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Plot Details: This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

What goes around comes around.


Plot Overview

St. Cloud boarding school headmaster Michel Delassalle (Paul Meurisse) had married his wife Christina (Vera Clouzot) for her money, but instead of investing it wisely (“C'est mon argent”), she “invested in kids.” Michel for his part finds it cheaper to pur­chase for the school rotten fish of an expensive kind rather than a fresh cheap variety, leading to a scene in the dining hall where he forces his wife to swallow what just won't go down no matter how hard she chews.

Finding her situation intolerable Christina who “grew up in a convent” has the Catholic option of remaining unmarried after “Je demande la divorce” or of staying together until death do us part. The latter is the more noble option, but Michel's mistress Nicole Horner (Simone Signoret) has got her ruminating on a plan to end Michel's life pre­maturely. She has her reser­vations about going through with it (“Je peus pas”) until Michel goes a little too far provoking her (“Est fini.”)

Rotten fish has a tendency to come back up and so does a drowned corpse, but this corpse has legs (“Does a corpse that dis­ap­pears seem natural to you?”) Add to that the unwelcome assistance (“Non, vraiment, il n'est pas necessaire”) of retired police com­mis­sioner Alfred Fichet (Charles Vanel) in locating her missing husband, and Christina (“Je suis très fatiguée”) could use a little undisturbed bed rest.


The two women have different belief systems:
Christina Delassalle: Don't you believe in Hell?

Nicole Horner: Not since I was seven.

Christina Delassalle: I do.

Nicole, who'd left a previous school in disgrace and is now carrying on an illicit affair at this one, turns out to be a bad influence on Christina who still goes to confession. Being weak and under pressure from the stronger woman, Chris­tina acts out the preliminary stages of Nicole's planned murder scheme, and then Michel him­self pushes her over the edge. This leads to one guilt-laden school­teacher whose pretence of innocence clashes with the business as usual in town and in the school. One wonders if the husband and his con­niving mistress might not have their mis­deeds come back on them à la (Prov. 28:10) “Whoso causeth the righteous to go astray in an evil way, he shall fall him­self into his own pit.”

Production Values

Diabolique”—aka Les diaboliques—(1955) was directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot who adapted the screen­play based on the 1952 novel Celle qui n'était plus (She Who Was No More) by Pierre Boileau & Thomas Narcejar. Alfred Hitchcock who'd wanted to do it lost out on the bid by three hours. Instead he adopted some of its style elements for "Psycho." It stars Simone Signoret, Véra Clouzot, and Paul Meurisse who gave excellent performances. Alfred Fichet, played by Charles Vanel, is the source for TV's Columbo.

This movie has no background music once one gets past the opening titles, except for some tunes encountered in passing. One is left to his own devices regarding what emotion(s) to feel, with­out being played like a harp. Real spoiled fish were used in the dining scene for veri­simili­tude. Nicole Horner's room in town was totally Spanish, perhaps reflecting actress Simone Signoret's back­ground. The cute school car is the Four­gon­nette, a small delivery van, the truck version of the Citroen 2CV, acquired, no doubt, at the behest of the penny-pinching head­master. The audience is specific­ally requested not to spoil the ending for those who haven't seen it yet.

Review Conclusion w/ Consumer Recommendation

This is one wicked mystery/thriller that ranks right up there with "Psycho." It prob­ably would have been "Psycho" with­out Hitch's contri­bution to memor­able dark movies. If this kind of movie appeals to you, you owe it to your­self to see it.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Well done action flick. Suitability For Children: Not Suitable for Children of Any Age. Video Occasion: None of the Above. Suspense: Don't watch this movie alone. Overall product rating: Five stars out of five.