Friday, February 15, 2013

272. Les Diaboliques (1954)

Running Time: 116 minutes
Directed By: Henri-Georges Clouzot
Written By: Henri-Georges Clouzot, Jerome Geronimi, Frederic Grendel, Rene Masson, from the novel Celle qui n'etait plus by Pierre Boileau & Thomas Narcejac
Main Cast: Simone Signoret, Vera Clouzot, Paul Meurisse, Charles Vanel, Jean Brochard
Click here to view the trailer


As you can see I've already failed at my mission to include a quote underneath the subtitle of EVERY movie. That's okay though - we'll just go ahead and include one, when a particular quote pops out at me and with the Clouzot films, none have. However, the movies have been good and that's really all I can ask for.

"Les Diaboliques" is a particularly "Hitchcockian" film, set at a boarding school for boys, revolving around murder and filled with mystery. Michel Delassalle (Meurisse) is the director/principal of the boarding school, a particularly ruthless, cold man who especially focuses his icy demeanor at his wife, Christina (Clouzot) and mistress, Nicole (Signoret). When the ladies get together one day (as Christina knows about Nicole), they decide to plan and execute his murder, hatching the perfect scheme where no one will suspect them. They plan to drive to a nearby town, lace a bottle of liquor with a strong sedative and then lure Michel there, tempt him with a drink and when he takes it and falls asleep, they plan to drown him in the bathtub. From there, the ladies will transport the corpse, via a wicker chest, back to the boarding school, where they'll dump him in a swimming pool and play it like he fell in. The plan goes absolutely according to plan, despite the hesitancy of Christina, a former nun with a heart condition, who didn't believe in divorce, let alone murder. However, things start to go awry when the pool at the boarding school is drained and Michel is nowhere to be found. The ladies then find themselves walking on eggshells as they wonder who removed the body from the pool and get even more of a fright when an ex-police chief starts snooping around.


This is one of those movies that I've been looking forward to seeing for a long time. When you read little facts, like the one printed in THE BOOK about Hitchcock's urgency to make "Psycho" so that he could regain his "Master of Suspense" moniker from Clouzot, then you start to really salivate at the thought of a Hitchcock-like movie, directed by someone other than Hitch. I had read that the movie was a murder mystery about a wife and mistress plotting and executing a murder on their husband/lover and that was certainly an intriguing premise. However, I have to admit, that ultimately I was a little disappointed with the whole affair. Don't get me wrong, the film was a fine one, but honestly this is one of those movies that I had pegged to get a '10' and it just never reached that point. Believe it or not, I wasn't fifteen minutes into the film, before I figured out the big twist ending and just KNEW that Nicole and Michel were setting up Christina. Sure, in the 50s, when twist endings weren't as frequent as an underwear changing, the ending probably left audiences stunned. But I grew up in the 80s and 90s, at a time when movies like "The Sixth Sense" and "The Usual Suspects" were unleashed on theaters. Also, it just seemed way too odd that a wife and mistress would be plotting together and be okay that one another existed. In fact, it's only mentioned once and in passing, in the film, of the oddity that is the friendship between Nicole and Christina. I still loved the ending - well the twist ending. What I didn't like was the very end, which saw the police chief bust Michel and Nicole and promise them a minimum of 15 - 20 years in prison for their little stunt. What is up with Clouzot? This is the film that should've had the unhappy ending, with the "devils" getting away with their evil. I mean, what exactly is their crime anyway? Christina had a heart condition and died when she saw Michel, someone whom she had plotted to murder. I think I'd like to see "Les Diaboliques 2", the one where Michel and Nicole go to trial and are gotten off by a young Atticus Finch or someone like that.

In the end, I still liked the movie, it has a good chance at reaching TOP 20 status (or at least "Ten Worth Mentioning" status) and I'll remember it fondly. However, this is yet another one of those circumstances of THE BOOK messing with your tastes and completely forcing them to do a 180. Pre-BOOK, I would've loved this movie and probably a lot more than "Wages of Fear". As it stands now, "Wages of Fear" is clearly better than "Les Diaboliques", in my opinion and has a much higher chance at achieving TOP 20 status.

RATING: 7/10  Can't go higher than "Wages of Fear" for reasons just mentioned, but still good and we continue to roll through a season filled with greatness. Here's hoping it keeps up!


February 15, 2013  10:22pm


  1. It took me until about halfway through to guess the twist, but even though I knew it was coming, I still enjoyed and the movie as a whole. I didn't know anything about this film before I watch it, so it didn't "wow" me like Wages of Fear, I was still pleasantly surprised by finding another great Clouzet film.

    1. REALLY need to seek out more Clouzot. Have you seen anymore of his work?

  2. I'm not at all surprised you like this one.. as you also like Hitchcock.. and it is the usual 'tag' to start off telling people what this is like.
    I've see 'Le Corbeau (The Raven)'..small French town where everyone keeps getting poison pen letters. Maybe not as tense as this, but good.
    'Qai des Orfevres' is a pretty decent crime thriller.. sort of noirish, but more akin to Brit 50's police / Scotlanfd yard' stuff.
    'The murderer lives at No 21'.. I have not seen but is supposed to be good and I would like to catch myself one day..

    Oh, yes, I really liked this one...

    1. "The Raven" is on the other list I'll be doing when I'm done with THE BOOK. I've added the others you mentioned to my watch list. Thanks Ray!


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