This Man Must Die (French: Que la bête meure) (1968): Chabrol’s Psychological Thriller

Claude Chabrol directed This Man Must Die (French: Que la bête meure), a psychological thriller based on a 1938 novel by Cecil Day-Lewis, writing as Nicholas Blake.

(Please see our review of the first film version of the book, the 1952 Argentinean thriller, This Beast Must Die).


A widower, obsessed with revenge after his only son is killed in  hit-and-run incident, tracks down and seduces the driver’s mistress who was in the car at the time, but his efforts to kill the driver misfire.

In the first scene, a sports car races through the countryside, with a young woman in the passenger seat. Entering a small village at high speed, it hits Charles Thénier’s nine-year-old son, who is returning from the beach. He then drives on without stopping. Charles vows to have his revenge, while keeping a journal of his thoughts.

The police investigation is fruitless.

Charles thinks the guilty party may run a garage, as there is no record of a car going in for repairs. By chance, while pursuing this hunch, he discovers that the actress Hélène Lanson was the passenger in a car.

Adopting a pseudonym, he seduces her and discovers that the driver was her brother-in-law, Paul Decourt. He arranges a trip with Hélène to visit her sister’s family in Brittany.

Charles discovers that Paul is cruel to his wife and is hated by his teenage son Philippe. He has conflicting thoughts as to whether or not to kill Paul, but rescues him from a cliff-fall. Philippe then confides to Charles his own desire to kill his father.

Hélène confesses that she once slept with Paul, but when Charles presses her for more details, she refuses to add anything.

Charles decides to kill Paul in a staged sailing accident. However, while at sea, Paul pulls a gun on him and reveals that he has read Charles’ journal and passed it to his solicitor. After returning to the harbor, Paul throws Charles out of his house.

Abandoning his plan to murder Paul, he drives away with Hélène. In a roadside restaurant, television reports Paul’s death from poisoning and appeals for Charles and Hélène to return.

Charles argues to the police that it would be foolhardy for him to kill Paul when he knew the journal would reach them. However, they contend that Charles has planned to use this argument to deflect their suspicions. Philippe then confesses to the murder.

Back at their hotel, Charles is weary and promises to tell Hélène the entire story. She wakes to find his note explaining that Philippe has confessed falsely to the crime that he has committed.

He asks her to share his confession with the police, and promises to punish himself and disappears forever.


Michel Duchaussoy as Charles Thénier
Caroline Cellier as Hélène Lanson
Jean Yanne as Paul Decourt
Anouk Ferjac as Jeanne Decourt
Marc Di Napoli as Philippe Decourt
Louise Chevalier as Madame Levenes
Dominique Zardi as Police Inspector
Maurice Pialat as Police Commissioner