Les Diaboliques / Diabolique / The Devils / The Fiends (1955)

This is another one of those films where I had no real idea what the plot was and only watched it because I had an inkling that I had heard of it before in some context and it was somehow interesting. It’s always a bit of a gamble, but usually my instincts prove out be trustworthy in these instances, as was the case with Les Diaboliques. This film is a curious blend of film noir and horror and it’s that symbiosis of the two that makes it such an irresistible classic. The tension is built up masterfully through small but intricate scenes and Clouzot knows exactly when to add a new twist or an element to spice up the narrative. We see that done masterfully multiple times in the film, in such scenes as the drunkard soldier trying to get inside the car where the body is hidden, someone going to the bathroom just as the women are about to dump the body in the pool, the retired detective getting involved by offering his services to locate the missing husband, etc. It keeps the suspense alive and engrossing as the missing body mystery becomes slowly more and more bizarre, culminating in the grand finale when everything is finally revealed is a shocking twist.

It was curious to find out Alfred Hitchcock had tried to get the rights to the story but failed. Les Diaboliques is so good that it’s hard to even fathom what Hitch’s version would have been like and whether or not it could be surpassed or simply be as good as the Clouzot version. I can see Hitchcock doing it, but then it becomes a game of nuances where the differences start to build up and it’s very hard to lean one way or another.

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