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, Amazon.com
One of the cinema s greatest suspense masterpieces, Henri-Georges Clouzot s Les Diaboliques made such an impression on Alfred Hitchcock that he borrowed its writers for Vertigo and attempted to recreate its clammy, seedy atmosphere in Psycho, substituting a motel-room shower for a boarding-school bathtub. Véra Clouzot and Simone Signoret are the wife and mistress of sadistic headmaster Paul Meurisse. When his unpleasant games go too far, they hatch the perfect plot to get rid of him: they drown him in the bath and dump him in the overgrown and evil-smelling pool, agreeing to claim that it was an accident. But when they have it drained, the body has vanished, and that s when nerves really start jangling especially when they spot increasingly hard-to-ignore signs that he might still be alive.
Worse, a retired police inspector (Charles Vanel) takes pity on the bereaved widow and offers to help track her husband down...
- Audio commentary by Professor Susan Hayward
- Introduction by Ginette Vincendeau
- Original trailer