Newest Reviews
Dying to Divorce
Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn
Trouble with Being Born, The
Last Matinee, The
Strings, The
Free Hand for a Tough Cop
People Just Do Nothing: Big in Japan
Dear Future Children
Accidental Luxuriance of the Translucent Watery Rebus
Thin Red Line, The
Petite Maman
Fast & Furious 9
Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat
Sweet Thing
Father, The
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
Night House, The
Father of Flies
80,000 Years Old
Dead & Beautiful
Whisker Away, A
Wild Indian
Whale Island
Chuck Steel: Night of the Trampires
Don't Breathe 2
Closing Time
Weathering with You
Rim of the World
Love & Basketball
JLA Adventures: Trapped in Time
Newest Articles
The Punk Rock Movie: Out of the Blue on Blu-ray
Yeah, Too Quiet: The Great Silence on Blu-ray
Vestron Double Bill: Dementia 13 and The Wraith
Farewell Dean Stockwell: His Years of Weirdness
Kung Fu Craft: Cinematic Vengeance! on Blu-ray
999 Letsbe Avenue: Gideon's Way on Blu-ray
Hungary for Cartoons: Hungarian Animations on MUBI
You Have No Choice: Invasion of the Body Snatchers on Blu-ray
You Can't Tame What's Meant to Be Wild: The Howling on Blu-ray
Commendably Brief: Short Sharp Shocks Vol. 2 on Blu-ray
Super Silents: Early Universal Vol. 2 on Blu-ray
Fable Fear: The Singing Ringing Tree on Blu-ray
Gunsight Eyes: The Sabata Trilogy on Blu-ray
Bloody Bastard Baby: The Monster/I Don't Want to Be Born on Blu-ray
Night of the Animated Dead: Director Jason Axinn Interview
The ParaPod: A Very British Ghost Hunt - Interview with Director/Star Ian Boldsworth
On the Right Track: Best of British Transport Films Vol. 2
The Guns of Nutty Joan: Johnny Guitar on Blu-ray
Intercourse Between Two Worlds: Twin Peaks Fire Walk with Me/The Missing Pieces on Blu-ray
Enjoy the Silents: Early Universal Vol. 1 on Blu-ray
Masterful: The Servant on Blu-ray
70s Sitcom Dads: Bless This House and Father Dear Father on Blu-ray
Going Under: Deep Cover on Blu-ray
Child's Play: Children's Film Foundation Bumper Box Vol. 3 on DVD
Poetry and Motion: Great Noises That Fill the Air on DVD
  Diaboliques, Les They Shalt Not Kill
Year: 1955
Director: Henri-Georges Clouzot
Stars: Simone Signoret, Véra Clouzot, Paul Meurisse, Charles Vanel, Jean Brochard, Thérèse Dorny, Michel Serrault, Georges Chamarat, Robert Dalban, Camille Guérini, Jacques Hilling, Jean Lefebvre, Aminda Montserrat, Jean Témerson, Jacques Varennes
Genre: Horror, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  9 (from 2 votes)
Review: At this rather impoverished, rundown boy's boarding school, one of the teachers, Nicole Horner (Simone Signoret), and the headmistress, Christina Delasalle (Véra Clouzot), have an unusual arrangement concerning the headmaster Michel Delasalle (Paul Meurisse), who happens to be Christina's husband. Although he is brazenly carrying on an affair with Nicole, his wife remains best friends with her as they both have the same problem, which is him, since he is violently abusive to each woman, but Christina being a staunch Catholic cannot divorce him, and Nicole frankly needs the job and would not leave her pal to the mercy of Michel. To that end she has a plan, and lets Christina in on it: how about they get the source of their trouble to a boarding house out of town, and put him to sleep... forever?

