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Les diaboliques
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Reviews & Ratings for
Diabolique More at IMDbPro »Les diaboliques (original title)

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Classic of Horror and French Cinema

Author: gavin6942 from United States
14 October 2013

The wife of a cruel headmaster and his mistress conspire to kill him, but after the murder is committed, his body disappears, and strange events begin to plague the two women.

I really feel little need to comment on this film, which has widely been seen as one of the Top 100 horror films ever made, and has been increasingly seen as one of the best films overall. IMDb (as of October 2013) has it in the #150 range, and the relatively recent Criterion special edition certainly did not hurt.

The best scene happens later on, so I cannot talk about that in this review. But many good moments happen, including the wife having to identify a body as her husband's. The process is interesting and puts her in a tense position.

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First B&W film from that time that I like

Author: Lomedin
12 September 2013

I don't know why I simply find old black and white films from mid 20th century boring. Perhaps it's because, as a human, I'm able to perceive a variety of colors from the visible spectrum and I like to be able to enjoy this sort of stimulus. Maybe it is because I find the soundtrack of those movies cheesy and kind of funny, even when it's supposed to be a suspense movie, for example. Or, could it be, I'm just a 21st century boy (even though I wasn't born in this century at all).

In any case, Les Diaboliques has been the first old film in black and white that I've found interesting. Contrary to other American movies I've watched from the same period, the acting is natural and credible. The story could be remade nowadays without changing ANYTHING and it could work perfectly still (as long as you aren't the 96 remake director, of course). The music makes you feel the tension and eeriness of the situation. Even having to listen to the french language didn't bother me! Les Diaboliques is told in a way that makes you get hooked to the mystery of the story from the beginning.

I won't even get into the Columbo resemblance, haha!

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Iconic noir thriller

Author: SnoopyStyle
25 August 2013

The headmaster of a boys' school is a cruel domineering man. Together, his mistress and his submissive wife conspire to kill him. They knock him out with adulterated wine, drown him in the bathtub, then dump the body in the school's pool. They had hoped that someone would find his body, but when his body disappears, strange events begin to plague the two women.

This is not just a french classic but an iconic noir film of all times. The film is based on Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac's novel "Celle qui n'était plus" (She Who Was No More). Alfred Hitchcock also attempted to buy the rights to this novel but Henri-Georges Clouzot beat him to it by hours. Anyone will see a Hitchcockian feel to this story. It's one of the few times when a quick English remake by another director would be incredible. The story is just filled with tension. The over-bearing performance of the husband is frightening. It deserves its place among the top movies of all times.

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Diabolique - masterful thriller

Author: lasttimeisaw from Cairo, Egypt
8 August 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is a superb thriller, a holistic cliff-hanger directed by H.G. Clouzot, adapted from Bioleau and Narcejac's novel (who later would purvey VERTIGO 1958, 8/10 for Hitchcock to make amends for his vain attempt to acquire LES DIABOLIQUES). Shot in monochrome, the film excels in keeping audiences engaging in the crafty conspiracy of a demure wife colludes with her husband's mistress to murder her horrendous husband, taking almost half of the screen-time to character-building and meticulous plotting, their plan progresses pretty well until an unexpected twist swerves the film into a psychological horror torment, at the end of the day another scam has been uncovered and the final revelation triumphantly wins its trophy for its shock value.

The film piques our interest with a peculiar ménage a trois situation, a wife-cum-mistress (Ms. Clouzot and Signoret) alliance plots a punctilious scheme to kill the husband (Meurisse), Clouzot confidently takes a meandering pace at first, set in a rural all-male boarding school, Meurisse is the ill-tempered principle and both Ms. Clouzot and Signoret are the teachers, but a significant but easily overlooked minutia is that it is Ms. Clouzot who brings about the fortune to the school. After steadily details the conflict among the protagonists and cunningly accentuates the two female leads' disparate personality, Ms. Clouzot is a well-heeled, wan, indecisive woman, the victim of mental abuse, hemmed in a dead-water marriage with a traditional mind which means she cannot risk a scandalous divorce, by comparison Signoret is a tough, adamant, subversive doer, the recipient of domestic abuse but doesn't reconcile to the status quo. So the weird affinity of the two may suggest something more radical than the surface, but the film doesn't dare to provoke the controversy (or for the sake of the surprising finale).

Clouzot knowingly manufactures several minor hitches to the execution of the murder, the grumpy tenants living upstairs, the drunken soldier-hitchhiker and the bathroom light in the middle of the night, each juices up the tension moderately and finally, when it seems their plan has been conducted successfully, the film inaugurates its great conjuring, starts with the missing corpse, to the involvement of a senior private detective (Vanel) until the disintegration of the two convicts and the truth gradually comes into light, a textbook thriller-horror segment which would inspire many emulators, it is an utterly heart-in-the-throat experience, Ms. Clouzot is ineffably remarkable in the guilty-haunting, soul-crunching trauma of scare, one of the most impressive death scene I've even seen! Signoret and Meurisse both nail their roles with sharp precision.

LES DIABOLIQUES is a masterful suspense-establishing film and H.G. Clouzot is a no lesser achiever than Mr. Hitchcock if there is any justice in the world!

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Classic Clouzot suspense!

Author: stephparsons from Canada
15 June 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A classic, psychological thriller with a totally unexpected twist at the end! Diabolique, directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot, the French master of suspense, stars Michel Delassalle as Paul Meurisse, a sadistic and abusive headmaster, Vera Clouzot as Christina Delassalle, his frail, long suffering wife, and Nicole Horner as Simone Signoret, the bitter 'ex' mistress.

