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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 9 March 2015
I must admit I find it very difficult to find fault with Henri-Georges Clouzot’s masterly 1955 psychological thriller (or horror, if you prefer, though, for me, the film transcends genre). Not only is the film’s premise of two (apparently) 'oppressed’ women, boarding school teachers Vera Clouzot’s Chrstina Delassalle and Simone Signoret’s mistress Nicole Horner, plotting to do away with their cruel persecutor, Christina’s husband and school principal, Paul Meurisse’s Michel Delassalle, rather novel plot-wise (a sort of variation on the noirs Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice), but the 'female pairing’ also introduces the daring (and similarly novel) underlying theme of female homoeroticism, hints at which Clouzot uses subtly to underpin the pair’s scheming. Then, courtesy of a brilliantly dark (often ironically humorous) screenplay by Clouzot and Jérôme Géronimi (based on the Boileau-Narcejac novel), a superlative cast featuring a number of great character acting turns (in addition to the film’s three 'stars’) and a stunning ‘eye for cinematic detail’ delivered by Armand Thirard’s evocative black-and-white cinematography and you have a feast of tense, atmospheric cinema which scores on pretty much every front.

Indeed, it is the film’s visual attention to detail which, alongside its macabre plot (of course), calls to my mind the comparator frequently cited for Les Diaboliques – namely the films of the master of this genre, Alfred Hitchcock. As Nicole and Christina put their (perhaps slightly fanciful) plan into operation, Thirard’s camera lingers deliciously on a series of key plot drivers – telephone, pacing feet, bottle of poison, gullet, dripping tap, lighter, etc – accentuating the tension in the process. Similarly, one of the film’s central preoccupations (a corpse) would also have delighted Hitch (cf. The Trouble With Harry – made the same year), as would Clouzot’s use of comedic characterisations – in particular, Nicole and Christina’s neighbours Mrs and Mrs Herboux (Noel Roquevert and Therese Dorny) juxtaposing the everyday (listening to the radio) with the ghoulish. Indeed, Clouzot’s cast is pretty much faultless - Meurisse particularly good as the tyrannical, cruel husband, whose double-standards demand pupil respect whilst he plumbs the depths of amorality, Signoret typically impressive as the semi-sinister, clinical mistress, Clouzot (the director’s wife) convincing as the repressed, timid and spiritual ex-nun and Charles Vanel great in a cameo as the persistently curious retired police commissioner, Fichet. Clouzot also uses the anarchic school backdrop as a great, ironically comic 'framing device’ (à la Zero de Conduite) for the drama.

In terms of legacy, as well as the various direct remakes, one can trace Les Diaboliques’ influence in a whole series of diverse films, including Heavenly Creatures, Ginger Snaps and (even) Thelma And Louise. There are also other (what appear to be) direct 'lifts’ from Clouzot’s film – for example, the 'non-existent hotel resident’ (North By Northwest) and the portentous typewriter (The Shining).

It’s a film that disguises its many deceptions brilliantly (making repeat viewing a must) until Clouzot’s shocking denouement, which cements the place of Les Diaboliques in the very highest echelons of the genre of dark, psychological thriller.
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on 5 January 2015
A pure cinema classic. You can see why it was such an influence on Hitchcock and others. Very good transfer to Blu-Ray. Great picture, although, due to the age of the film don't expect miracles. (For that check out 'Powell and Presburgers's The Red Shoes' BluRay release).The sound is also very good. The booklet is very informative, much more than a mere inlay card. Recommended for true movie fans and a pure must for modern film historians. Once watched, don't give the end away, don't spoil it! A real honest 5 star film.
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on 23 December 2017
Although not quite the masterpiece Psycho would be 5 years later, Clouzot's film was a key influence and it's interesting that, besides the opening titles, the film has no score, whereas Hitchcock relied heavily on Bernhard Hermann's unique theme for Psycho. Les Diaboliques is very good indeed, I've watched it twice now (actually, 3 times including with commentary) but it's not quite a classic, hence the absence of a 5th star.
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VINE VOICEon 24 July 2008
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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on 13 January 2008
Other reviewers have described the twists and turns that make this probably the best French film noir of all time, and on a par with "Psycho". The first time you see it it is really scary and startling: more so in fact than some outright horror movies. The next few times you are still enjoying its sheer class and puzzling over the final scenes.

It is said Hitchcock tried to buy the rights to the novel but was pipped at the post by Clouzot. Certainly the great H. couldn't have done a better job; a Hollywood-type version would have flopped: this is so French a story. Realistic acting, tense, brooding atmosphere in a strange French boarding school full of weird Gallic characters and attention to minute detail all add to the sense of mystery.

As the end-titles say in French: "Don't be devilish and spoil it for your friends by revealing the ending ..."
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on 25 February 2014
A treat to be able to watch this French thriller again after seeing it many years ago. A nice little spooky twist at the end of the film and lots of scares throughout with a touch of black comedy. Maybe one for the slightly mature film lover - my 20 year old daughter has no interest in watching it despite (or maybe because of) my enthusiasm.
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on 21 October 2016
Old black and white movie in French (English subtitles). Still very scary and full of suspense but ultimately a downer. Those seeing it for the first time will be shocked by the ending. Psycho made people frightened to have a shower - Les Diaboliques made people frightened to have a bath.
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on 13 February 2016
It scared me when I first saw it years ago, No less gripping now, even though I remember the twist at the end.
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on 18 July 2017
Arrived on time and quality as expected. Watched the DVD and found it OK and also various extra options to view.
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on 25 February 2015
Enjoyed this film, it get's right into the story straight away and has you gripped, it has some very tense moments but also some humour in the dialogue. It's beautifully filmed as well and it's not surprised that this film is considered as one that inspired Hitchcock.
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