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I look upon DIABOLIQUE ($25) as a guilty pleasure. While it isnít in the same league with the 1955 French thriller LES DIABOLIQUES, upon which itís based, DIABOLIQUE does have its own charms (not the least of which being a nude scene with the incredibly beautiful Isabelle Adjani). Set at a small Pennsylvania private school, the plot of DIABOLIQUE centers on the schoolís abusive headmaster, Guy (Chazz Palminteri), and the two women in his life. Even though Guy is married to the schoolís owner Mia (Isabelle Adjani), he is openly having an affair with Nicole (Sharon Stone), a decidedly slinky member of the faculty.

Unfortunately for Guy, his wife and his mistress have grown weary of womanizing ways and decide to rid themselves of the miserable lout once and for all. Mia and Nicole plan to murder Guy by drowning, which should look like an accident, when his body is found in the murky waters of the schoolís neglected swimming pool. However, after dumping him in the pool, Guyís body disappears. This leaves Mia and Nicole questioning if Guy really dead, or if someone else knows what they did last weekend. While these questions should be the filmís biggest mystery, I spent more time pondering how a contemptible individual like Guy ended up bedding down with two beautiful women, who were obviously out of his league. In addition to its three strong central characters, DIABOLIQUE also features an amusing supporting performance from Kathy Bates, who plays a female police detective who looks into Guyís "disappearance" as a means of occupying her time. The cast of DIABOLIQUE includes Spalding Gray, Shirley Knight, Allen Garfield, Adam Hann-Byrd, Donal Logue, Diana Bellamy, Clea Lewis and Jeffrey Abrams.

Warner Home Video has done a very good job with their DVD edition of DIABOLIQUE. The filmís cinematography has a stylized look that uses filters over the lens to soften the image, plus the colors are deliberately desaturated. Sure, there are moments where strong colors are used for emphasis, but for the most part DIABOLIQUE has a noir-ish look that tries to emulate black and white. DIABOLIQUE is presented in its proper 1.85:1 aspect ratio, plus the DVD features the anamorphic enhancement for playback on 16:9 displays. The transfer is a faithful rendering of the filmís "soft focus" cinematography, although there is a respectable level of detail in the image. As I stated above, colors are purposely desaturated, although the occasional stronger hue is reproduced without distortion. Blacks are accurately rendered, although shadow detail tends to be obscured, keeping one guessing about what is lurking in the dark. The cleanly authored DVD utilizes dual layers to keep digital compression artifacts at bay.

DIABOLIQUE features an effective, but not particularly flashy Dolby Digital 5.1 channel mix. The surround channels provide a good deal of ambient sound and occasional effects, although the filmís nifty musical score seems to make the most of the Dolby Digital encoding. Channel separation is respectable in the forward soundstage, but never draws attention away from the dialogue, which is cleanly and accurately reproduced. The bass channel doesnít distinguish itself, but does provide solid foundation for the entire sound mix. A French 5.1 channel soundtrack is also encoded onto the DVD, as are English French and Spanish subtitles.

The nicely designed interface for interactive menus take advantage of animation, sound and full motion video. Through the menus one has access to the standard scene selection feature (with full motion preview), as well as language selection and a few extras. A short Behind-the-Scenes featurette is included on the DVD, as is a theatrical trailer for DIABOLIQUE. Trailers for other Morgan Creek productions are also provided. Cast biographies/filmographies fill out the DVDís extras.

DIABOLIQUE is definitely a guilty pleasure. If you feel the same way about the movie, your really canít go wrong with Warner Home Videoís really nice DVD edition.




DVD reviews are Copyright © 2000 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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