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 Post subject: 35 Diabolique
PostPosted: Sat Feb 12, 2005 8:32 pm 

Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 8:53 pm
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Diabolique

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Before Psycho, Peeping Tom, and Repulsion, there was Diabolique. This thriller from Henri‑Georges Clouzot, which shocked audiences in Europe and the U.S., is the story of two women—the fragile wife and the willful mistress of a sadistic school headmaster—who hatch a daring revenge plot. With its unprecedented narrative twists and unforgettably scary images, Diabolique is a heart-grabbing benchmark in horror filmmaking, featuring outstanding performances by Simone Signoret, Vera Clouzot, and Paul Meurisse.

Disc Features

- New digital restoration (with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition)
- Selected-scene commentary by French-film scholar Kelley Conway
- New video interview with Serge Bromberg, codirector of Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Inferno
- New video interview with horror film expert Kim Newman
- New and improved English subtitle translation
- PLUS: A booklet featuring a new essay by film critic Terrence Rafferty

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PostPosted: Sun Aug 07, 2005 9:01 pm 
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Bosley Crowther's original review from the New York Times:
Quote:
It is easy to see why the distributors of H.-G. Clouzot's French film, Diabolique, which opened last night at the Fine Arts with a benefit premiere for the Herald Tribune Fresh Air Fund, are earnestly asking audiences not to reveal how it ends. For this is one of the dandiest mystery dramas that has shown here in goodness knows when. To tell anybody the surprises that explode like shotgun blasts in the last reel is a crime that should be punishable by consigning of the culprit to an endless diet of grade-B films.

And it isn't only in the last reel that the surprises and the excitement are in evidence. The morbid fascination starts building before the picture is ten minutes gone. By the time it is rolling toward a climax it is spreading the most delicious chills. It is a pip of a murder thriller, ghost story, and character play rolled into one.

True, at the start, it has the appearance of a typical French account of abnormality and sadism in a badly run boys private school. The headmaster is a tyrant who bullies the students, his sickly wife, and even his recognized mistress, who is one of the stoical teachers in the school. Everything seems to be set up for one of those ghastly little psychological tales of genteel mismating and frustration, when—bing!—the mischief begins.

First off, the wife and the mistress conspire to dispose of their mutual male, on the thoroughly acceptable conclusion that he is fit for nothing else but to be killed. And, in the coziest, clammiest fashion, they go about this interesting job, first drugging the old boy with tampered whiskey, then soaking him overnight, headdown, in a bathtub, and later dumping his soggy body in the school swimming pool. Anyone at all familiar with the grisly, morbid style of M. Clouzot, whose Wages of Fear was a recent manifestation, may have some notion of how enjoyably this is done. The wife's qualms and the mistress's tenacity add to the sport and the suspense.

But this is only the beginning—the setting of the stage, as it were. M. Clouzot is himself unrelenting where a murder and a conscience are concerned. When the wife's sense of guilt and anxiety become so taut at the end of a few days that she demands that the pool be drained so the body may be discovered, he rigs it so the body isn't there! It is gone, disappeared, evaporated! But how—and by whose hand? And what ghostly presence arranges that the suit the husband was wearing is delivered, neatly pressed, the next day?

From here on the writer-director plunges us into a pool of blood-chilling mystifications and suffocating dreads. Who is the strange, unshaven fellow the wife encounters at the morgue when she goes to look at a body that has been fished out of the Seine? Why does one of the younger students insist that he has seen "the Head"? Whose shadowy face is that at a window in a recent school photograph?

Don't expect us to tell the secrets of this diabolical film. We wouldn't think of marring your pleasure of the series of neat surprises at the end. Let us merely assure you that the writing and the visual construction are superb, and the performance by top-notch French actors on the highest level of sureness and finesse.

Vera Clouzot, the wife of the director, is a bundle of quivering nerves as the wife in the tale, and Simone Signoret is swift and icy as the mistress who plans everything. Paul Meurisse as the husband, Charles Vanel as the man at the morgue, and Pierre Larquey as a foolish old schoolteacher are tops among the males. The settings are sharply realistic. This could be a journalistic account of a particularly gruesome murder mystery.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Mar 08, 2008 6:51 pm 

Joined: Sat Oct 20, 2007 8:16 am
Any chance that a better edition of this classic might be forthcoming?

I'd really like to add this film to my collection, but I'm hesitant to shell out for the current Criterion edition.

Has it been rumored or hinted at all?


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Mar 08, 2008 6:55 pm 
Dot Com Dom
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isn't the R2 supposed to be the cat's pyjamas?
EDIT: and the R2 is almost 70% off right now at Amazon.co.uk


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Mar 08, 2008 7:02 pm 

Joined: Sat Oct 20, 2007 8:16 am
Well a revisited and updated Criterion would be ideal and surely better that release...


