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Diabolique: The Criterion Collection

Henri-Georges Clouzot's excellent 1955 thriller Diabolique (the actual title of which is Les Diaboliques, or The Devils), holds an unusual place in cinema history, as an obscure-but-much-studied film that borrows heavily from the works of Alfred Hitchcock and yet has served as a textbook for many subsequent mainstream Hollywood films that thrive on high-octane suspense and wide-ranging audience misdirection (including the cheesy-but-fun 1997 Wild Things). Sadistic teacher Michel Delasalle (Paul Meurisse) is the headmaster of a French boarding school for boys, gaining the position from his put-upon Spanish wife Christina (Véra Clouzot), who inherited the property and owns it. Michel is not only brutish towards his wife, but he also likes to have affairs on the side, including one with fellow schoolteacher Nicole Horner (Simone Signoret), whom he is not afraid to beat now and then. It is only a matter of time before the two women — meek, ex-nun Christina and headstrong Nicole — begin to plot Michel's murder, hatching an intricate plan that involves drowning Michel hundreds of miles from the school and then returning to dump his body in the murky swimming pool and nervously await its discovery. While this Criterion disc is thin on extras (it's pretty much just the movie), it comes at a reasonable street price. The source print is showing some damage, but it's more than watchable, presented in the original 1.33:1 aspect ratio, with optional English subtitles. Required viewing for film buffs.

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