Picks and Pans Review: Diabolique

UPDATED 04/01/1996 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 04/01/1996 at 01:00 AM EST

Sharon Stone, Isabelle Adjani, Chazz Palminteri, Kathy Bates

Ah, what Alfred Hitchcock might have been able to do with Sharon Stone. Surely her sleek, glacial, blonde beauty would have inspired the frightmaster to perverse heights. But Hitchcock is long gone, and instead Stone is left to flounder without much help from director Jeremiah Chechik (Benny & Joon) in this dolorous attempt at updating Henri-Georges Clouzot's classic 1955 French thriller.

Diabolique is about a wife (Adjani) and mistress (Stone) who conspire to murder the sadistic louse (Palminteri) who is husband to one and lover to the other. The women poison him, drown him in the bathtub, dump the body in the pool of the private school where all three work—and wait for the corpse to be discovered upon surfacing. Days pass. No body. They grow antsy. The plot thickens, but the film stumbles as Adjani and Stone, their nerves fraying, begin holding covert colloquies on the meaning of life.

This new version makes more explicit the lesbian subtext between the women. It also changes, without improving upon, the ending of the original. Bates, who shows up halfway through as a sardonic detective investigating the husband's disappearance, steals her every scene. (R)

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