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Mar 08, 2008 8:33 pm 
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The R2 release from Arrow is very good, and the transfer is a little sharper than the Criterion. Susan Hayward's commentary is largely perceptive and informative, but tails off towards the end. I'd suggest reading her book instead.


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 09, 2008 6:27 am 

Joined: Sat Oct 20, 2007 8:16 am
I was just looking at screen cap comparisons between the two and didn't think it was such a significant improvement. It still looks pretty weak to me and the only thing it really has going for it is the commentary track. It could certainly be done up with a much more fitting release and improved transfer.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Mar 09, 2008 2:00 pm 
Dot Com Dom
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With three releases a month and many other films that are gonna get a re-issue first, I can almost guarantee you'll never see another edition of this. It's fine if you don't wanna buy the R2 but not picking it up because Criterion might reissue is sort of naively speculative.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Jun 08, 2008 9:39 pm 
Dot Com Dom
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Recently watched my R2 edition of this after being reminded of the film from the Spoiler Alert thread-- maybe it's just a product of me having watched a lot of mysteries lately, but I sadly figured out the twist like 2/3 of the way through. I kept wanting to be wrong because it's such a ridiculous twist, but I couldn't come up with any other answer and was eventually proven correct.


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 Post subject: Re: 35 Diabolique
PostPosted: Sat Nov 29, 2008 8:36 pm 

Joined: Wed Nov 26, 2008 2:52 am
Is this due up for re-release anytime soon? I love this film but I am on the verge of purchasing the Criterion.


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 Post subject: Re: 35 Diabolique
PostPosted: Sun Nov 30, 2008 1:21 am 
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this doesn't need a rerelease as bad as Le Corbeau. I just wish they would keep Le Corbeau's artwork. It has my favorite cover.


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 Post subject: Re: 35 Diabolique
PostPosted: Sun Nov 30, 2008 1:35 am 
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aox wrote:
this doesn't need a rerelease as bad as Le Corbeau. I just wish they would keep Le Corbeau's artwork. It has my favorite cover.

Le Corbeau is a much more recent disc than Diabolique. It has a few supplements, and probably looks as good as its going to withut a major restoration. Unfortunately, it's a moot point since Criterion has lost the rights to Le Corbeau.

Diabolique has no supplements at all and is one of Criterion's earliest releases. It is likely a top candidate for reissue.


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 Post subject: Re:
PostPosted: Fri Jun 05, 2009 7:09 am 
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domino harvey wrote:
Recently watched my R2 edition of this after being reminded of the film from the Spoiler Alert thread-- maybe it's just a product of me having watched a lot of mysteries lately, but I sadly figured out the twist like 2/3 of the way through. I kept wanting to be wrong because it's such a ridiculous twist, but I couldn't come up with any other answer and was eventually proven correct.

Well, I watched this for the first time last night, and I must admit that I didn't figure out the twist at all. And when it came, it left me baffled in a way I seldom experienced before. I can't go into details as that would involve spoilers and I'm heeding Clouzot's advice not to give away the ending, but I didn't find it ridiculous, as in retrospect it totally fitted everything established in the film before. I only wonder how often you can re-watch the film after knowing the ending. Does it still function - like every Hitchcock film does on repeated viewings - or does the enormous suspense arise only from being as helpless as the characters in figuring out what is actually going on? Of course there's much to rave about here as far as acting and visuals are concerned, but I somehow assume that a second viewing would basically be concerned with looking for the clues you missed on first viewing. And I'm not sure whether there are any.


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 Post subject: Re: 35 Diabolique
PostPosted: Fri Jun 05, 2009 7:16 am 
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The wonderful thing about the ending (or at least the climax) is that, like the best of Hitchcock, it's so brilliantly constructed to ratchet up the suspense that it doesn't matter whether what happens is plausible or not. I've seen it about five times and it always scares me shitless - the more often you watch it, the more you appreciate the technique and forget about the logic. Most of the best suspense movies are like that, I think, and their effectiveness probably depends on how much the viewer wants to go along for the ride.

And no I didn't figure it out, but then I never do.


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 Post subject: Re: 35 Diabolique
PostPosted: Fri Jun 05, 2009 7:42 am 
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Sloper wrote:
I've seen it about five times and it always scares me shitless - the more often you watch it, the more you appreciate the technique and forget about the logic. Most of the best suspense movies are like that, I think, and their effectiveness probably depends on how much the viewer wants to go along for the ride.

That reassures me :-) However, my point was more or less that I didn't have to make the usual suspension of disbelief here; once the ending arrived, it seemed totally logical and plausible for me. Just as Domino said above: it's the only possible answer, and in retrospect I wonder why I didn't figure it out; but probably, as you say, I wanted to go along for the ride and be captured by the story itself. A good lesson on viewer manipulation, of course, but sometimes it's precisely what I want, especially with a director like Clouzot. I expected very much that it would be a great ride after seeing the three other films in the Collection, so I gave him free rein, and wasn't disappointed.


