Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Film #10: Diabolique (1955)

Certain acts should always be avoided if one values life.
Never pull a wig off a tranny.
Don’t dare eat anything from a strip club buffet.
And never, ever piss off a French chick.
Dose bitches be crazy, dawg!

No one understands this latter lesson better than Michel Delassalle, the pivot of a Paris love triangle in the 1955 film “Diabolique.” Michel is married to Christina, a mouse of a woman who runs a poor-as-dirt boarding school and literally suffers from a broken heart. Olde Michel is quite a bag o’dicks – a favorite pastime of his is beating his sickly wife and doing the nasty with Nicole Horner, a sultry teacher at the school. Christina is a former nun, and believes that if she divorces Michel not only will she go to hell, but violent Michel will immediately send her there. Things seem hopeless, and her heart condition is only getting worse. But soon beating his wife isn’t enough for Michel, and he starts bouncing mistress Nicole off the walls. Admiring each other’s bruises, Nicole and Christina form a strange bond over their hatred for Michel and the two decide to end their torment once and for all. They’s gonna whack dat mutherfockle!

The women drug and drown Michel in a bathtub, then move him to the school pool in an attempt to make his death seem accidental like. But when the pool is drained, Michel’s body is nowhere to be found. What!?
Soon strange occurrences related to Michel being to plague the murderous mademoiselles, and the two are left to question, “Is Michel alive? Is he a zombie? Is someone just f-ing with our heads?”
Murder and mystery entwine in the 1955 psychological thriller “Diabolique.”

The Low-Down:
An ending can make or break a film. The producers of Diabolique realized this, and deliver a great twist in the last three minutes that leaves a viewer with more than a smile. But can a great ending alone dictate whether or not a film is enjoyable? The RDHP has struggled with this question in the past, and continues to do so when it comes to Diabolique. The great ending was preceded by a somewhat humdrum, slow start and mediocre middle.
Of course, we would never give away this or any ending. So conversation on the topic is tricky. Let’s put it this way. This film is like a somewhat lame magic trick. The magician had us looking one way, while sneakily conducting “magic” in his other hand. When we turn back, presto, a bunny in a hat! Now, I’m sure the first time this trick was performed people fainted, gasped, and ran to their friends to talk about how they saw this dude make rabbits appear in headwear.
But today, this once innovative trick has become old news, tired, overdone. Sure, most of us don’t know how the magician pulled that rabbit out of the hat, but does it even matter at this point. We know it is a trick. And we know they got us while we were distracted. All that hand waving for minutes on end, and the end result is a stupid bunny in a top hat. Pass.

The same can be said of Diabolique. We’re sure back in 1955 this saucy thriller would have been quite shocking and thrilling, especially the last three minutes. But by today’s standards, especially standards for twist endings, this one just seems like that old tired magic trick. It's quaint, in an old school way. But that's about it. That is not to say this film isn’t worthwhile, we just feel that maybe the magic of this one hasn’t burned strong through the last 55 years. We are jaded now, and not as willing to look one way while the magician creates the magic.

Still, let’s give credit where credit is due. Diabolique is very original for its time, even beyond its chill inducing final minutes. The idea of a wife and mistress teaming up to kill their lover is still tantalizing enough for a Jerry Springer episode. The film is clever in the way it builds tension between the two women – who are more enemies than friends even before the stress of a missing corpse steps on their necks. And of course, there are some great life lessons one can take from this Frenchy-flick.
If there is anything the RDHP’s viewing of Diabolique taught us, it is the only thing worse than crossing a French chick, is crossing two French chicks. Unless you cross them together, but that just might be too many hairy limbs and armpits for one bed. It’s called a razor, ladies!

