Although this has a few hallucinating bits of terror, the film is primarily a creaky-door type of melodrama [from the novel Celle qui n’etait plus by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac]. Its macabre aspects and lack of sympathy for the characters make this a hybrid which flounders between a blasting look at human infamy and an out-and-out contrived whodunit.
A brutal headmaster of a private boy’s school tyrannizes his frail, sickly wife, and has a mistress, a teacher at the school, with whom he has just broken off. The women band together and, driven by the steely teacher, plot to kill him, which apparently they do.
Director Henri-Georges Clouzot’s interest in terror and human dreariness for its own sake has robbed this of intrinsic honesty. He has gotten a fine, if spotty performance from his real wife, Vera, who plays the frail mate in the pic. It is her second film. Simone Signoret portrays a resoundingly solid competence as the powerful crime investigator. Paul Meurisse is properly despicable as the so-called victim.