Release Year: 1955
Director: Henri-Georges Clouzot
Writers: Henri-Georges Clouzot (screenplay), Jérôme Géronimo (screenplay), René Masson (additional), Frédéric Grendel (additional), Pierre Boileau (novel Celle qui n’était plus) , Thomas Narcejac (novel Celle qui n’était plus)
Starring: Simone Signoret, Véra Clouzot, Paul Meurisse, Charles Vanel
Moviegeek Sunday Classic #109, week 28 2016
Nicole (Simone Signoret), the mistress, and Christina (Véra Clouzot), the wife, have more in common than the despotic and cruel man, Michel, (Paul Meurisse), whom they share. When the school they all work at closes down for a short holiday, they decide to murder him.
Henri-Georges Clouzot’s (Le Corbeau, 1943) Les Diaboliques is his take on a novel written by the writing duo who also wrote the novel on which Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958) was based. So it’s a French Hitchcock film? Yes and no. Yes, its story is right up Hitchcock’s alley, and one could easily imagine him doing a story like this, as he indeed wanted to (see Moviegeek Info below). No, while Hitchcock was a great filmmaker, it would be folly to write Les Diaboliques off simply as a Hitchcock imitation; it is far to good, far too well made, and carried by people both in front of and behind the camera, who are masters of their craft. Set in a school boarding school owned by the fragile Christina but run by her cruel husband. The film utelises camera, angles, lighting, and sound to great effect. Creating a tense atmosphere throughout; a sense of suspense which builds slowly until its inevitable release. Christina and Nicole’s plot to get rid of their trouble in one fell swoop is well plottet, but it’s what happens after the murder that is really interesting. The body disappears, and the two women, Christina in particular, find themselves haunted by a taunting individual who seems to know what they have done. Is it Michel himself? The intricate twist and turns will have you guessing until the end, and with strong performances all around, Les Diaboliques is a gem that any fans of Hitchcock, thriller in general, or psychological horror should treat themselves to. Highly recommended.
When director H.G. Glouzot bought the film rights to the novel, he reportedly beat Alfred Hitchcock by only a few hours.
The film gained extra notoriety five years after its release when actress Véra Clouzot died of a heart attack at the age of 46. Her character in the film suffered from a weak heart.
The film completely skips the lesbian relationship between the two female leads that exists in the novel.