The film takes place in a French boys’ boarding college run by a headmaster who makes life there as disagreeable for the lecturers as for the boys. Michael Delasalle () is a sadist and a pinchpenny who serves the scholars rotten fish and slaps round his spouse Christina ( ), despite the fact that the college actually belongs to her.
The boys hate him and the lecturers appear to despise him, particularly the strapping Nicole (), who has till just lately been his mistress. Because the film opens, Nicole is urgent forward with a plan she has already defined to Christina. It is an elaborate scheme through which they are going to go to Nicole’s house in a distant village, lure Michael there, drown him in a tub, and secretly return to the college to dump the swine within the swimming pool, the place he’ll appear to be a suicide or accident sufferer.
This isn’t the plot. It’s merely the set-up, and the plot correct begins after the physique apparently disappears from the pool and Michael’s go well with is returned from the cleaners. Are the ladies going mad? Can they belief the proof of their eyes and ears – or imagine their clear reminiscence of Michael’s lifeless physique staring goggle-eyed at them from beneath the water within the bathtub? “Please don’t reveal the ending to those that haven’t but seen the movie!” Clouzot pleads along with his closing body. I’d not dream of it. However I’ll observe that the ending wouldn’t have occurred fairly the way in which it does with out the passive cooperation of Inspector Fichet (), who has apparently figured every thing out and is well-placed to forestall the ultimate consequence, however waits too lengthy.
After all he is not precisely swift on his ft. He shuffles onto the scene in a rumpled previous raincoat, chewing on a cigar and asking apparently aimless questions. His favourite method is to repeat a query, pretending that he hasn’t heard the reply, though it is fairly clear that what he hopes to do is lure a suspect in a contradiction. In look, mannerism and technique, Fichet is Columbo; Falk added a squint, a dirtier raincoat and extra humor.
The well-known plot of the film often deceives first-time viewers, a minimum of up to some extent. The ultimate revelations are considerably disappointing, however Clouzot would not linger over them. Probably the most disturbing parts of the film are implied, not seen, within the seedy air of the lecturers, all of whom have seen higher days and a minimum of considered one of whom ought to in all probability be in jail.