Diabolique (Les Diaboliques)

1955

Diabolique (Les Diaboliques)

Critics Consensus

Cruel, dark, but undeniably effective, Diabolique is a suspense thriller as effective as Hitchcock's best work and with a brilliant twist ending.

95%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 42

93%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 10,261
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Movie Info

The greatest film that Alfred Hitchcock never made, Henri-Georges Clouzot's Diabolique is set in a provincial boarding school run by headmaster Michel Delasalle (Paul Meurisse). A ruthless lothario, he becomes the target of a murder plot concocted by his long-suffering invalid wife Christina (Vera Clouzot, the director's own spouse) and his latest mistress, an icy teacher played by Simone Signoret. A dark, dank thriller with a much-imitated "shock" ending, Diabolique is a masterpiece of Grand Guignol suspense. The simple murder plot goes haywire, and Michel's corpse disappears, prompting strange rumors of his reappearance which grow more and more substantial as the film careens wildly towards its breathless conclusion. Later remade as a greatly inferior 1996 Hollywood feature with Sharon Stone and Isabelle Adjani. ~ Jason Ankeny, Rovi

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Critic Reviews for Diabolique (Les Diaboliques)

All Critics (42) | Top Critics (9)

Audience Reviews for Diabolique (Les Diaboliques)

  • Jun 20, 2017
    What a fantastic, smart, macabre thriller this is. Director Henri-Georges Clouzot doesn't waste any time getting us emotionally involved, with a man (Paul Meurisse) abusing both his wife (Véra Clouzot) and his openly acknowledged mistress (Simone Signoret), and in making it apparent that the two are plotting to kill him. Meurisse and Clouzot run a boarding school full of rowdy little boys, and Signoret is another of the teachers there. Meurisse is mean to everybody, so we certainly don't sympathize with him. I'm not going to spoil this film by describing anything else. Trust me, it's best you don't know any more. Just sit back and watch it unfold, and you'll be happy you did. I will say that it's got a couple of incredibly eerie scenes that are well worthy of the often overused adjective 'classic'. This one is not just Hitchcock-esque, it's right up there with that director's best work.
    Antonius B Super Reviewer
  • Apr 23, 2016
    Henri-Georges Clouzot's 1955 film "Les Diaboliques" is a psychological thriller based on the novel "Celle qui n'était plus" by Boileau-Narcejac. Clouzot snatched up the film rights right after finishing his 1953 film "The Wages of Fear" before Alfred Hitchcock could. Since Hitchcock couldn't secure the rights to this novel, he was able to secure the rights to Boileau-Narcejac's next novel "D'entre les morts" which became the film "Vertigo" in 1958. "Les Diaboliques" is considered a classic horror film and an inspiration to Hitchcock's "Psycho." The story involves two teachers at all boys boarding school who plot to murder the headmaster. Christina Delassalle (Vera Clouzot) is a kind, caring person who loves the children and is married to the headmaster Michel Delassalle (Paul Meurisse). Michel is having an affair with another teacher at the school named Nicole Horner (Simone Signoret). Michel is cruel to the children and to both his wife and mistress, this mistreatment allows Christina and Nicole to bond and develop a close friendship. Nicole is trying to convince Christina they need to get rid of Michel forever, perhaps the audience's introduction of Michel is overexagerrated, but at dinner when Christina is not hungry and trying to eat, Michel ridicules her in front of the other teachers and students by yelling at her to swallow her fish. After the dining room is left empty, Michel rapes Christina before the scene dissolves and she is leaving Michel asleep in bed. Christina has a look on her face of disgust and hatred and it is at that moment she agrees to murder Michel. Christina and Nicole head to her apartment in a small village and in an attempt to get Michel to come out there Christina threatens divorce. Nicole develops a plan where they would put a sedative in some alcohol and when he falls asleep throw him in a full bathtub and drown him. When Michel comes to the apartment, he notices the alcohol and wants to drink but Christina knocks it out of his hand and all over his suit. In an attempt to show his cruelty and force the situation, he slaps her and degrades her. Christina shows that same look as earlier in the film and pours him two more glasses of alcohol. Nicole and Christina then put him in the bathtub and put a mantle piece over him to submerge him in the water. They bring the body back to the schoolhouse in a large wicker basket and decide to dump his body in the neglected and dirty swimming pool hoping it would rise to the top and look like an accident. But things go amiss when that doesn't happen and out of desperation for all of it to end Christina demands that the swimming pool be emptied. When it is drained the body is missing. This is the beginning of strange events and occurences that lead to a surprising, but ultimately, unsatisfying ending. It is suggested that the school was struggling financially so Michel married Christina for her money. She is not French, but from Caracas. She may own the school but Michel runs it and buys cheap food to feed the kids. She is often described by many characters in the film as being weak and looking sick, she has heart problems and is very frail at times. It's less a horror film than it is a psychological thriller, but it's a very good film. There is not a dull moment in the film and the way guilt has consumed Christina is very compelling. She is portrayed as very religious and against the idea of divorce. Michel knew this was a bluff when he came to meet her at Nicole's apartment. Christina has a hard time lying and at times in the film you wonder if that would be her downfall, if her devotion to religion would consume her and lead to a confession.
    Joseph B Super Reviewer
  • Aug 20, 2014
    A great thriller built on an intriguing mystery and with a very unexpected ending, but I imagine how much more tense and engaging it would have been in Hitchcock's hands, as it feels a tad dry with its lack of score and doesn't create the sort of impact that it naturally should.
    Carlos M Super Reviewer
  • Apr 14, 2014
    Diabolique is a milestone in horror filmmaking and a wonderful look back at a time when filmmakers used suspense to frighten audiences, not cheap "boo" scares. Smartly made, chilling, and its ending is truly disturbing.
    Edward B Super Reviewer

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