A reticent physician with a mysterious past, practicing in the small French town of St. Robin, is targeted by poison-pen letters signed "Le Corbeau" (The Raven). The letters increase from a trickle to a deluge as virtually everyone in town is targeted; confidences are violated and neighbor suspects neighbor in an infectious atmosphere of growing paranoia and mistrust. Henri-Georges Clouzot (Diabolique, Wages of Fear) keeps the viewer on his toes throughout the entire 91 minutes; there isn't a weak spot in this entire film which, amazingly, managed to get itself made during the Nazi occupation of France (and which was condemned by both the Right and Left Wings, with the Church thrown in for good measure).
I caught the beginning of this film some months back on Turner and was too tired to watch it in its entirety. I was very happy to learn that Criterion (yay!) was scheduled to release it and I wasn't disappointed; this film belongs in the library of every serious collector. In fact, I can't imagine anyone's not enjoying it.
Since other reviewers have summarized the plot, I'll confine the rest of my review to the disk and its extras. The print--predictably--is gorgeous, presented in its original full-screen aspect ratio. Contrary to another reviewer, I found the sound clear as a bell and not in the least bit harsh or tinny. I haven't, with the exception of the trailer, availed myself of the extras yet but this is a Criterion release--I'd be surprised if they were anything but first-rate. A very informative booklet is included and makes for interesting reading. My quibbles are minor and few: I found the subtitles difficult to see from a rather short distance, and I wish they were offered in other languages (I have a number of friends who are recent emigres from Russia and other countries who are eager to avail themselves of quality cinema). There was also a scene where the action paused for a fraction of a second--I'm not sure if this was the director's intention or the result of this being a dual-layer release.
This is a fascinating film that can be enjoyed on a number of levels, i.e., one need not be aware of conditions in France at the time it was shot to be captivated by it. An excellent introduction to the work of Clouzot for the initiate and a welcome event for seasoned fans.