Diabolique (1955)

Diabolique (“Les diaboliques”)diabolique_poster
Directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot
1955/France
Film Sonor/Vera Films

Repeat viewing
#272 of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

 

Alfred Fichet, le commissaire: The keys in the pool, the husband in the morgue! You dream too much about water in this house!

It is good to know as little as possible about this diabolical noir thriller before seeing it for the first time!  Patrons were not admitted to theaters after the movie started and it ends with a plea for the audience not to reveal the ending.  Far be it from me to break a promise.

The setting is a seedy boarding school in a Paris suburb, where all the main characters work.  The owner is Christina Delassalle, a delicate Argentinian played by Vera Clouzot. She is dominated and abused by her sadistic, stingy husband Michel (Paul Meurisse). Lately, Michel has taken to beating his mistress Nicole (Simone Signoret) as well.  The two women decide they have had enough.  With Charles Vanel as a retired police commissioner.

Diabolique 1

The opening credits play over a shot of the scummy swimming pool at the school and establish the atmosphere of disgust and dread that pervades this excellent film.  Clouzot is a master at manipulating audience emotion and horror is right up his alley.  All the performances are spot on.  The film is not quite as effective on a second viewing when the surprises have been revealed.  Highly recommended.

Trailer (genius!)

 

7 thoughts on “Diabolique (1955)

  1. I won’t give away the twist either but suffice it to say, you will be surprised. A damn good film but I have never re-watched it and I have a feeling I would agree with you that it would not be quite as effective. Nevertheless, it deserves its place on the “must see” list.

    • It’s not bad even on the rewatch it’s just that it loses the surprise and some of the emotion. I love the acting and Clouzot’s clever direction.

  2. This one is good stuff. Not sure if you knew this fun little factoid, but the writers of Diabolique sold their script to Clouzot and Alfred Hitchcock just barely missed getting his hands on it himself. He was desperately interested in making this movie. So, after missing this one, he commissioned the writers to write him a script, and they did. Hitchcock then went and made Vertigo from their script.

    • Hitchcock really made Vertigo his own. I think he didn’t do to badly off the deal. I love Hitchcock but I’m not so sure he could have done better than Clouzot with the Diabolique material.

  3. I actually got to thing of Tourneur and the old Val Lewton movies. There is some of that darkness here and a fear of what you cannot see. As long as you do not see it it is pretty scary.
    What did you make of the detective? Is he a ghost?

    • I honestly never even thought about the detective being a ghost. He was so funny and real seeming. On the other hand, you are right that he is always around at the most improbable times. Maybe he’s more symbolic of the futility of crime? Don’t know. Also, I got to thinking that Vanel also played Jo in Wages of Fear. He’s almost unrecognizable here. I’ve seen him in some other films too and he is always very good.

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