Diabolique

This Diabolique is a thoroughly misguided redressing of the classic 1955 French thriller. Surprisingly dull and suspenseless, given the inherent intrigue of the story, new outing coarsens every aspect of this tale of the wife and mistress of a cruel schoolmaster whose conspiracy to murder him triggers an unexpected aftermath.

With:
Sharon Stone Isabelle Adjani Chazz Palminteri Kathy Bates Spalding Gray Shirley Knight

This Diabolique is a thoroughly misguided redressing of the classic 1955 French thriller. Surprisingly dull and suspenseless, given the inherent intrigue of the story, new outing coarsens every aspect of this tale of the wife and mistress of a cruel schoolmaster whose conspiracy to murder him triggers an unexpected aftermath.

The first American remake was John Badham’s well-regarded 1974 TV movie Reflections of Murder, which featured Tuesday Weld, Joan Hackett and Sam Waterston.

First 20 minutes or so are the worst. To the continuous accompaniment of threatening thunderstorms, Nicole (Sharon Stone) and Mia (Isabelle Adjani), mistress and wife, respectively, of brutal boys’ school headmaster Guy Baran (Chazz Palminteri), decide they’ve each had enough of his domineering and deceitful ways and agree to do him in. Shortly after the women are aghast when the corpse turns up missing after the pool is drained.

Everything has been made cruder and more obvious than necessary. Structurally, Don Roos’ script hews fairly closely to the original for about two-thirds of the way, up to and including the introduction of a local detective with time to kill. The famous bathtub scene is present, although in amazingly unscary fashion.

The one element that is underplayed is a suggested sexual relationship between the two women. This is indicated several times through touches and gestures, but the emotional dynamics are too vague.

Director Jeremiah Chechnik, best known for Benny & Joon, has only skimmed the surface of his cast’s talents. Pic was shot in the Pittsburgh area, and tech credits are smooth.

Diabolique

Production: Morgan Creek/Warner. Director Jeremiah Chechik; Producer Marvin Worth, James G. Robinson; Screenplay Don Roos; Camera Peter James; Editor Carol Littleton; Music Randy Edelman; Art Director Leslie Dilley

Crew: (Color) Available on VHS, DVD. Extract of a review from 1996. Running time: 107 MIN.

With: Sharon Stone Isabelle Adjani Chazz Palminteri Kathy Bates Spalding Gray Shirley Knight

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