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Criterion Collection: Diabolique [Blu-ray] (Version française) [Import]

Simone Signoret    Unrated   Blu-ray
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
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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

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Most helpful customer reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding Classic Thriller Jan. 13 2004
Format:DVD
I don't have too much to say, except to echo the accolades that your other reviewers have given this masterpiece of suspense from France. The few people who found it too tame or dull are perhaps those enamoured of films with characters named "Jason" or "Freddy" !
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.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly a THRILLER! Aug. 14 2000
Format:DVD
This film, which hasn't aged a DAY, except for locations, cars, etc., I never tire of watching. I first saw it at TEN and was scared out of my mind! I've had the VERY cheap VHS dubbed version for years, and while that is VERY GOOD, this DVD is FANTASTIC! Clear picture, and I had NO trouble at all with the subtitles! SUCH a TREAT to hear the ORIGINAL soundtrack, as it adds so much more. Too many times in dubbed versions, words are taken as literal, when they are not! Like when Signoret says "Have fun children" clearly showing her disgust, in the dubbed version it was "Have fun kiddies."This film NEVER lets up! I was reading Simone Signoret's book, one of many, the other day. She said the filming was grueling, and was called because Clouzot wanted his wife to work with friends! I would be diabolical myself if I told you much of the plot, as it has been repeated here for you too see! No extras on the DVD, like even the original trailer, but still a DVD for your library. Simone Signoret was a true beauty and a GREAT actress; we don't get too many of those, nor directors of this clout! In fact, Clouzot started the "no admission after the film starts" which was attributed to Hitchcock's PSYCHO. BOTH films are masterpieces, however this one is overlooked, probably because it is foreign, or because the unbelieveably cheap VHS dubbed copies are SO bad. You cannot go wrong with this AT ALL!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A sometimes confusing, angst ridden classic July 14 2004
Format:DVD
If "Diabolique" influenced Hitchcock's "Psycho", one would have to say that the classic French film exceeds the 'classic' American slasher flick.
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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Aghast in the Bath June 30 2004
By A Customer
Format:DVD
It's a pity that some reviewers are so numbed and stunned by today's in-your-face gore and horror that they can't appreciate the subtleties of character and relationship analysis displayed in a film like this. Although there's little doubt that it is at its most effective the first time round (provided you don't already know the ending) there is still a lot left to savour. I saw it when it was new, and the shock in the theatre towards the end was palpable. Not so today, of course. Nevertheless, the peculiarly French menage-a-trois with its vile central bully remains perennially interesting. The run-down school with its dilapidated staff and surroundings, the paternalistic and sadistic hierarchical structure, the completely realistic school-kids, the bleakly austere atmosphere of post-war France (it was exactly like this in England too), with people just about able to make ends meet, is all still extremely fascinating. Both the women's performances are exceptional: the frailty and piety of Vera Clouzot is balanced by just enough determination to commit the murder, and the slightly butch sensuality of Signoret allows her to get away with her fake concern as well as her ruthlessness. The beauty of each of them is a study in perfect contrast. The very final twist let's us know that it's all been a bit of a joke. Why Hitchcock's Vertigo is considered a masterpiece I'll never know.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Where's the body?
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 more
Published 6 months ago by E. A Solinas
4.0 out of 5 stars Very creepy
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 more
Published on Nov. 23 2010 by Kona
4.0 out of 5 stars A great mystery film with Hitchcock elements
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
Published on April 11 2004 by Ted
3.0 out of 5 stars What the poolboy found
DIABOLIQUE is a cautionary tale about the need to keep your swimming pool clean, or not, depending on the state of your marriage. Read more
Published on March 4 2004 by Joseph Haschka
3.0 out of 5 stars Slow.
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 more
Published on June 23 2003 by Tom Servo
5.0 out of 5 stars The Original International Shocker
Based on the Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac novel CELLE QUI N'ETAIT PLUS, Henri-Georges Clouzot's 1955 DIABOLIQUE is easily among the most influential films of world cinema,... Read more
Published on June 1 2003 by Gary F. Taylor
2.0 out of 5 stars I used to like it, then I changed my mind
When I first saw this film several years ago, I thought "Wow, what a great film! Very Hitchcock-like, and well paced.... Read more
Published on May 31 2003 by Dennis!
5.0 out of 5 stars WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR![.]?
"Diabolique" was my first foray into foreign-made movies. Wow! What a movie! This is a movie that could have been made just this year. Read more
Published on Feb. 20 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars THE ORIGINAL MASTERPIECE....
This is the original Henri Clouzot shocker from 1955 that has been imitated but never duplicated. Avoid the Sharon Stone remake. There is no comparison. Read more
Published on Oct. 21 2002 by Mark Norvell
3.0 out of 5 stars excellent movie, suprisingly poor picture quality
It is no secret that this is a classic suspense film in every sense. It would seem only natural that Criterion would pick this film to be part of their revered collection. Read more
Published on Oct. 7 2002 by Fabrizio Delicious
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