Quai des Orfèvres

Jenny Lamour and the inspector

“Quai des Orfèvres” means “the cops” in France in the same way that “Scotland Yard” does in the UK. So it’s no surprise that this classic from 1947 is a crime thriller. It’s a peculiarly knotty one, directed by the masterly Henri-Georges Clouzot, who also did the adaptation, from Stanislas-André Steeman’s original novel Légitime Défense. Clouzot did not have the novel in front of him as he worked, and had not read it for years, but he took Steeman’s basic idea and fleshed it out using his own characters, getting all sorts of plot details “wrong” as he worked. The result appalled Steeman, who discovered that Clouzot and writing collaborator Jean Ferry had … Read more

Les Diaboliques

Christina and Nicole

Les Diaboliques is the film that Alfred Hitchcock missed out on making after getting pipped to the post by another master of suspense, Henri-Georges Clouzot. If the story is true, Clouzot stayed up all night reading the original novel, Celle qui n’était plus, and then called writers Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac the next morning, desperate to have the rights. By the time Hitchcock rang a few hours later those rights were no longer available. Hitchcock did not walk away entirely empty handed. Boileau and Narcejac went on to write D’Entre les Morts for him, which he turned into Vertigo, currently ranked at number one in the Sight & Sound 100 Greatest Films … Read more

Les Diaboliques

Simone Signoret and Vera Clouzot in Les Diaboliques

If you’re working yourself towards film-buffery, you really need to have seen something by master of suspense Henri-Georges Clouzot – “the French Hitchcock” he is often called, when Jacques Deray or Claude Chabrol aren’t using the sobriquet. You may already have seen the masterful The Wages of Fear, Clouzot’s 1953 tale of gelignite being driven across the South American jungle. It’s well worth adding Les Diaboliques, 1954’s tale of the murder most horrid – drugged, drowned – of a brutish husband by a fragile wife (Vera Clouzot) and his scheming mistress (Simone Signoret, none better). Job done, except the body keeps disappearing. Less a whodunit, more a wheresitgone, Les Diaboliques also strongly prefigures … Read more