasalle is still alive. When subsequently his suit is returned from the dry-cleaners and the schoolchildren repeatedly testify they've seen Delasalle, they start to panic and the strange occurrences surrounding his supposed resurrection slowly drive them into insanity and complete paranoia.

Justifiably hailed as one of the most suspenseful films ever made and often compared to Hitchcock's work. Clouzot lacks the master's wit but as far as suspense goes, he is incomparable. Very much opposed to Hitchcock, this film - like most of his work - has a very cynical and misanthropic feel to it. Perhaps largely due to this very dark tone and Clouzot's excellent eye for detail, even today it still has the power to drive you right up the wall. And Simone Signoret, whom I've never (consciously) seen before in other films, greatly added to my admiration of this film. A sublime actress and an absolutely hypnotizing screen presence. The entire cast is terrific for that matter with Charles Vanel as inspector Fichet another standout.

Clouzot takes his time to build up the story very precisely but once the mysterious things start to happen every scene adds to an almost unbearable tension. You'll watch every facial expression and every detail on screen with increasing paranoia yourself, in order to understand what on earth could have happened. And the ending is so surprising that I wasn't quite sure anymore about the things I just saw, even right after the film's ending. A genuinely great movie that more than lives up to its status and has lost none of its impact over the last five decades.

Camera Obscura --- 10/10
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8/10
Riveting in terms of suspense…
Nazi_Fighter_David11 December 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Clouzot is possibly the cinema's most devout pessimist: no other director has portrayed human vices so persuasively… If his bitter vision of the world is finally limited and unattractive, his status as a major filmmaker, entertaining through suspense while simultaneously expressing his private dismay with cool and detached visual precision, remains intact…

"Les Diaboliques" is a mystery set in a shabby boys' boarding school… The plot – a sadistic headmaster is murdered by his wife and his mistress; ominously and inexplicably, his corpse vanishes is too contrived to survive repeated viewings, but the stark gray images emphasizing physical decay offer a precise, grimly poetic visual correlative for the characters' warped emotions…

Clouzot's moral pessimism, shock tactics and readiness to display man's worst excesses suggest parallels with Hitchcock and Fuller, while his focus on cruelty, domination and decay may be compared with that of figures as diverse as Leone, Blier and Fassbinder…
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10/10
Oh wow... this is it!
MarioB25 August 2000
This is not a legend : after reading Pierre Boileau's novel, Alfred Hitchcock phone the editor in the morning to buy the story for making a film. But another great master, Henri-Georges Clouzot, had phone 30 minutes earlier. Mister Hitchcock was angry! But Hitch couldn't have done better than Clouzot. This is P-E-R-F-E-C-T! The black and white, the dialogues, the acting and even the reclusive French scool of the 1950's. And for the suspense... well every viewer of IMDB had said the same things I could said. So, Diaboliques is the best suspense thriller of all time, and also one of the best movie ever made. Please, I really said please, don't ever watch the remake with Isabelle Adjani and Sharon Stone. There are certains movies that you can't make two times. Like all the Hitchcock and Clouzot films, for example...
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10/10
It does what a horror movie should do
Andy4410 February 2006
Scare the crap out of you!

I don't hand out many 10s. Some movies don't really require much thought or analysis. In the end all that matters is what happened to you when you first saw it.

I remember when I first saw this. Nothing scary at first, but the nastiness of the place and the people is effortlessly shown. And then the bad stuff starts to happen.

Ugliness...shock...suspense...shock...mystery...eeriness...awful shock.

I remember, though it must have been forty years ago, the climactic scenes with my neck hairs standing up, sweat on my face, clutching the theater armrests like I was in danger of falling, and finally realizing I was weeping- not tears of sadness, tears of helpless terror.

I envy anyone seeing this for the first time.
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10/10
Perhaps the greatest suspense film ever
andyman61814 October 2004
Another terrific suspense film from Henri-Georges Clouzot, Les Diaboliques (also known as "Diabolique") is a tense story of murder, suspicion and revenge. The plot revolves around two women, Christina (Vera Clouzot) and Nicole (Simone Signoret) who conspire to murder the brutish man who is Christina's husband and Nicole's lover Michel, played by the delightfully sullen Paul Meurisse. He is the principal of a boarding school for boys who relies on Vera's money to support his excesses, and the two women are both teachers at the school.

Vera has her doubts about committing murder, even though Michel is incredibly abusive. But Nicole convinces her to help drug and then drown Michel. All seems to be going well until Michels body goes missing and the two women turn against each other. The situation is complicated further by the appearance of a retired police inspector who is determined to help Vera find her "missing" husband, despite the poor woman's protests. The tension continues to mount until the hair-raising climax.

This movie is on a par with some of Hitchcock's best work, although Clouzot doesn't mix much humor in with the suspense, as Hitch often did. However, Vera's interaction with the droll inspector does provides some chuckles. Unlike his previous film, The Wages Of Fear, Clouzot doesn't spend a whole lot of time on the set-up of the plot, but gets right to the meat of the matter, and from there Diabolique rolls along very quickly with barely a letup in the action.

I can't believe it took me so long to see this masterpiece. Highly recommended.
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