Signoret is brilliant as Nicole; sultry, sulky and cynical; she 'chums up' with Vera in a plot to dispense with her husband, a nasty character by all accounts, for whom it is very hard to drum up any compassion. Apparently Diaboliques was the inspiration for Hitchcock's Psycho and one soon sees why. Christina and Nicole are diametrically opposite characters with only one thing in common: their hatred for the malicious and cruel Michel. Christina is decisive and clear about what 'must' be done, Nicole is beaten down, world weary and 'ill', one presumes from the emotional abuse and infidelities she has endured throughout her marriage, and 'flip flops' about their diabolical plan. In the end she is persuaded, and they lure Michel to his demise; tranquilizing and drowning him and then dumping his body in the school swimming pool. It is at this point that the plot seems to have been fulfilled and one can only wait in suspense for Michel's bloated corpse to rise to the top of the pool and for the two women to celebrate their freedom and live out the rest of their days in contentment. However, things aren't as they seem, and when reports and sightings of Michel begin, Christina becomes increasingly paranoid and appears to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Nicole has no patience for Christina's panic and anxiety and the two argue, threatening to expose each other as the perpetrator of Michel's murder. Has Michel really arisen from the dead as a taunting, vengeful ghost? Is Christina going insane? How can he possibly be alive when we saw him drowned , weighted down by a heavy object, eyeballs bulging, before he dies? And that's where the unexpected and brilliant twist comes in, which I shan't give away because I want the clever suspense and well crafted plot of Les Diaboliques to be enjoyed by all. If you love Psycho, you'll love Diaboliques and you will see why it caused such a sensation upon its release in 1955.

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The Shoes

Author: korevette
8 April 2013

Spoiler? maybe...

This is more of a goof on the director, then a spoiler..

When the victim is on the bed, he asks his wife to remove his shoes, and we see that she does. Then Simone, as she is running the water in the bathtub, asks the wife to remove his shoes, as she is preparing to carry him into the tub. This time we don't see her doing this. When they carried him into the tub, you can see him still with the shoes on. Other than that goof, a well made suspenseful movie, that outshines Hitchcock. I think there was an American remake which fell far short of this masterpiece.

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Turning the screw

Author: krisrox from Netherlands
22 December 2012

Just a great movie - instantly entrenching itself in my personal top-50 of all time. Scores high points on acting, atmosphere and plot.

My advice to fellow moviegoers: see it. And should you have any reservations over watching this 50s, subtitled, noir masterpiece, put them aside. Specifically: If you didn't enjoy Clouzot's "The Wages of Fear", don't worry: this is an entirely different animal. I wasn't a big fan of "Fear", either. If you're put off by the comparisons to Hitchcock, believe me: they are warranted. The point is not that Clouzot is a better director than Hitchcock, the point is that this is the best movie Hitchock never made. And if you think the first 30 minutes lack pace, keep it up: this is a movie that turns the screw slowly but surely - going from interesting to intriguing to suspenseful - with a final 15 minutes that are downright terrifying and pay off in a big way.

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Once in a Lifetime

Author: gudpaljoey-677-715384 from United States
28 October 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Diabolique is the kind of film that one should never see more than once, and no film maker should ever try to make it again. My first viewing in the mid 1950s was a great movie experience. I was drawn to the wonderful suspenseful picture that M. Clouzot had made and was blow away by the ending. That should have been the end. Last night after more than 50 years I watched it again. Poor me. I was doomed to watch a great suspense film but I knew how it ended. There's something punishing in that. So all I could do was to be impressed with the acting, the photography, the film sets, and criticize some of its implausibility (What well- off French family would send a kid to this school? Who wouldn't want the two woman to kill off "The Head" someone without any redeeming human values? Why was the ending made so abrupt when it was the key to the picture and needed some digestion?) I must say that Mdm Clouzot's death portrayal was worth seeing again. It's better than anything James Cagney ever did. And the retired police commish could have been good for a series of about four more mysteries.

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My favorite Foreign Horror Film

Author: nikkiflinn from United States
3 August 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

They really just don't make movies like this anymore do they? Subtlety is a thing of the past and I for one am sad to see it go.

If you've read the summary, you know what this film is about. Or maybe you've stumbled onto it because your recommendations have been kind to you. Either way, if you like horror/suspense movies, this is one for you.

The film is slow and relentless. Typically when you think horror movie, you think Friday the Thirteenth or Nightmare on Elm Street brand; the slasher film with lots of fake blood and gore. Not that there's anything wrong with those sorts of films but every horror fan has to know there's a flip-side to that coin. It's the sort of horror that just creeps up on you and the next thing you know, you're hiding behind the couch with the remote, debating how sound a plan it was to watch this movie at night. True story.

The point is, I can go on about this movie for days but nothing can properly prepare you. Go. Watch it. And let me know if you liked it.

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A Taut, Suspenseful Mystery

Author: ( from Washington, D.C.
12 December 2011

More than 50 years after it was made, Diabolique remains a classic mystery/suspense story. What interested me about it is the minimal means employed by director Henri-Georges Clouzot. Shot entirely in black-and-white with no fancy camera work or special effects, the film achieves more than most mystery stories that employ the complete contemporary bag of tricks.

The story is cleverly constructed. A wife (Vera Clouzot) and mistress (Simone Signoret) conspire to murder an abusive husband and lover (Paul Meurisse) and a retired detective (Charles Vanel) shows up to investigate the disappearance of the man's body which had been dumped in the swimming pool owned and run by the husband and wife. The acting by Clouzot, Signoret and Vanel is outstanding, though Meurisse is barely satisfactory as the villainous husband.

The suspense attending the body's disappearance mounts as the film proceeds and the ending is unexpected. The magnetic Signoret is widely known for other roles. But Mme Clouzot is quite effective and, as others have noted, Vanel plays a detective who's manner seems to foreshadow Peter Falk's Columbo.

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