Simone Signoret, Diabolique
Credit: Everett Collection

Henri-Georges Clouzot was France’s answer to Alfred Hitchcock. His white-knuckle 1953 classic, The Wages of Fear, followed four truck drivers transporting unstable payloads of explosive nitroglycerin. And in the master’s hands, every deadly bump in the road put you on the edge of your seat. Still, Clouzot’s greatest thriller remains Diabolique(1955, Not Rated, 1 hr., 57 mins.), which the good folks at Criterion have updated for a new DVD and Blu-ray release. The movie’s a honey. In fact, Hitchcock was said to be so envious of the film’s nasty collection of shocks and scares that it inspired 1960’s Psycho. Poorly remade as a 1996 Sharon Stone dud, Diabolique is a wonderfully sick and kinky film starring Paul Meurisse as an abusive, sadistic school headmaster who treats his mousy wife (played by the ? director’s own spouse, Véra Clouzot) and his mistress (the brassy, brusque, and all-business Simone Signoret) so badly that the two women plot to drug him and then drown him in the bathtub. Of course, things don’t go as planned. After they dump his body in the school swimming pool, it goes missing. Could he still be alive? Is someone trying to blackmail them? Before the credits roll, Clouzot asks audiences not to give away the ending, so I won’t spill the beans here. All I’ll say is that you’re in for a hell of a final twist. No wonder Hitchcock was jealous. The disc’s EXTRAS include commentaries from film buffs and historians. They’re fine. But the real reason to watch this French gem is to be scared silly. A?