(1955/Criterion Collection Blu-ray)
B Sound: B- Extras: B Film: B+
1950s, Alfred Hitchcock was on a roll, free of his problematic relationship
with David O. Selznick, the Master of Suspense was making classic after classic
practically and when large-frame format film (anything larger than regular 1.33
X 1 35mm film) arrived, he choose to work with VistaVision as part of his great
run (and contract) at Paramount Pictures.
He could still pull off darker, smaller films (The Wrong Man (1955) with Henry Fonda, Rear Window (1954) and Dial
‘M’ For Murder (1953), still one of the few great narrative 3-D films ever
made) but the larger Technicolor thrillers drove some to comment that Hitch had
become too comfortable with big budgets and was likely not going to be able to
return to making the small thrillers that made him a legend.
he was as able as ever and was expanding his storytelling ideas and visual
approaches, but that did not stop some from expressing this idea. This was made more pronounced in 1955 when
the great French director Henri-Georges Clouzot stunned the world cinema
audience with a film based on a book Hitch missed getting the rights to. The result was Diabolique, a critical and commercial success so extensive that it
helped break open the U.S.
market to foreign films and became one of the most imitated films France produced
until their New Wave arrived four years later.
Clouzot (the director’s wife) stars as the unhappily married Christina Delassalle,
running a school with her abusive husband (Paul Meurisse) and tolerating
constantly ugly moments with him.
However, she is starting to get sick of him and decides maybe she should
kill him off. He seems to be getting
involved with the headmistress (Simone Signoret) but she too is not happy with
him and the two women decide to plot a particularly effective murder to get him
out of the way so they can continue to run the school together and be done with
decide to drown him in the bathtub and all seems to be just fine, but the
police become curious and then, in an odder twist, he seems to haunt the
place. But he’s dead, not alive. The film then takes a few more twists and
turns until its classic conclusion and after 56 years, is still a very
formidable thriller thanks to the superior skills of Clouzot, who was making
some fine films at the time including the superior and even more controversial Wages Of Fear (see link below) and it
became a film everyone wanted to imitate like many of Hitchcock’s films and
later genre classics like The Silence Of
course, Hitch returned a few years later with Psycho (1960) as Michael Powell made the amazing Peeping Tom the same year and the
thriller took another giant step forward.
However, Clouzot had pulled off the biggest success of his career and it
will endure for many decades to come.
Now, Criterion has updated its treatment of the film and the Blu-ray
delivers the version that has been long overdue for all of us to enjoy.
1.33 X 1 digital High Definition image is from the original 35mm camera
negative, though it does show some wear the older Wages Of Fear (Criterion’s Blu-ray is strongly recommended, with
stunning clarity for its age) does not on Criterion’s Blu-ray edition. However, Video Black is excellent, Video
White decent, we get some depth of field and the dirt, noise and wear of all
the previous video editions now look worse as compared to this fine
restoration. Director of Photography Armand
Thiard (a longtime Clouzot collaborator) creates some of the most memorable
images in French and Thriller history here, but this is the first time I could
really see and appreciate his work and enjoy it now that the film has been
saved. The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio)
lossless 1.0 Mono comes from a 35mm magnetic sound source and though it also
shows wear, it is never brittle and better than all previous renderings of the
include the usual booklet dedicated to the film with tech details and an excellent
essay by Terrence Rafferty on the film, plus the disc adds scene select audio
commentary by French film scholar Kelley Conway worth hearing after seeing the film, new video introduction
by Serge Bromberg (co-director of Henri-Georges
Clouzot’s Inferno), the Original Theatrical Trailer and new on-camera
interview with novelist and film critic Kim Newman that does an excellent job
of discussing the film’s success, influence and cinematic context.
we also recommend the Criterion Blu-ray of Wages
Of Fear, which we did not get the chance to review, but caught up with
since. We did cover the DVD as the site
debuted and you can read more about the film at this link:
- Nicholas Sheffo