“Diabolique” Still Scares Us
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
You’ve seen all those horror movies where the seeming dead rise abruptly – making you jump out of your seat! – trying for one last gasp at revenge? Well, the grandmother of these frightfests is the French classic, “Les Diaboliques.”
“Diabolique” (as the title was shortened in the U.S.) will be playing Monday night at the Tropic Cinema as part of its weekly classic movie fare. After all, March has been dubbed Murder Month at the Tropic.
No, this is not the 1996 remake with Sharon Stone and Isabelle Adjani. Here’s the original 1955 black-and-white thriller that’s considered one of the Scariest Movies of All Times.
And the movie’s make-you-jump scene ranks #49 on Bravo’s list of 100 Scariest Movie Moments.
When both the wife and mistress of a school’s headmaster collaborate on his murder, it doesn’t go quite as planned. The body disappears from the murky swimming pool and the victim is spotted around the school by pupils and even shows up in the class photograph.
Directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot, this suspense masterpiece stars Simone Signoret, Véra Clouzot, and Paul Meurisse.
Brazilian-born Véra Clouzot was the director’s wife and star of three of his best films (“The Wages of Fear,” “Les Diaboliques,” and “Les Espions”).
However, Simone Signoret was the film’s draw. She later became the first French actor to win an Academy Award (for 1958’s “Room at the Top”).
Paul Meurisse appeared in over 60 films and stage productions, but his role as the cruel headmaster in “Diabolique” was the pinnacle of his career.
This nasty little tale was based on “Celle qui n'était plus,” a novel by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac. Alfred Hitchcock unsuccessfully tried to buy the film rights. The authors later wrote “D’Entre les Morts” for Hitch, which became the basis for “Vertigo.”
“Diabolique” did for bathtubs what Hitchcock’s “Psycho” would later do for showers.
The twist ending in “Diabolique” set the stage for such later films as M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Sixth Sense” and Martin Scorsese’s “Shutter Island.” Not to mention horror films from “Friday the 13th” to “Carrie.”
[from Solares Hill]