Now Showing: Diabolique (1955) / by Paul Pensom

Each week we host a ‘virtual showing’ of a film which is available free to view on YouTube. This week we’re featuring HG Clouzot’s 1955 suspense classic Diabolique.

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Diabolique is an unsettling film. From the very start, as Van Pary’s strident theme tune assaults your eardrums to a close up of rain running into the gutter, you are made aware that this is far from a usual melodrama.

If I had to sum up Diabolique in one word it would be shabby. The setting, a grimy boys’ boarding school in rural France is shabby, but so are the characters. Paul Maurisse, the wifebeating school principal has something frayed and degenerate about him, but nobody in this film acts from wholly noble motives, and a general air of griminess pervades the picture.

The slow descent into mystery, and possibly madness, as the Principal’s wife and lover conspire to murder him is masterfully handled, and the whole picture is a masterclass in noirish suspense. Do not miss this one.