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Les Diaboliques [1954] [DVD]

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Product details

  • Actors: Simone Signoret, Véra Clouzot, Paul Meurisse, Charles Vanel, Jean Brochard
  • Directors: Henri-Georges Clouzot
  • Format: PAL, Black & White, Full Screen, Subtitled, Mono
  • Language: French
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 4:3 - 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: 15
  • Studio: C'est La Vie
  • DVD Release Date: 25 Feb 2002
  • Run Time: 116 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005UDXP
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 76,307 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)


Product Description

Classic thriller from director Henri-Georges Clouzot, following the events of a murder plot in a small French provincial school. Tired of being mistreated by abusive headmaster Michel Delasalle (Paul Meurisse), his frail wife, Christina (Vera Clouzot), and his mistress, Nicole (Simone Signoret), plot to kill their tormentor. When Michel's body goes missing, however, the women soon realise their plan is not as straightforward as they first thought.


Legend has it that Henri-Georges Clouzot beat out Alfred Hitchcock to secure the rights to this novel, which proved to be a veritable blueprint for an icy masterpiece of murder, mystery and suspense. Véra Clouzot plays the sickly wife of a callous headmaster of a provincial boarding school going to seed, and the commanding Simone Signoret is the headmaster's mistreated mistress. Together they plot and carry out his murder, a brutal drowning that director Clouzot documents in chilly detail, but the corpse disappears and a nosy detective starts sniffing around the grounds as threatening notes taunt the women. Clouzot's thriller is as precise and accomplished a work as anything in Hitchcock's canon, a film of gruelling suspense and startling shocks in an overcast, grey world of decay, but his icy manipulations lack the human dimension and emotional resonance of the master of suspense. Many critics have accused the film of being misanthropic, and Clouzot's attitude toward his characters is bitter at best, contemptuous at worst. The viewer is left on the outside looking in, but the razor precision and terrifying twists deliver a sleek, bleak spectacle worthy of attention. --Sean Axmaker, --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

47 of 48 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 29 Nov 2001
Format: DVD
Les Diaboliques is an unsettling and beautifully-paced study of betrayal, mistrust and guilt. Set in a decaying boarding school, it shows the grim course of a peculiar relationship between two female teachers (Simone Signoret and Véra Clouzot) and its sadistic headmaster . Atmospherically shot in black and white, its murky tones hauntingly echo the moral ambiguity of its principals. Director Henri-Georges Clouzot expertly keeps the viewer gripped in a manner that recalls (or even prefigures) Hitchcock at his very best. The end caption of the film pleads with the audience not to reveal the ending of the film to any of their friends, and once you've seen it you'll understand why. This is a truly influential, intelligent, and unforgettable film.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By John Austin HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on 8 Sep 2007
Format: DVD
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.
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By C. O. DeRiemer HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on 9 Nov 2007
Format: DVD
The story goes that a fellow told Alfred Hitchcock that after his daughter saw Psycho she refused to take a shower and that after she saw Diabolique she refused to get in a bathtub. Well, Hitchcock said, send her to the dry cleaners.

Diabolique is one of the most masterful scary movies you could hope to see. Even after 50 years, when the twist is probably well known, the movie is so well crafted and so well acted that it still carries me along. It takes place in a second-rate French boarding school for boys run by a sneering brute named Michel Delasalle (Paul Meurisse). His wife, Christine Delasalle (Vera Clouzot), who actually has the money in the family, is a weak woman with a bad heart, whom he abuses and humiliates. He openly has taken as a mistress a teacher in the school, Nicole Horner (Simone Signoret), whom he has smacked around one too many times. Christine and Nicole hatch a plan to lure Delasalle to Nicole's house some distance from the school. There, they will drug and drown him, then carry him back to the school and pitch his body into the unused, scum covered water of the school's swimming pool. When the body is discovered, it will be called a suicide or an accident. The two women pull it off...but when the pool is drained, there is no body. Then the suit Delasalle was wearing is delivered to the school by a laundry. A student is given a penalty and says it was the headmaster. A Delasalle appears to have registered at a local hotel. The two women don't know what is happening, and the strain begins to tell on them. They begin to bicker and blame each other. Nicole leaves the school. Christine must stay, but she is showing signs of emotional and physical collapse. Then the plot really begins.

So many elements, for me, really work.
Read more ›
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Mr. G. C. Stone VINE VOICE on 24 July 2008
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Here's a reason to turn your back on modern hollywood schlock dross and return to a time when intelligence, story, acting and sheer craftmanship actually meant something.
A beautifully worked story, setting us up in a boy's boarding school and the twisted relationship between a headmaster, his wife, and his mistress. By the time the two women get together and decide to rid themselves of him they have our total sympathy. But a simple plan soon unravels when the body disappears....
Engrossing to the very end,this film is a classic of old-school horror - building dread upon dread, and bringing everything together into a startling finale. It deserves its reputation in the pantheon of great movies.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Jacques COULARDEAU on 18 Nov 2003
Format: VHS Tape
Simone Signoret is one of the greatest French actresses that ever lived. In this film, in black and white mind you and that black and white is used to perfection, the perfection that Hitchcock reached in many of his films, Simone Signoret gets us involved in an extremely sombre and dark thriller where she plays a double game, killing without killing in order to kill with the intent to kill. Transitive or transferred killing. That is fascinating and the punch line is absolutely amazing and shocking in many ways. That film is also a deep discourse on French society ten years after the second World War : bleak and sinister. Education is shown as a constant torture of the poor boys who are the victims of their « teachers ». Married life is shown as a sham and a total hypocritical lie without any love. And love is shown as the most drastically criminal motivation in life. Love can only exist as the outcome of murder. But Simone Signoret goes even farther because we never know if she is an angel of justice or a devil of crime. She is both an angel of light and hope and at the same time a devil of darkness and despair. She is able to assume this double personality and to make us feel a desire to kill because it seems to be the only humane solution. And yet she constantly gives us this aftertaste that has the texture of blood and guilt. And yet the punchline is absolutely frightening because it shows how little each one of us is when in the hands of such a schizophrenic criminal and her own doppelganger. She is a Janus of crime and of life at the same time. Life is just like crime, a lie and a sham, a desire and a fear, a pleasure and a pain, an enjoyment and a torture.Read more ›
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