DIABOLIQUE, LES(director/writer/producer: Henri-Georges Clouzot; screenwriters: Jerome Geronimi/Frederic Grendel/Rene Masson/based on the novel Celle Qui N’etait Pas by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac; cinematographer: Armand Thirard; editor: Madeleine Gug; music: Georges Van Parys; cast: Simone Signoret (Nicole Horner), Vera Clouzot (Christina Delasalle), Paul Meurisse (Michel Delasalle), Charles Vanel (Inspector Fichet), Noel Roquevert (M. Herboux), Thérèse Dorny (Mme. Herboux); Runtime: 107; MPAA Rating: NR; Kino International; 1955-France-in French with English subtitles)
“One of the darkest thrillers ever.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Henri-Georges Clouzot (“The Wages of Fear”) directs this suspenseful psychological thriller set in the festering confines of a seedy provincial boarding school for boys run by a cruel, unpleasant, womanizing headmaster, Michel Delasalle (Paul Meurisse). Considered to be one of the darkest thrillers ever in Grand Guignol, it’s famous for its “shock” ending. It is based on the novel Celle Qui N’etait Pas by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac.
Clouzot casts his own wife Vera as Christina, a gentle, demure, long-suffering invalid, with a bad ticker, who is driven to scheme the murder of her headmaster spouse along with hubby’s latest mistress, the ice cold headstrong teacher, Nicole Horner (Simone Signoret).
They drown the headmaster in the bathtub and unload the corpse in the school’s filthy swimming pool… but when the pool is drained, the body has mysteriously vanished. With the murder plot gone wrong, there are recurring reports of his reappearance which become more conclusive as the film builds in suspense to its absolutely astonishing conclusion.
The camera acts as judge, watching and recording the events with a steely precision as the characters get more embroiled in their own irrationalities. This is a strong acrimonious film, tinged with irony and bitterness, showing everyone to be a victim in the decaying world they have become ensnared in by their own unholy actions. It makes for an outstanding film noir piece about misanthropy.
REVIEWED ON 5/3/2004 GRADE: B+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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