Diabolique (1996)

With an all-star cast including Sharon Stone and Kathy Bates in addition to an increased budget, it would seem that Jeremiah Chechik's 1996 remake of the French classic DIABOLIQUE had all of the right ingredients to make it a success. While it often comes close, the film just slightly misses the mark in the end. DIABOLIQUE finds a wife conspiring with her husband's mistress to kill the man that has wronged them both, but when his body disappears from its watery grave, the two must find a way to absolve themselves of the crime and avoid suspicion. Noticeable cuts and changes have been made to eliminate some of the slower dialog and exposition early on, which have clearly been made to hurry along the pace for an impatient 90's audience. After the expedient set-up, most of the interest and suspense are lost as Chechik puts on the brakes in the second half to make up for the rushed beginning. He finally caps it off with a dramatically over-the-top ending that is way too forceful for the otherwise smooth suspense thriller. Chazz Palminteri is perfectly suited to play the womanizing Dr. Baran with a commanding power and authority, but while Isabelle Adjani offers a strong lead as his anxious wife, Sharon Stone barely squeaks by with a coldly-read performance that only provides a few enjoyable moments. This updates version makes no attempt to mask the film's homosexual undertones, which are unnecessarily overstated in several key sequences. Outside of a few apparent lapses in logic and uneven pacing, DIABOLIQUE holds up as a modernized remake with enough tension and atmosphere to appeal to most thriller fans.

Rating: 7/10.

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  1. Stone just always turns me off. She is just not a good actress.

  2. She really drug this performance through the mud, she destroys the illusion with her obvious acting here

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  4. This was the second remake of Henri Clouset's LES DIABOLIQUE. The first had been an effectively moody TV film, REFLECTION OF MURDER, well-directed by John Badham and graced with terrific performances by Tuesday Weld and Joan Hackett. That version remains the gold-standard for American adaptations of the classic French film and is ripe for rediscovery and DVD.

    The new DIABOLIQUE has taken a not-entirely-deserved critical beating. For the most part it is a worthy retelling of a venerable story. The production is graced with a striking performance by the eternally beautiful Isabelle Adjani (Polanski's THE TENANT, Herzog's NOSFERATU). Sharon Stone's job is to pose and look surly in cool shades. Her value to the film is that of presence rather than acting; she is effectively utilized as a visual impression of the original's dykish Simone Signoret. The addition of the great Kathy Bates (as a detective played in the original by a male actor) is an asset to the production.

    The film looks great with beautiful photography and ur-Gothic settings. Everything is in place for a first-class new production of a venerable story.

    That classic story proves to be the film's major liability, however, as 40 years of constant imitation and pilfering, beginning with Robert Aldrich's HUSH... HUSH, SWEET CHARLOTTE through William Castle flicks and countless television variations have made the devastating "secret" of the piece familiar to the point of being an ancient cliche.

    In anticipation of this, the filmmakers have tried to make up for the lack of "surprise" by crudely tacking on a violent and bloody anti-climax that is a disservice to the story at completely at odds with the the carefully built tone and ghostly atmosphere. It is at this point that the entire film self-destructs, descending to the mundane level of a bludgeoning, insensitive Hollywood product.