RDHP Ratings:
C-Rating: 2.9
Chris Dimick ooh-la-la's: “Some film had to follow the masterpiece that was last week’s “Let The Right One In,” and unfortunately for the French it was “Diabolique.” For this guy, a film can’t depend on an awesome ending in order to be considered entertaining. The entire package must be delivered in order to break the “3” rating barrier. Now, this one wasn’t awful to watch. The suspense was wonderful to sit in for two hours, and I loved how the husband’s death was merely an afterthought of the plot. The ditty really started to cook AFTER the corpse was discovered missing, a fresh concept rarely used even in today’s films. Also, the dynamic between the meek wife and the forceful scorned mistress was too irresistible not to like. However, please, don’t try to be freaking’ Sherlock Holmes when watching this movie -- trying to figure out exactly what is going on. Not only do you ruin it for yourself, but for all the other people you brag to after or during the flick. Just sit back, relax, RELAX, and let this movie do the thinking for you. Though I give it a 2.9, I’d still recommend you take a watch on this classic work of horror. Sure, it doesn’t meet 2010 standards, but it’s still better than another Hostel installment.”

N-Rating: 2.6
Nick Rich ooh-la-la's: “I too greatly lament poor Diabolique’s position in following “Let The Right One In”. I mean, McDonalds can be super tasty, but it’s difficult to thoroughly enjoy after you had a Hodad’s burger the day before! I really wanted to give this flick a 2.5, but bumped it up a dial because I’m sure for its time it had some original things going for it… not super original as good ol’ Alfred H. was already kicking out the suspense on the regular… but original enough to distinguish itself. I found myself wanting it to be cinematically stunning, but was woefully left lacking – not to mention the unrealistic nightwear of the former nun! As we’ve established, I am a stickler for authenticity, especially in nightwear. I was on the road to almost believing this character was actually a former nun (and that it wasn’t just written to give the character sympathy) and BAM! They end the film with her in a sultry getup! Ignoring the incongruent apparel, there were some interesting uses of light towards the end, but most of the time this just felt like a conveyer belt film (complete with multiple shadows from one person lingering in the background of some bedroom scenes). I suppose the thing I found most interesting about this film was the expectation that something awesome was going to happen… unfortunately, nothing really did. I agree with Chris, it may not rock your socks off, but contrary to how my review sounds, there were still some good things going on in this one and the ending was genuinely enjoyable. The Skinny: Watch this film if a) you need to be reminded that it’s not worth it to cheat on your spouse, or, b) you want to pretend you have the frayed nerves of a 1950’s girlie girl! (It will make you GASP and say “Oh MY!” quite often – and who doesn’t love to do that?)

Quote of the Viewing:
[Scene: Earlier in the film, Christina had refused to swallow her stinky fish dinner in the school cafeteria despite the repeated demands of Michel to “Swallow, swallow, you're setting a bad example for the children, SWALLOW!” In a later scene, Christina picked up a long, thick loaf of bread and begins chewing, then swallowing.]
Nick: “That's a nice looking baguette.”
Chris: “Oh I see how it is. Typical woman. She won’t swallow when her husband asks her to, but as soon as he’s gone she swallows the first chance she gets.”
Nick: [silence…head shaking…finally laughter] "All I said was that was a nice looking baguette!”

Things the RDHP Learned from Watching “Diabolique”:
-French people love their Radio Jeopardy
-Former nuns wear super sexy sleepwear
-Doctors prognosis on the heart: “When it’s used, it’s used.”
-Water pipes in France sound like a jackhammer
-Phones don’t bite or slap, but French men do
-Both the “f” word and the expression “be cool” were used by 1955 French children
-You can’t have it all… especially if you are a jerky, French, former tennis champion

RDHP Salutes the French!

Eiffel tower

Stinky cheese

Pepe LePew


Joan of Arc



French toast

Hairy women

Douchey men

Nazi occupation

“Stupeed Americun” Xenophobic French Jokes of the Week:
Q: How do you get a French waiter's attention?
A: Start ordering in German.

Q. How many jokes are there about the French?
A. One, the rest are true.

Q. What do women who are snipers in the French military use as camouflage?
A. Their armpits.

Q. What is the first thing the French teach their kids in school?
A. How to say "We Surrender" in German.

Q. What’s the difference between a Frenchmen and a bucket of shit?
A. The bucket.


  1. Chris and Nick, you've done it again. This film looks... umm... interesting? I can't say Crim and I will be renting it any time soon. But I enjoyed your commentary.

  2. I enjoyed the hairy French chick joke. Good one.

  3. Please keep the hyperlinks coming. I laughed out loud at more than one (especially the link for "when it's used, it's used.)

  4. I've just downloaded iStripper, so I can have the best virtual strippers dancing on my desktop.