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 Post subject: Re: 35 Diabolique
PostPosted: Fri Jun 05, 2009 1:48 pm 

Joined: Tue Feb 05, 2008 8:54 pm
I've seen some very "lively" debates about the *ending* of Les Diaboliques (as opposed to the climax).


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 Post subject: Re:
PostPosted: Fri Jun 05, 2009 2:06 pm 

Joined: Tue Mar 10, 2009 3:32 pm
domino harvey wrote:
With three releases a month and many other films that are gonna get a re-issue first, I can almost guarantee you'll never see another edition of this. It's fine if you don't wanna buy the R2 but not picking it up because Criterion might reissue is sort of naively speculative.

What are you basing this on, exactly?

- That they haven't been in full-tilt re-release mode for the past 5 years?
- That Diabolique isn't important in cinema history?
- That they haven't re-released a Clouzot film before?
- That Criterion shows no love for Clouzot films?


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 Post subject: Re:
PostPosted: Sat Jul 03, 2010 11:08 am 
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domino harvey wrote:
Recently watched my R2 edition of this after being reminded of the film from the Spoiler Alert thread-- maybe it's just a product of me having watched a lot of mysteries lately, but I sadly figured out the twist like 2/3 of the way through. I kept wanting to be wrong because it's such a ridiculous twist, but I couldn't come up with any other answer and was eventually proven correct.

You mean you figured out
[Reveal] Spoiler:
that Christina faked her heart attack and manipulated everything?

I never tire from reviewing this. There are many subtle clues that you will enjoy on revisits - mannerisms, eye movements.... It really is a fast paced film, isn't it? The dialogue is a revelation each time I see it.


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 Post subject: Re: 35 Diabolique
PostPosted: Sat Jul 03, 2010 11:46 am 

Joined: Fri Jun 11, 2010 11:04 pm
See, the first time I watched this, I went in not knowing anything about it -- so the climax, needless to say, was climactic. Sweaty palms, heart palpitations, all the good stuff. The second time, however, I was expecting, at least some amount of frisson, if not at the same level as the 1st time. Nothing. Maybe it's the inability to suspend disbelief or just sheer love of Signoret's eyebrows, but it just didn't hold up (for me) as well the 2nd time.


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 Post subject: Re: 35 Diabolique
PostPosted: Wed Nov 03, 2010 3:43 pm 
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I've rented this from the library and the subtitle keeps freezing up at the photograph (One, two. Thank You...) I've tried resetting the subtitles and turning my player off and on, but it still sticks.


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 Post subject: Re: 35 Diabolique
PostPosted: Mon Nov 22, 2010 11:43 am 
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The subs in a few instances refer to Michel as Miguel (6 minutes in when Nicole takes off the sunglasses, at 8:35 when Christina asks "Miguel, what's the matter?") Is this intentional?

Also, are we supposed to sense something sapphic between the two women? The Sharon Stone one certainly suggests it. Here the "break up" scene could maybe serve as a hint.


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 Post subject: Re: 35 Diabolique
PostPosted: Mon Nov 22, 2010 1:05 pm 
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Venom wrote:
The Sharon Stone one certainly suggests it.

That probably had more to do with exploiting Stone's Basic Instinct image than further developing the story. It's probably been around 9 or 10 years since I saw the original, but I don't remember getting that impression. It wouldn't really make much sense to me, given the ending.


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 Post subject: Re: 35 Diabolique
PostPosted: Mon Feb 14, 2011 8:46 pm 
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Comparing Criterion and Arrow's extras, I guess they have the same commentary, but different interviews. They both sound equally good, and I'm surprised Arrow announced it as region free.


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 Post subject: Re: 35 Diabolique
PostPosted: Mon Feb 14, 2011 9:40 pm 
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manicsounds wrote:
Comparing Criterion and Arrow's extras, I guess they have the same commentary, but different interviews. They both sound equally good, and I'm surprised Arrow announced it as region free.
I think the commentary on Arrows is different, by Susan Hayward.


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 Post subject: Re: 35 Diabolique
PostPosted: Tue Feb 15, 2011 4:17 am 
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Yes, this will make for an interesting Beaver comparison. The Arrow release comes out a month earlier. If it is indeed region-free, and if the transfers are the same, the Arrow release looks better to me. The supplements on that disc are:

* Audio commentary with Susan Hayward, author of Les diaboliques (Cine-file French Film Guides)
* Filmed interview with Ginette Vincendeau, French cinema scholar, critic and author
* Original trailer
* Booklet including brand new writing on the film by author and critic Brad Stevens and an interview with Clouzot by Paul Schrader illustrated with stills and rare original set drawings by Léon Barsacq


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