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Panique: French Crime Classics: “Les Diaboliques” (1955) ★★★★★


Alfred Hitchcock made so many great suspense films but it’s surprising to know LES DIABOLIQUE was not made by him. In fact, Henri-Georges Clouzot’s piece is considered one of Hitchcock’s  favorites. That said, the 1955 version of adaptation of Pierre Boilleau’s novel stands the test of time where the horror and chilling atmosphere is what is missing in films nowadays that’s require to terrify horror movie lovers.

The synopsis of DIABLOLIQUE may sound like a cliché (but remember, there was no such term widely used back then), where the cruel headmaster terrorizes his current wife, and the mistress is seeking for a avenge. How to plot murder and the body soon after disappears. Well, that’s what exactly happens in the movie, however, this was just a little piece of the puzzle that’s solved by two women and a very engaged audience.

Considered as one of the top rated movies, it begins with the same headmaster, Michel Delassaile (Paul Meurisse) who verbally and physically abuses his wife Christina. He even makes her to swallow a not so delicious dish in front of everyone, allowing even the children to watch if she can manage it. So she did. But that was not enough to satisfy Michel’s appetite for violence and punishes her in the same dining room later on. Fed up and angry, Christina agrees with Nicole’s (Simone Signoret) proposal to kill him.

At first Christina hesitates, but when Michel fails to convince his wife not divorcing and on top of that hits her again, (if that happens he may lose a fortune), Christina allows him to drink up the wine that contains sleeping pills. What happens afterwards occurs to be a perfect murder crime committed by two desperate women who at any cost wanted to free themselves from the tyranny of Michel. However, the same plan falls apart when they realize that the body they expected to be found next day disappears and strange and scary things start to happen.

It’s fascinating how well LES DIABOLIQUE was directed. It holds the viewer’s breath, makes them sit on the edge of their seat, but more importantly, cleverly uses the required technique to ensure the same viewer will be afraid the entire movie. It’s an excellent classic movie with a great package of suspense delivering what every horror film must do. It’s an extraordinary piece of filmmaking, pure masterpiece and genuine to its craft. Certainly, having a stellar cast of all time lead by an Academy Award winner Simone Signoret, this film is another reminder to all of us why it’s important to see movies like LES DIABOLIQUE, love them and cherish as a rarity that any history or timeline will ever be able to repeat the same success.

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