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The Critics' Corner: DIABOLIQUE

Awards and Honors:

Diabolique won the Le Prix Louis-Delluc Prize for 1954.

Diabolique was awarded Best Foreign Film by The New York Film Critics Circle and the Special Edgar for Best Foreign Film at The Edgar Allan Poe awards.

The Critics' Corner on DIABOLIQUE

"...this is one of the dandiest mystery dramas that has shown here in goodness knows when. To tell anybody the surprises that explode like shotgun blasts in the last reel is a crime that should be punishable by consigning of the culprit to an endless diet of grade-B films. And it isn't only in the last reel that the surprises and the excitement are in evidence. The morbid fascination starts building before the picture is ten minutes gone. By the time it is rolling toward a climax it is spreading the most delicious chills. It is a pip of a murder thriller, ghost story and character play rolled into one." - Bosley Crowther, The New York Times, 1955

"As with Wages of Fear [1953], Henri Clouzot has given us suspense, tension and a touch of the macabre with his new film Les Diaboliques (The Fiends)... It is not until the last few feet of the picture that one learns the full significance of the title, The Fiends. The plot is full of ingenious twists. Henri Clouzot's direction is excellent. He builds the tension throughout, and gives the story and characters - well played by his wife, Simone Signoret and Paul Meurisse - a depth and plausibility which they easily could have lacked." - Robert A. Pollock, Films and Filming, 1956.

"Henri-Georges Clouzot's cool, clammy, twisty 1955 thriller Diabolique is an almost perfect movie about a very nearly perfect murder, a film in which the artist's methods and the killers' are ideally matched, equal in cunning and in ruthlessness. The screenplay, adapted by Clouzot and three other writers from a novel by the crack French crime-fiction team of Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac, is a fantastically elaborate piece of contrivance, but the scrupulous realism of the direction makes the unnatural tale somehow feel entirely likely." - Terrence Rafferty, Criterion Collection

"Famed director of suspense Henri-Georges Clouzot transposed a mystery novel (two lesbian lovers plot to kill one of the pair's commercial traveler husband) into a sensational melodrama abetted by chilling sound effects and Armand Thirard's murky photography." - James Reid Paris, The Great French Films

"Henri-Georges Clouzot's 1955 thriller, now re-released in a restored print, however, accomplishes much more, creating a diabolical double-reverse plot that keeps the audience guessing right up to the thoroughly implausible final scene." - Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times, 1995.

"Diabolique is exhilarating at first viewing, and proved to be both commercially successful and controversial on its first release. For most critics, however, the contrivance of the ending renders a second viewing meaningless, since it underlines the film's remoteness from a livid reality and even makes Clouzot's deeply felt black vision seem trite and superficial." - Roy Armes, Film

"Diabolique, like many of Clouzot's movies, is really a caustic, despairing character study masquerading as a thriller. It conjures an atmosphere of suffocating rot that's so palpable, in fact, that the murder plot is in many ways its least disturbing element....So the film, which has empathy for no one, offers the somewhat unpleasant sensation of watching mice navigate a maze that has no cheese. You watch Diabolique with a detached fascination, and Clouzot has been criticized for the tendency his films have to trigger this kind of response." - Chuck Bowen, Slant Magazine

"Classic chiller builds slowly, surely to final quarter hour that will drive you right up the wall. A must." - Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide

Compiled by Greg Ferrara



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