Question: I remember in the '80s there was a remake of an old French movie about this man who keeps tormenting his wife and another woman. It was set in a castle or something, and the scene I remember most vividly is the one in which the wife runs into the bathroom and locks the door. She turns around and all of a sudden, he pops out of the tub full of water and his eyes are rolled back into his head. She screams. Please, oh please, tell me the title of this movie and something about it!
Answer: Although it was made earlier than you suggest, I think you're remembering Reflections of Murder (1974), a startlingly good made-for-TV remake of Henri-Georges Clouzot's Diabolique (1955), in which the sadistic headmaster of a cavernous boys' boarding school so brutalizes both his timid wife and his tough girlfriend (played by Véra Clouzot — the director's wife — and Simone Signoret) that the women band together to kill him. They get him drunk and drown him in a bathtub, dumping his body in the school's scummy, unused swimming pool; they hope that when the corpse surfaces, everyone will assume he took a drunken fall and drowned there. But the corpse never does come up, and when the pool is drained, it's not there. Based on Celle qui n'etait plus, by the famous thriller-writing team Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac, Diabolique was an enormous critical and popular hit and was indirectly responsible for not one but two Alfred Hitchcock masterpieces. Stung by many, many variations on the observation that it "out-Hitchcocked Hitchcock," the director first seized on another Boileau and Narcejac novel — D'entre les morts, which became the lushly magnificent Vertigo (1958), sadly underrated at the time of its initial release but now recognized as one of his finest films — and then delivered the lean, mean nerve-jangling machine that was Psycho (1960). Psycho was calculated to shock on every level, from the gritty B&W cinematography to the vicious shower murder of star Janet Leigh, and it's hard not to see it as a flat-out effort to discredit that upstart French guy who had the nerve to challenge Hitchcock's reputation as the cinema's reigning master of suspense. While Hitchcock may have been overreacting a little, Diabolique is as good as thrillers get — I can't recommend it highly enough. And that's why I was so surprised that Reflections of Murder, directed by future Saturday Night Fever (1977) helmer John Badham and adapted by screenwriter Carol Sobieski (whose actress daughter, Leelee Sobieski, wasn't yet so much as a gleam in her mother's eye), is as good as it is. The story is relocated intact from the France countryside to an island in Puget Sound and the seething undercurrent of sexual violence is toned down, but the remake's performances — Sam Waterston (of TV's Law & Order) is the headmaster, Joan Hackett plays his wife and Tuesday Weld is the mistress — are top-notch. Diabolique was again remade — badly this time — in 1996, with Isabelle Adjani and Sharon Stone as the women and Chazz Palminteri as the beast.