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Diabolique

Starring Sharon Stone, Isabelle Adjani,
Kathy Bates, and Chazz Palminteri
Directed by Jeremiah Chechik

IN SHORT: Do not pay your hard earned dollars to your local theater to see Sharon Stone, Isabelle Adjani, Kathy Bates and Chazz Palminteri in Diabolique.

And here's some unsolicited advice to the theater chain which upped its ticket price for this abomination. New York City is a small place. Raising your prices on films with absolutely no reason for being, is not the way to bring customers back in. I have six weeks and lots of theaters to choose from to avoid the extra four bits.

And more unsolicited advice to the suits responsible for green-lighting and putting this dreck into production. If you want the audience to sympathize with a pair of murderers, you'd better give us a reason why. A story that made sense would be good. A script that didn't make the audience laugh because the characters aren't speaking like real people would be good. Direction that gave the actors some idea of what they were supposed to be doing would be good. For that matter, believable acting would be good as well.

Diabolique fails on every level that there is. Yes, it is based on a film classic made 40 years back, but Cranky doesn't make comparisons. So let's view Diabolique as its own entity and take this thing apart.

Chazz Palminteri is the headmaster of a school for boys -- last stop for JD's is how it's put -- and his wife is an ex-nun, unless she wasn't. The script isn't clear and that bit of character possible background pops out of nowhere once or twice and then vanishes into the muck. It is supposes to explain the general passiveness of Adjani, but it doesn't. We're supposed to view their relationship as one of classic codependance. He has physical and sexual control over both women, and they want out.

Palminteri's character is supposed to be a bastard. He makes his wife eat chipped beef on toast with mushy peas. He stands passively by while her heart palpitates and fails -- she has a condition you see, and if she dies he gets the school.

Oh yeah, the school. For a bunch of JD's these are certainly the most passive bunch of boys I've ever seen. Then again it could be because they're stuck to their seats watching their teachers. Sharon Stone, as a modern woman, parades around in 1950s era slut wear (it wasn't slutty then, but that's how it looks now). Everything too tight. Everything pushed up. Garters and stockings under short skirts -- in the 90s??? --every teen boy's dream!!!

In-your-face intimations of a lesbian attraction between Stone and Adjani are mitigated by the fact that both women are sleeping with Palminteri, and both know and accept it. It's that passive thing again. Adjani wants him dead because Stone wants him dead for beating up on her. It's also the only way she can retain title to the school. So they kill him.

Which brings in Kathy Bates as a one-breasted detective who comes in to solve the crime without a lot of publicity. And the mastectomy remarks come flying at you with nauseating regularity.

Diabolique is supposed to be an edge-of-your-seat, you-can-hear-a-pin-drop thriller. Almost. The only sound heard in the theater where I saw it, besides that coming off the screen, were the snores of a man one row down and five seats over. Really.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price for Diabolique, he would have paid . . .

$0.00

And no one who walked out of the theater with me (when it was all over) disagreed.

Click to buy films starring Sharon Stone
Click to buy films starring Isabelle Adjani
Click to buy films starring Kathy Bates

The Cranky Critic website is Copyright © 1995  -  2017  by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.