Criterion Collection: Diabolique [Blu-ray] (Version française) [Import]
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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 grueling suspense and startling shocks in an overcast, gray world of decay, but his icy manipulations lack the human dimension and emotional resonance of the master of suspense. The film has been accused of being misanthropic by many critics, 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.
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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.
In a twisted and at times really confused turn of events, a shy schoolmarm teams up with her husband's mistress to kill him (or so we think). The husband is a real SOB, constantly bossing both of them around and treating his students like dogs. Since he is in a position of provincial power, however, his petty control games and short temper go unremarked upon. There are tones of lesbianism in this sleek thriller, with the wife and mistress and forming (*(it seems*) a strong bond in their hatred of the husband. The only lucid character we have is a private investigator who precipitates a tragedy, perhaps without knowing it. (Or is he in on it too?_
I won't spoil the rest of the film for the viewer, but it would be safe to say that this is one of the strangest plots I have ever encountered, and one of the most intriguing. We are confronted with weakness versus strength, good versus evil, and the standard collection of themes, but in a subtle, disturbing fashion. The last scene in the film, when a child comments on the schoolmarm's appearance in the school, is enough to leave one wondering whether there is yet another element at work which we have not yet seen. This is far better than "Psycho", although one can see the parallels. A must see.
Most recent customer reviews
Although it is stated that this is a Region 2 Blu-ray, it actually is a REGION FREE Blu-ray disc. Look at the review by Dr. Svet Atanasov (April 22, 2011) on the Blu-ray. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Daniel Martel
The French Suspense Shocker that forewarned Hitchcock's Psycho. A movie based on the novel "Celle qui n'était plus là"; whose authors had written another... Read morePublished 6 months ago by Omnes
A man has to be pretty terrible to inspire both his wife and mistress to kill him... especially if they decide to do it together. Read morePublished 23 months ago by EA Solinas
The story opens in a run-down French boys' school, where the cruel headmaster has made life unbearable for his fragile wife and his mistress (Simone Signoret), both of whom are... Read morePublished on Nov. 23 2010 by Kona
This review is for the Criterion Collection DVD edition of the film.
This film, directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot is one of the greatest French mystery films I have seen. Read more
DIABOLIQUE is a cautionary tale about the need to keep your swimming pool clean, or not, depending on the state of your marriage. Read morePublished on March 4 2004 by Mr. Joe
I kept thinking "hitchcock ripoff" the entire time. It's not really that scary, but if you're into these "non scary" types of horror films, then check it out. Read morePublished on June 23 2003 by Tom Servo
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