A made-for-TV version of the classic French thriller DIABOLIQUE (1955) that benefits from strong performances by Joan Hackett, Tuesday Weld and Sam Waterston. Delicate, timid Claire Elliott (Hackett), who suffers from a congenital heart condition, is headmistress of the Island School, a boy's boarding school located on Puget Sound. Her abusive husband, Michael (Waterston), hates children, hates the misty Seattle climate and hates her, but won't consider divorce unless she agrees to sell the school she loves. He instead carries on a blatant and humiliating affair with Vicky (Weld), one of the school's teachers. But when he begins slapping Vicky around as well, the two desperate women band together to murder Michael. Vicky comes up with the plan, and guides the ailing Claire through it. Vicky doctors a bottle of scotch with a sleeping potion, Claire persuades Michael to drink it and together they drown him in the bathtub, then dump his body into the school's murky, leaf-choked swimming pool. When the body surfaces, Vicky assures Claire, it will look as though Michael drowned after a drunken fall and they'll both be free of him. But the body never comes up, and the women grow increasingly tense and suspicious of each other. When the pool is drained, there's nothing in it. Are Claire and Vicky being set up by a blackmailer? Or could Michael still be alive, plotting his revenge on the women who tried to murder him? Though it's painfully obvious where the commercial breaks went and the film is sometimes glaringly overlit, this version of Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac's Celle qui n'etait pas plus is authentically atmospheric and far more psychologically compelling than the strident 1996 theatrical remake starring Sharon Stone and Isabelle Adjani. Though it downplays the masochism that defined Claire in the original, this version evokes a complicated dynamic that binds the browbeaten wife and the tough-as-nails mistress, by turns maternal, conspiratorial and sisterly, with just the slightest hint of a sexual frisson. Young Lance Kerwin, who went on to star in the acclaimed TV series James at 15, is surprisingly affecting as the young music student nursing a crush on Claire.
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- Released: 1974
- Rating: NR
- Review: A made-for-TV version of the classic French thriller DIABOLIQUE (1955) that benefits from strong performances by Joan Hackett, Tuesday Weld and Sam Waterston. Delicate, timid Claire Elliott (Hackett), who suffers from a congenital heart condition, is headm… (more)