Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Forgotten Movies: DIABOLIQUE



Not exactly forgotten, but perhaps not seen in a long time. This is a cracking good suspense film made in 1955. Simone Signoret, Vera Clouzot, and Paul Meurisse play a violent schoolmaster, his frail wife and his sexy mistress, all employed at the same school and caught up in a deadly game. The details are perfect, the suspense, palpable. Henri-Geogres Clouzot directed his wife and she is pitch perfect as the fragile vessel. Simone, only in her early thirties, seems much older. Is it the hair style?

The detective does not make an appearance until the final third of the film and is very Columbo-ish. But there is nothing light-hearted here except for the antics of the school children in the background.

The same writing team (Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac) wrote VERTIGO. One so French, the other so Californian.

The nineties remake lacks the atmosphere, tension, everything.  See the real thing.

16 comments:

Bill Crider said...

My aunt told me about this one when I was a little kid, and I never forgot it. I finally got to see it a good many years later. Great stuff.

Margot Kinberg said...

Patti - Oh, a very good choice for this meme. Even the title is suitably eerie...

Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

Probably the most influential film of its type along with PSYCHO and just as great a movie - although blackly comic, it really does reserve its humour only for the final fade out ...

Anonymous said...

Absolutely. A classic. Clouzot also made the great WAGES OF FEAR the year before this.

Besides the 90's remake Patti mentioned there was a somewhat better TV-movie version in 1974 called REFLECTIONS OF MURDER, starring Tuesday Weld, Joan Hackett and Sam Waterston.

Jeff M.

Anonymous said...

Just saw it again a few weeks ago--thought I'd have a heart attack myself during the "bathtub" scene. Yikes!

Deb

pattinase (abbott) said...

Yes, because I had forgotten the "thing" about that scene.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Joan Hackett and Tuesday Weld were such interesting actors.

George said...

Patti, you're right about the original DIABOLIQUE. The remake is very disappointing.

Charles Gramlich said...

I've heard much about it but never seen it. I'm going to try to make an effort to catch it.

Dan_Luft said...

This is on almost everyone's list of great Hitchcock movies not made by Hitchcock. Love it. Haven't seen it in a few years.

Anders E said...

I was 9 when I saw this on TV back in 1972. What were my parents thinking? Absolutely brilliant nevertheless, and I've seen it many times.

AFAIK Boileau & Narcejac wrote the novel with the specific intention of selling it to Hitchcock. That fell through, but then they hit paydirt with VERTIGO. My impression of B & N is that they were good ideas men - they could come up with some very interesting plot ideas - but they were not very good writers. Both DIABOLIQUE and VERTIGO are so much better than the novels they are based on.

And isn't Paul Meurisse as the principal one of the most loathsome characters in film history?

Ron Scheer said...

How could a remake improve on this film. It's already perfect.

Anders E said...

The french were (are?) very good doing their own Hitchcock movies. Check out Francois Truffaut's last movie, FINALLY SUNDAY. It's an adaption of Charles Williams' THE LONG SATURDAY NIGHT but more humorous than the novel (and certainly much more than DIABOLIQUE). The best line comes from the mistress of the murder victim:

"Sure he was my lover. But I don't feel sorry about him being dead. He made love like an umbrella."

Only in France, only in France...

Ed Gorman said...

A massive career in two movies-DIABOLIQUE. and WAGES OF FEAR. But I like William Freidkins version of "Wages" too. The savaged it but it's finally getting its sue. The final scene is the most startling I've ever seen. It actually gave me body length chills.

John said...

First time I saw this was as the TV movie version Jeff mentions. As a teen in the 1970s it left a very lasting impact on me. Very chilling. Joan Hackett is extremely good as another of her many tortured/neurotic women.

The original is, of course, the best. I did also see the Sharon Stone/Kathy Bates remake and -- thankfully -- have forgotten every single frame in my usually cluttered warehouse of a movie memory. It's one of those remakes that never should've been made.

Loren Eaton said...

Already on my Netflix queue, Patti. Looking forward to seeing it.