Criterion Collection has upgraded and re-released their excellent edition of
Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Diabolique
(officially titled Les Diaboliques—The Devils—but it’s been known simply as
Diabolique in America since it’s 1955 release), issuing the film with a new digitally
restored edition on DVD and for the first time on Blu-ray. Based on a novel by
Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac, the pair of mystery/thriller writers who
provided Alfred Hitchcock with the basis for Vertigo,Diabolique was a
project that the master of suspense almost filmed himself. In fact, Hitchcock
had bought the rights, but Clouzot snatched them immediately after making The Wages of Fear in 1953. Needless to
say, Diabolique is just the sort of
thing Hitchcock would have done well—but Clouzot did it exceptionally well.
a truly suspenseful chiller that takes place at a children’s boarding school in
France. The place is run by a strict, mean headmaster and his timid, fragile
wife (with a heart problem, and she’s wonderfully played by the director’s
wife, Vera Clouzot). Added in the mix is a forceful teacher, played by Simone
Signoret, who conspires with the wife to kill off the headmaster so that they
can inherit the school and run it together.
don’t go as they plan.
masterfully sucks the viewer in to an intricate plot in which nothing is really
as it seems. And, yes, there is a surprise ending. In fact, Diabolique was the first movie to warn
viewers not to reveal the ending, several years before Hitchcock stole the
marketing concept for Psycho.
new Criterion edition contains selected scene commentary by French film scholar
Kelley Conway. Extras include an excellent new video interview and analysis by
film critic and novelist Kim Newman, and a new video introduction by Serge
Bromberg, director of a Clouzot documentary (Inferno). While the Bromberg introduction suffers from, perhaps,
being lost in translation—nothing Bromberg says makes any sense (“Clouzot
places his film in a box and invites the audience to join him in that
box…”)—the Newman video is insightful and explores the many layers of the film.
Bromberg also makes the claim that Clouzot is one of the top ten directors in
the history of cinema. While Clouzot was certainly a master of his craft and a
great storyteller, that claim is, well, a stretch. The enclosed booklet, always
a Criterion showpiece, features an essay by film critic Terrence Rafferty. The
black and white photography by Armand Thirard is more akin to the Universal
horror films of the 30s and the German expressionists of the 20s. Since the
transfer is absolutely gorgeous and crystal sharp, the picture is visually
turn out the lights, sit back, huddle with your loved one, and watch this
wonderfully frightening crime thriller—told by a master.