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Diabolique (1996)

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The wife and mistress of the sadistic dean of an exclusive prep school conspire to murder him.


(as Jeremiah Chechik)


(novel), (novel) | 2 more credits »
2 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Erik Pretzer
Video Photographer #1
Ms. Vawze
Lisa Campos
Video Photographer #2 (as Jeffrey Abrams)
Irv Danziger
Bingo O'Malley ...
PHP Officer


The wife and mistress of a cruel school master collaborate in a carefully planned and executed attempt to murder him. The plan goes well until the body, which has been strategically dumped, disappears. The strain starts to tell on the two women as a retired police investigator who is looking into the disappearance on a whim begins to think that they know more than they are telling, and their mental state is not helped when their victim is seen, apparently alive and well by one of the pupils. Written by Mark Thompson <mrt@oasis.icl.co.uk>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Two women. One man. The combination can be murder.

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for violence/terror, sexuality and language | See all certifications »





Release Date:

22 March 1996 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Diabólicas  »

Box Office


$17,100,000 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Sharon Stone and the film's producer James G. Robinson fell out over her refusal to do a nude scene. See more »


The lines of text on the computer monitor reach the bottom of the screen start scrolling. In the close-up, the text is just starting to be written again. See more »


[Nicole lights her cigarette]
Leo: Second-hand smoke kills, you know.
Nicole: [blowing smoke in Leo's face] Not reliably.
See more »


Referenced in I polykatoikia: ...Itan mia fora mia metakomisi (2008) See more »


In The Arms Of Love
Written by Marco Marinageli and Frank P. Maddlone
Performed by Sherry Williams
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Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Disappointing remake

Known primarily for light Comedy Features Jeremiah Chechik thought of a change-of-pace and adapted for his third entry into directing the famous novel "Celle Qui N'etait Pas" by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac, which also served as model for the French Crime-Classic LES DIABOLIQUES from 1955 by Henri-Georges Clouzot. With an interesting cast of four fine character actors in the leading roles and a budget of 30 million dollars in his hands Chechik came up with a uneven, slow-moving, pale and glossy Thriller about a tyrannical school-master who is drowned by his long-suffering wife and mistress and thrown into the School Pool, but strangely disappears. Before the film's release there were much rumours about creative differences between the director and Miss Sharon Stone, the latter one aiming for a black comedy and Chechik shaping a crime movie on his own. Well, both failed.

You can hardly judge a movie by its trailer, because sometimes the latter one can be much better than the movie it is promoting. Take for example DIABOLIQUE: The first moving pictures I saw from it were very stylish and appealing, like the drunken Palminteri, the Whiskey-Glass falling down in slow-motion, the out-of-the-water-perspective-shot of Palminteri looking at the two women who pull his head into the water etc. etc. etc.

But finally watching the film was hugely disappointing. I think I wouldn't have been that dissatisfied hadn't I seen the perfectly structured original just a couple of months ago on TV. Jeremiah Chechik & Co. turned the brilliantly structured and genuinely haunting thriller into a stupid, below-average Hollywood thriller that relies too much on its star power.

Hey, our teacher is lying naked on the floor! The film begins with a little boy (Adam Hann-Byrd) looking one rainy night through his bedroom window into the opposite bathroom window of his naked teacher Miss Mia (Isabelle Adjani) who suddenly has a heart attack and fells on the floor. Shocked he runs out of his accommodation into the other to save her (or maybe to see the chick naked... yeah!). Meanwhile Mias husband Guy (Chazz Palminteri), the principal of the boarding-school, comes into the bathroom looking at her without any reaction. Then his mistress and her colleague Nicole (Sharon Stone) shows off and gives her the medicaments to stop the pains. Okay, that's the situation. Guy is an emotionless, sadistic bad guy of the highest order, who to the viewer's surprise can keep his wife and mistress under control. But the sensible, heart-troubled Mia is fed up with him and so is her cool, cynical friend, colleague and rival in one named Nicole. They both decide to kill him and make it appear like he drowned himself.

Hey, our teacher is killing her husband! Mia and Nicole leave for the school holidays and move into a apartment, where Guy shows off depressed about Mias decision of getting divorced. She gives him something to drink with narcotics in it. After Guy is drowned by both women they put the dead body into a big case, drive it back to school and throw it into the school pool. But the next day, when the pool is cleaned the body's missing...

