Following a near-fatal car crash, a man (Alain Delon) awakens in hospital with no memory of who he is. Whereupon beautiful Christiane (Senta Berger) arrives at his bedside claiming he is her husband, Georges Campo. And who is he to argue? Georges Campo seems to have it made: a luxurious mansion in the country, a successful business in the Far East, not to mention a drop-dead gorgeous wife. But though he recognises his old friend, Dr. Freddie Launay (Sergio Fantoni), the other details don’t add up. Georges no longer enjoys the same food, his wife is reluctant to sleep with him, his dog tries to attack him, while his Chinese manservant Kim (Peter Mosbacher) hovers suspiciously on the background. Freddie tries to treat Georges’ amnesia with drugs, but he is haunted by memories of a man named Pierre Lagrange. Then one night in bed, Georges hears voices urging him to commit suicide…
This groovy, giallo-style French thriller was the last film made by Julien Duvivier before his tragic death in a car crash. Duvivier was one of the pre-eminent filmmakers in the “poetic realist” style of the Thirties and Forties, feted by directors from Ingmar Bergman to Orson Welles for making classics like Pépé le Moko (1937). After a hit-and-miss Hollywood career, Duvivier returned to France with Panique (1947), a scathing and pessimistic drama that was poorly received at the time but well-regarded today. His outdated style fell afoul of the Cahiers du Cinema crowd but he returned to public, if not critical, favour with a string of comedies starring the popular comic actor Fernandel, including Le Diable et le dix commandments (1962) which also featured Alain Delon.
As farewells go, Diabolically Yours is pretty darn good, repackaging some of Duvivier’s darker, more pessimistic themes and motifs into more conventional mystery-thriller material. He masterfully turns the suspense screws with twists and turns feeding us new information and a dreamy, disorientating style of direction that befits the outlandish, Agatha Christie styled plot, spiced up by a handful of kinky touches. A key factor in its success is the starry double act of an almost ridiculously handsome Alain Delon and Senta Berger, one of the most beloved and beautiful of all Euro cult actresses. Berger appeared in what seemed like a hundred spy movies throughout the Sixties, ranging from the ridiculous (The Ambushers (1967) to the sublime (The Quiller Memorandum (1966)), yet always had the acting chops to match her sensational looks and flair for modelling far-out fashions. She remains an acclaimed actress to this day in her native Germany, appearing in critically rated dramas sadly unlikely to reach our shores.
Berger always excels at playing femme fatales with something to hide, but there is an added dimension in how Christiane’s little asides slowly add up to a portrait of Georges Campo as a far from kind and loving husband. She makes a great sparring partner for Delon who, refreshingly for this genre, is no dunce and remains suspicious throughout, gradually piecing his own mystery together. Though a little frivolous compared to more psychologically probing French mysteries like Delon’s classic Plein Soleil (1960), the story revolves around a strong idea. That of identity as being changeable, that when subject to outside influences one can be altered from one personality into another - an idea that reoccurs in the more obscure Euro-thriller Someone Behind the Door (1972), which underlines Duvivier’s influence as a filmmaker. Diabolically Yours is dated by its casual misogyny towards women and faint racism, but never delves into the offensive, and remains a suitably stylish and sexy thriller.