Diabolique (1955) / Thriller-Mystery
aka Les Diabolique
MPAA Rated: Not rated, but probably PG-13 for themes and violence
Running Time: 116 min.
Cast: Simone Signoret, Vera Clouzot, Paul Meurisse, Charles Vanel, Jean Brochard
Director: Henri-Georges Clouzot
Screenplay: Henri-Georges Clouzot, Jerome Geronimi (Based on the novel by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac)
Review published September 12, 2000
A sadistic principal of a boys' boarding school is married to one of the teachers and his mistress is part of the crew there. They all are in the know and accept their situation, but his cruelty is overbearing, especially considering his wife's heart condition. The wife and mistress both conspire on a plan to kill him, drowning him in a bathtub and dumping him in the filthy school pool. The pool is soon drained but the body is nowhere to be found. They both are sure he is dead but rumors of him being seen around the school and in town cause them both to be scared out of their wits.
Had Hitchcock directed this film as he wanted, you can be sure this would have been a masterpiece, if not his greatest film. Hitch tried to get the rights to the book LES DIABOLIQUES by Boileau and Narcejac and lost to Clouzot, but while we lose an American classic by Hitch, we still win due to Clouzot's deft and understated way he builds unbelievable tension throughout the film. It makes me wish that I was alive when this film was initially released because it's absolutely riveting and has one hell of a powerhouse ending that must have brought the place down when it happened.
Not really as much an influence on PSYCHO as some critics would like you to believe, but elements of Hitchcock abound here. Combine the best of ROPE, REBECCA, THE LADY VANISHES, and SUSPICION and you have a French film that is almost as good as anything Hitch ever made.
It's hard to be sad that Hitchcock didn't get to direct since Boileau and Narcejac quickly penned D'ENTRE LES MORTES specifically with Hitch in mind to make up for him losing his bid for LES DIABOLIQUES. Hitchcock had that film adapted and created his masterwork, VERTIGO.
©2000 Vince Leo