You cannot underestimate the power Les Diaboliques had when it was first released in the mid-nineteen-fifties, for the ingenious twist ending may not have been invented here, but it was undoubtedly popularised by it. The Master of Suspense Alfred Hitchcock was a great admirer, though that may have been tempered by the fact he had been seeking the rights to the original novel himself and was beaten to them by Frenchman Henri-Georges Clouzot, something of a master too in the field of thrillers; as compensation, the writers penned the book that became Vertigo for Hitch, a film that is even better thought of than this. Yet this is significantly more fun, a macabre romp through murder and subterfuge with a deceptive sense of flair.

Deceptive because it's only when you reach that final act that you realise how well you have been drawn in to the plot. Until then it may seem as if it has been dragged out too long, yet Clouzot knew what he was doing, and by tormenting the two ladies at the heart of it he was crafting what amounted to a cruel, almost blackly comic parable of how there is no such thing as justifiable homicide. Christina's piety is referenced often, and arguably it is she who suffers the most as guilt becomes the overriding sensation the director was playing with, therefore no matter how much it appeared as if her absolute cad of a husband deserved what was coming to him, could she really tell us she had done the right thing in preserving her small fortune and sanity by bumping him off?

The killing wasn't even her idea, and right up to the point the deed is carried out she isn't sure whether she'll allow Michel to drink the poison-laced whisky. Nevertheless, we are pointed in the direction of believing he got his unavoidable fate thanks to his bullying behaviour, beating up Nicole and raping his wife (offscreen) in a manner suggesting these are not isolated incidents: we're in no doubt something has to be done, but once Michel has been drowned in the boarding house bathtub, Clouzot begins to needle both us and the ladies with the nagging feeling there had to be another way. One with less murder, basically, since there is patently some stern deity glaring down at Nicole and Christina and set to punish them with the hard to shift thought they are being haunted by a now-vengeful spectre, one who is determined to get his own back.

The atmosphere was sleazy from the get go, with the school populated by children more like the nastier side of Zéro de Conduite than obedient little boys, plotting away for vandalism or taking money to see sisters naked in the bathroom. The teachers are under the thumb of Michel, and obviously there because nobody else would have them, they're certainly not much good at keeping order and you imagine their lessons are useless, but the headmaster allows it since he has a very comfortable set up here. Once he is out of the picture and dumped in the swimming pool (or is he?) his killers try to carry on, but the burden of murdering even a despicable individual brings down an unearthly wrath upon them, most blatantly in the hauntings, but also in the person of the proto-Columbo Inspector Fichet (the much-respected Charles Vanel) who sniffs about after the dead body and seems to have everyone sussed. Alas, this was so influential these days you may be in the same position, those imitators having dulled the impact - ah, but that final sequence commands undeniable force. Music by Georges Van Parys.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


This review has been viewed 2475 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film


Henri-Georges Clouzot  (1907 - 1977)

French director, responsible for some now classic thrillers. Originally a screenwriter, Clouzot's debut film was L'Assassin Habite Au 21 in 1942, which he followed by the controversial The Raven. Its harsh portrayal of small-town France was considered unpatriotic, and Clouzot was barred from working in France for five years.

Clouzot returned with the thriller Jenny Lamour and powerful Manon, before 1953's brilliant white-knuckle-ride The Wages of Fear became a big international success. Les Diaboliques, two years later, proved even more popular, and is still considered one of the greatest psychological thrillers ever made. Inevitably Clouzot's subsequent work paled in comparison to these masterpieces, and ill-health dogged the director throughout the rest of his career. However, the likes of The Spies, The Truth (with Brigitte Bardot) and his final film La Prisonniere remain distinctive, often disturbing movies.

Review Comments (0)

Untitled 1

Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.

Latest Poll
Which star probably has psychic powers?
Laurence Fishburne
Nicolas Cage
Anya Taylor-Joy
Patrick Stewart
Sissy Spacek
Michelle Yeoh
Aubrey Plaza
Tom Cruise
Beatrice Dalle
Michael Ironside

Recent Visitors
Graeme Clark
Darren Jones
Andrew Pragasam
Jason Cook
Enoch Sneed
  Desbris M
  Paul Tuersley
  Chris Garbutt


Last Updated: