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Diabolique [Criterion Collection] Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p/24
  • Audio Codec: French PCM 1.0
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: A (Region-Locked)
  • Rating: Not Rated
  • Discs: 1
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
  • Blu-ray Release Date: May 17, 2011
  • List Price: $39.95

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Diabolique - Fullscreen Subtitle Special

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Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Film
[Rating:5/5]

Video Quality
[Rating:3/5]

Audio Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]

Supplemental Materials
[Rating:2.5/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(Screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG  thus are meant as a general representation of the content and do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Film

[Rating:5/5]

This month Criterion is dabbling in the essence of cool and style, releasing Masahiro Shinoda’s Pale Flower, Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris, and the film we are reviewing here, Henri-Georges Couzot’s Diabolique. Diabolique’s influence stretches as far as Hitchcock’s Psycho and Powell’s Peeping Tom. This meticulously filmed 1955 thriller set the standard for the character-driven, psychological drama.

A story of the ultimate revenge and the perfect crime with a shocking surprise ending, Diabolique is set in a rundown boy’s boarding school. From the opening act, the building feels like a prison, and the characters seem suffocated by the oppressive surroundings. Christina (Clouzot’s wife, Véra Clouzot) and Michel Dellasalle (Paul Meurisse) are headmistress and headmaster. Christina, a wealthy South American, is the one with the money, but Michel keeps a tight and stingy grip over their fortune. Nicole Horner (Simone Signoret), the math and science teacher is Michel’s mistress. He flaunts her in front of his wife and the rest of the staff. But his abusiveness, both physical and verbal, will be his undoing. The two women in his life begin plotting their revenge – they’re going to kill Michel and make it look like an accident.

In today’s world, Diabolique may not seem so shocking and cutting edge, but this was the film that created the mold for the twist ending. Misdirection and obsessive attention to detail create an intriguing and involving world of dramatic tension.

Video Quality

[Rating:3/5]

This new high-definition digital transfer was created on a Spirit Datacine from the original 35mm camera negative. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter, and flicker were manually removed using MTI’s DRS system and Pixel Farm’s PFClean system, while Digital Vision’s DVNR system was used for small dirt, grain, and noise reduction.

Although this is a relatively old film, dating back to 1955, we have seen films of even older vintage come to Blu-ray looking much stronger than this, especially films in black and white. Though it does have a film-like quality, grain structure is quite course, source damage wavers greatly, and overall detail is rather soft. Although an acceptable and valiant effort by Criterion, given the age of the film, Diabolique, will not hurry to the top of many reference lists soon.

Audio Quality

[Rating:4.5/5]

The monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from a 35mm magnetic track. Clicks, thumps, hiss, and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD. Crackle was attenuated using AudioCube’s integrated workstation.

The PCM 1.0 (48kHz/24-bit) sound is as good as it can get given vintage, source, and equipment of the time. Dialogue is rather clean, there isn’t much hiss or crackle, and there is good separation of sound.

Supplemental Materials

  • Serge Bromberg Introduction (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 0:14.48) – Film preservationist and historian Serge Bromberg, the director of Henri-Georges Clouzot’s “Inferno,” a 2009 documentary about Clouzout’s legendary uncompleted film, talks about how the filmmaker put his unique visual stamp on Diabolique.
  • Selected-Scene Commentary (0:44.30) – In this new video piece, French-film scholar Kelley Conway, the author of Chanteuse in the City: The Realist Singer in 1930s French Film, analyzes several scenes from Diabolique, exploring Henri-Georges Clouzot’s themes and unique visual style.
  • Kim Newman (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 0:15.45) – In this interview, shot in London in 2010, novelist and film critic Kim Newman discusses how groundbreaking Diabolique has influenced countless horror films, including Psycho.Newman’s recent books include The Hound of the d’Urbervilles: The Crime-Book of Professor Moriarty and Nightmare Movies: Forty Years of Fear.
  • Trailer (1.33:1; 1080p/24)
  • Booklet: The illustrated booklet features a superbly written essay on Clouzot and Diabolique by film critic and author Terrence Rafferty.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:4/5]

Here’s another more-than-worthy classic that makes its way to Blu-ray in the premium Criterion package that cineastes will enjoy. It may not look as great some of the strongest catalogue releases out there, but it is still well worth picking up.

Additional Screen Captures

[amazon-product align=”right”]B004NWPY1Q[/amazon-product]

BestBuy.com:
Diabolique - Fullscreen Subtitle Special

Purchase Diabolique on Blu-ray at CD Universe

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Film
[Rating:5/5]

Video Quality
[Rating:3/5]

Audio Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]

Supplemental Materials
[Rating:2.5/5]

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