Diabolique (“Les diaboliques”)
Directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot
Film Sonor/Vera Films
#272 of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die
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.
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.