Written by: Michael Den Boer on April 23rd, 2011
Theatrical Release Date: France, 1955
Director: Henri-Georges Clouzot
Writers: Henri-Georges Clouzot, Jérôme Géronimi, René Masson, Frédéric Grendel
Cast: Simone Signoret, Véra Clouzot, Paul Meurisse, Charles Vanel
BluRay released: April 18th, 2011
Approximate running times: 116 Minutes (BluRay), 112 Minutes (DVD)
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Full Frame / 1080 Progressive (BluRay), 1.33:1 Full Frame (DVD)
Rating: 15 (UK)
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono French
BluRay Release: Arrow Academy
Region Coding: Coding: Region Free (BluRay), Region 0 PAL (DVD)
Retail Price: £14.99
Les Diaboliques was co-written and directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot, who’s other notable films include Le Corbeau, The Wages of Fear and Quai Des Orfevres. The screenplay for Les Diaboliques was adapted from ‘Celle qui n’était plus’ a novel that was co-written by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac, under the pen name Boileau-Narcejac. They also co-wrote the novel ‘D’entre les morts’, which Alfred Hitchcock directed an adaptation of this novel in 1958 titled Vertigo.
5 years before Alfred Hitchcock would ask the audience not to reveal the ending to now iconic Psycho. Henri-Georges Clouzot would direct what is arguably the greatest suspense film ever made Les Diaboliques. And just like the aforementioned Psycho, a lot of Les Diaboliques potency relies on its ending. So it should not come as a surprise that Alfred Hitchcock was also interested in acquiring the novel from which Les Diaboliques.
Stylistically the cinema of Henri-Georges Clouzot’s has often been compared to that of Alfred Hitchcock and this comparison is more apparent with Les Diaboliques, than any other film from his filmography. And while there are many parallels that can be drawn between the films of Henri-Georges Clouzot and the films of Alfred Hitchcock stylistically. The biggest difference between these two filmmakers is how Alfred Hitchcock’s films often employ comic relief, while Henri-Georges Clouzot’s film’s drive home the more nihilistic sides of human nature.
Not to be overlooked are the strong performances from this film’s three leads, Véra Clouzot in the role of the wife, Simone Signoret in the role of the mistress and Paul Meurisse in the role of the husband. With the most surprising of these three performances coming from Véra Clouzot, who’s brief filmography is limited to only three films (all three films were directed by her husband Henri-Georges Clouzot). She gives a pitch perfect performance of a woman of the verge of nervous breakdown.
Anchored by a solid premise, Les Diaboliques does a superb job setting up who everyone is and what their motivations are. This opening setup also plays perfectly into this film’s uses of deception to draw attention away from where things are ultimately going to end up. Without giving away to much about the plot, let’s just say that you should not trust everything that is in front of you. Since there is so much going on just beyond the surface.
Les Diaboliques comes on a 25 GB single layer BluRay. The film is given a 1080 progressive transfer that retains its original aspect ratio. The source used for this transfer is in great shape. Contrast and black levels look consistently strong throughout. Outside of a few minor moments, details generally look crisp. There are no problems with compression and DNR is kept in check.
This release comes with one audio options, A Dolby Digital mono mix in French and English subtitles have been included. The audio is also in very good shape as background noise is always keep to a minimum. Dialog comes through clearly and everything sounds balanced.
Extras for this release include a trailer for the film (2 minutes 32 seconds – 1.33:1 full frame, in French with English subtitles), a insightful segment about this film and its director with French cinema scholar Ginette Vincendeau (28 minutes 58 seconds – anamorphic widescreen) and a equally informative audio commentary track with Susan Hayward author of ‘Les diaboliques – Cine-file French Film Guides’. Also included with this release is a collectable booklet with liner notes about the film, a re-printed interview with Clouzot by Paul Schrader and rare original set drawings by Leon Barsacq. Overall Les Diaboliques gets a strong release from Arrow Academy.