Jeremiah's Genre Vacation. Chechik was already a acclaimed and award-winning director of commercials and music clips when he entered the film business making his way through the Chevy-Chase-Comedy NATIONAL LAMPOON'S CHRISTMAS VACATION (1989), the audience-friendly Romantic Comedy BENNY & JOON (1993) starring Johnny Depp and Mary Stuart Masterson and the Fantasy-Comedy TALL TALE (1995) with Patrick Swayze. So far, so... acceptable, but how could he think of helming the US remake of a French classic that was almost perfect in its own rights and couldn't be topped or even reached. So the comparison between Clouzots and Chechiks interpretations of the same story is inevitable. Chechik focuses very much on the stylish visuals and atmosphere of his film pushing it sometimes to a kind of gothic nightmare placed in a old, shadow-filled, dark boarding-school, cool-as-ice-light filter on the actors, especially dead-cold Sharon Stone, and good art direction, made even more accessible by unsubtle slow-motion scenes and unusual camera angles. But these things don't make the already highly suspenseful story any better or worse. Surprisingly Clouzots tight creation of the not-so-wealthy-boarding-school with its dark gaits is far more effective. Clouzots visuals don't harm the story nor the excellent cast, so that every detail of the clever plot and the intriguing characters could be fleshed out. That's focused storytelling at its best with every single frame fitting into the story. But Chechik doesn't seem do care about pacing or character development and focuses on stupid plot details to make it logical for "stupid" American audiences, which weighs down the whole film, especially in the unbelievably bad third act. Add to that a mediocre mystery-score by Edelman and you will fall asleep halfway through. In the end Chechik is in the wrong genre, whether it is a black comedy or a thriller.

Catherine Tramell without a ice-pick and Queen Margot without a crone. The teaming of Sex symbol Sharon Stone, who just had turned through her excellent work in Martin Scorseses epic gangster movie CASINO into a Oscar-nominated, serious actress, and internationally popular Isabelle Adjani, a versatile and talented performer, looks attracting on the paper, but not onscreen. Miss Stone does her Catherine-Tramell-routine from her most famous film BASIC INSTINCT (1991) in the role of Nicole, who in the original was played by the beautiful Simone Signoret. Stone is cool, cynical, calculating, clever and bitchy, but doesn't appear nude. So Isabelle Adjani has to do that job. While Stone's performance as bitch dressed in tasteless clothes and smoking lady-like is so broad that it's almost great fun, Adjani is a huge disappointment looking as ugly as she never looked before with her black hair hanging down in front of her face like big curtains and her face incredibly pale and in terms of acting disastrous. What a waste of beauty and talent! But she should be used to this kind of treatment by Hollywood after forget-about-appearances in Walter Hills THE DRIVER (1978) and Elaine Mays flop ISHTAR (1987). In the original Clouzots real-life-wife Vera excels as sensible beauty who slowly gets crazy and frightened. Add to this unhappy pairing of good actresses some other wasted performers like Chazz Palminteri, who after doing the intense-as-usual a**hole-routine turns into a stupid Michael-Myers-copy, and Kathy Bates, who is to a certain degree solid fun, and useless appearances by Adam Hann-Byrd (LITTLE MAN TATE, 1991), Spading Gray (SWIMMING TO CAMBODIA, 1987) and Allen Garfield (THE STATE OF THE THINGS, 1982).

Adaptation equals creative death. Don Roos who scripted the race-relation-drama LOVE FIELD (1992) starring Michelle Pfeiffer and the sexy thriller SINGLE WHITE FEMALE (1992) took on the task of updating Clouzots flawless and tight script. The best thing he could have done was to note some costume, setting and dialect changes into the original script and hand it over to the director, but that - sadly - isn't the way Hollywood does its adaptations of European movies. So what we get here are too many subplots weighing down the actual plot, like for example a filmmaker-couple who are ordered to make a commercial for the school, some fine ideas like turning the Columbo-lookalike-detective from the original into a clever, ironical heavy-set Ex-Detective suffering from breast cancer, and finally one of the worst finales to be found in any film of the decade. It's neither thrilling nor funny, just increasingly stupid.

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Underated.. luvehorror
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