Les Diaboliques

Rated at number 4 on the imdb horror chart I very nearly gave up on this film. But my perseverance was rewarded eventually with some classic suspense and thriller that, rumour has it, inspired Hitchcock’s approach to Psycho. Directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot, it tells the story of how a woman and her husband’s mistress kill said husband and dispose of his body in the swimming pool of the boarding school they run. But at some point the body disappears from the pool leaving the two women frantic and confused. Enter a French version of Columbo (complete with mac and smoking habit) whose probing investigation unnerves them. Add some unexplained sightings of the deceased and things begin to look very grim.
The first half hour was excruciatingly slow and with my finger poised to stop the film, I waited patiently. But, rest assured, once the murder is committed the story picks up and continues at a much better pace. By the end of the film you’ll be impressed by the suspense and tension created. And you can see the influence this film has had on other great classics. The murky waters of the pool reminiscent of the car being extricated from the swamp in Psycho. Also the use of a typewriter to eerie effect later echoed in The Shining.
In a time when most horror is sensationalised to the point of saturation, this film serves a reminder of how the basics can be just as good or even, if left in the right hands, better. I noted that at some key moments of suspense, no music or extra sound effects were used. Just good old fashioned silence. I didn’t need anymore. Similarly the acting from the leads was never OTT. In fact, I found it frustrating having to read the subtitles at the expense of watching some great performances. But that’s not the film’s fault.
All in all, a good one for a dark rainy afternoon in front of the telly.

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