Les Diaboliques (1955)

Henri-Georges Clouzot cemented his reputation as the ‘French Hitchcock’ with this cruel and terrifying murder story set at a gloomy provincial school.

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Alternative titles

  • Le Diabolique Alternative French
  • The Fiends Alternative


“It’s extraordinary how well it manipulates the audience, one moment stimulating our base desires, the next twisting our expectations into knots.”
Wally Hammond, Time Out, 1995

Based on a novel by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac – whose work would later provide the basis for Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958) – Les Diaboliques is among the darkest of French thrillers.

At a rundown school, the wife (Vera Clouzot, the director’s wife) and mistress (Simone Signoret) of the tyrannical headmaster (Paul Meurisse) conspire to kill him, dumping his body in the school swimming pool. This memorably seedy setting is the perfect backdrop for Clouzot’s unstintingly misanthropic vision.

Matching his nail-biting The Wages of Fear (1953), the director expertly builds a feeling of mounting dread after the corpse goes missing, culminating with a twist ending that pushes the film into the realm of nightmare. The end credits contain a plea to viewers not to let the secret out.

Hitchcock was a great admirer of Les Diaboliques and is said to have shown it to his crew during the production of Psycho (1960).

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