Diabolique ★★★★

The trick when reviewing old classics is allowing leeway for how filmmaking and society has evolved, then put yourself in the mindset of audiences seeing something for the first time. Les Diabolique (The Devils) is a hugely influential psychological thriller, directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot (Wages of Fear), which has undeniably dated 62 years since its release. But it remains a very important film, and there are things about it that can never grow old: story and characterisation.

Clouzot optioned the rights to Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac’s 1951 novel Celle qui n’était plus (She Who Was No More) after completing Wages of Fear in 1953, beating the great Alfred Hitchcock to the punch. Hitchcock was also interested in adapting the story, and his annoyance was compounded when Clouzot’s resulting movie made such an impact and, in many ways, changed the landscape of thriller filmmaking. Hitchcock was likely inspired by Les Diabolique to bring Robert Bloch’s novel Psycho to the screen in 1960, with the intention of overshadowing his French rival’s achievement. To some extent he achieved this, as Psycho’s become the more famous of the two movies, and arguably the better one, but Hitchcock’s own achievement couldn’t change the historical fact that Les Diabolique was the true game-changer.

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