- 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
- Studio: C'est La Vie
- DVD Release Date: 25 Feb. 2002
- Run Time: 116 minutes
- Average Customer Review: 79 customer reviews
- ASIN: B00005UDXP
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 83,604 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)
Les Diaboliques  [DVD]
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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, Amazon.com
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Set in a private French School in 1956 it is the story of a nasty Headmaster and his wife and mistress who hatch a plot to be rid of him! One is struck by how tatty France was in this period just after the war and the lack of traffic! Do not read the booklet about the film until after you have watched it as it rather gives the plot away and surprise ending. The supposedly restored blu-ray is of only very average quality, but the film is so good you hardly notice the sub-titles and it will have you on the edge of your seat! Its a mixture of perhaps from today's perspective a mixture of unintentional comedy and creepy suspense!
Set in a low rent boarding school in France `Les Diabolique' is the story of two women who plan the perfect murder. One woman is the wife of the violent and mean Headmaster; the other woman is the Headmaster's lover. Their intended victim? The Headmaster, of course. What could possibly go wrong when a murder is planned in such fine detail - the only weakness is the trust they have in one another. Are they strong enough, or will one of them break?
Unbeknownst to me `Les Diabolique' is a well known film in the foreign noir genre and its easy to see why. It screams François at you with the laid back attitude of the characters; the main protagonists are almost cliché in their Frenchness. The film is a slow boiler that rewards those that pay attention and wait until the end. There are no obvious good and bad people, which plagued some of the more earnest American films of the era. Every character has something to hide and none of them really deserve happiness, even the put upon wife and her weak heart.
It is probably the final frames that will stick with most people when watching this film and this is a deserved. There is a common trap that you can fall into where you remember a film as being better than it is because the ending is so good. To a small extent that is the case here, but I for one loved the slow build up throughout the film as you revel in the nasty nature of the characters. I still prefer `Rififi', but `Les Diabolique' is another great French Noir film.
The BluRay version is a clean transfer, but the film should still be watchable on DVD with no ill effect.
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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