In 1955, a French thriller was so widely regarded that it changed the face of the genre, and influenced films from Psycho to Fatal Attraction. In 1996, the film has been updated and Americanized. What little joy there is left in this film lies in the pitiful strands that remain of the original. Chazz Palminteri is the cruel headmaster of a boy’s school. Isabelle Adjani is his timid wife, weak of heart and of mind. Sharon Stone is his mistress, played much like Basic Instinct’s Catherine Tremell turned math teacher. When both wife and mistress finally get fed up with his behavior, they team together and murder him. However, when the body mysteriously goes missing, either their plot has been discovered, or even worse, they may have botched the killing. Adjani is the centerpiece of the film, and though she beautifully portrays the fragility of her character, she never enlightens the viewer as to what makes her do the things she does (some of which are inexplicably foolish and incomprehensible…more the fault of the screenplay than Adjani). Sharon Stone and Chazz Palminteri don’t break any new ground with their performances, but are passable nonetheless. Of the cast, only Kathy Bates shines as a tough detective who pieces the crime together. The true travesty here is the adapted screenplay. Gone are the subtle hints of horror…instead we are hit with bisexual liasons, volleys of voyeurism and gore, and several false endings. The film went from being a taut thriller to being a feminist revenge picture, and it suffers in the transition, and so does the audience.
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