An acknowledged influence on Psycho, Henri-Georges Clouzot's horror classic is the story of a sadistic headmaster who brutalizes his fragile wife and his headstrong mistress. The two women murder him and dump his body in a... more » swimming pool; when the pool is drained, no corpse is found. Criterion presents Diabolique in a new digital transfer.« less
"Director Henri-Georges Clouzot's DIABOLIQUE is one of these movies we, in french speaking countries, have seen at least a dozen times on TV in our teen days. Always with pleasure. In part, because of the terrific cast but mainly because of the whodunit plot.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."
The Original International Shocker
Gary F. Taylor | Biloxi, MS USA | 06/01/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Based on the Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac novel CELLE QUI N'ETAIT PLUS, Henri-Georges Clouzot's 1955 DIABOLIQUE is easily among the most influential films of world cinema, leaving its mark on everything from Alfred Hitchcock's VERTIGO and PSYCHO to William Castle's THE TINGLER--but even so, and while Hitchcock's masterpieces can be said to at least equal the Clouzot original, few if any of the films spawned by DIABOLIQUE ever bested it.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. Director Clouzot endows the film with a sense of visual decay and a near-documentary tone that merge to create one of the most chilling atmospheres ever captured on screen. While Signoret's performance of the angry mistress is the more widely celebrated, she is equaled by Vera Clouzot, who has the more complex role and whose performance must carry the weight of the film's most disturbing moments; together they create a truly remarkable synergy of the most lethal kind.I have seen DIABOLIQUE in several different releases, and while the Criterion DVD is somewhat glitchy it is easily the best version available; one should avoid all other releases, particularly the truly atrocious release by Madacy. Strongly recommended, particularly to fans of internation cinema and classic suspense."
"I don't have too much to say, except to echo the accolades that your other reviewers have given this masterpiece of suspense from France. The few people who found it too tame or dull are perhaps those enamoured of films with characters named "Jason" or "Freddy" ! 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."
Definitely worth investigating
Alexander Leach | Shipley, West Yorkshire United Kingdom | 05/11/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This film is far more than a potboiler with a clever twist at the end: the script, performances and photography are really very fine indeed. Clouzot paces the film briskly, so the murder is more or less afoot within the first 10 minutes: great stuff.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."
John Austin | Kangaroo Ground, Australia | 09/08/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There are countless reviews of this seminal film to be read on the internet, so I shall direct my focus away from the aspects with which most of them deal.
Consider, for example the backdrops. Have you noticed how detailed and intricate they are? Every cobblestone in a street is seen, every crease on a bedcover, every scratch on a door handle - every shot is crammed with detail. I cannot recall seeing a blank wall or a plain open space.
This richness of visual detail is usually missing in Hitchcock films. I also find a richer dialogue than Hitchcock at this period ever provided. Richer too is the cast of eccentrics, drunkards, neighbours, and bit players. The drunkard who attempts to secrete himself in the back of the van containing the body in the basket, once seen, is never forgotten.
Writers Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac wrote the novel and the film rights were obtained by Clouzot only hours before Hitchcock's bid was received. Never mind if Simone Signoret usually has a cigarette protruding from her mouth in the early scenes, never mind that she and Vera Clouzot are made to totter around on the absurdly high-heeled shoes women wore in the mid 1950s, this is a film that will look good and captivate audiences forever. "