User Reviews (63)

Add a Review

  • This film is incredible. Polanski's best film behind Knife in the Water and Rosemary's Baby.

    The plot revolves around a gangster (Lionel Stander) and his partner that seek refuge in a castle on a small island in England. The couple that inhabit the castle are played by the sublime Donald Pleasance and the beautiful Françoise Dorléac. The movie plays out like a three way triangle of hatred; we have the contempt between the couple and the gangster, who is invading their home; the gangster's mean streak is inflicted on the couple and the lady obviously holds her husband in low regard when he takes on the role of a wimp in front of the gun toting criminal. However, it is not as simple as that as in several points in the movie, the characters let their guard down and start to communicate with each other in an almost friendly way. This is the real beauty of this film; it is a character study, studying the relationship between a couple and a third party in their home. Three is a crowd, and the effects of that true to life phrase are felt by each of the three characters.

    The three main players in Cul-De-Sac are fantastic, Lional Stander in particular who was surely born to play his role in this movie. He has the voice and the persona of a not very bright gangster spot on; his comic timing for some of his more obviously funny lines is also noteworthy. Donald Pleasance has never been better than he was here either; his portrayal as the 'lord of the manor' is both believable and intriguing. Last but not least, Françoise Dorléac, in undoubtedly the most overlooked role in the piece, although no less important than the other two, is also on time and believable in her role; making up a perfect cast.

    From a relatively simple plot line and few characters, through excellent dialogue, restrained plotting and interesting scenarios, Roman Polanksi has managed to weave a story that is interesting and entertaining. Roman Polanski has a great flair for human relationships in his movies, the best example of this was in his best movie, Knife in the Water, and that element is abundant here too. The scenes in which all three characters are on screen interacting with each other are this movie's finest moments.

    Cul-De-Sac is an excellent black comedy thriller that fans of the genre and fans of the excellent Roman Polanski will not want to miss. Recommended viewing
  • Two gangsters on the run hide out in a isolated castle that is occupied by Plesance and Dorleac. The two share a rather bizarre passive, aggressive relationship that quickly disintegrates when interrupted by the strangers. Eventually a even more bizarre bonding develops between the couple and Stander, one of the gangsters. Very, very intriguing psychological drama with wonderfully subversive elements lurking just beneath the surface.

    Polanski makes full use of the castle showing it's dark, shadowy interior as a sort of symbolic equation to the dark recesses of the human mind. The characters all have their odd traits yet are still believable and compelling to watch. Wonderfully photographed with a strong visual style that really gives this film a distinct look and personality.

    Stander, who is probably best known as Max on the old HART TO HART series, has one of his finest roles. He plays a brute that mixes both savage and human traits all at the same time. Plesance though is astounding, playing a truly pathetic character that is simply unforgettable
  • A wounded criminal and his dying partner take up refuge at a beachfront villa, which (not surprisingly) makes the owners less than thrilled.

    I watched this as part of my quest to see all of Polanski's films in order. After two psychological films, he has switched to comedy... and I am not entirely sure I get it. Visually, this film is quite stunning and it has some good camera work (including one of the longest continuous sequences in cinematic history at the time of release at 7 minutes and 28 seconds).

    Jack Nicholson claimed in an interview in 2007 that this is his favorite film. Not sure what to make of that. I loved Donald Pleasance as the cross-dressing wimp, but beyond that, I just do not think I really got it... the humor was not so strong and the darkness was not all that dark.
  • Roman Polanski's third feature Cul-De-Sac is a more comedic take on an age-old premise: a couple (Donald Pleasance and Francoise Dorleac) are put upon by a criminal on the run (Lionel Stander) and the film becomes a power game of their interactions. It doesn't have much in the way of narrative, but instead builds itself around the ups and downs of their power struggles and the way they confront one another, as a whole or in individual pairings. It starts off well enough with a solid opening act that had quite a few laughs, mostly thanks to Pleasance, but after a while it began to wear thin.

    The entire thing relies on your interest in the characters and their games of power and sexual undertones with one another, but I couldn't have cared less about any of them so I found myself dreadfully bored for most of it. The final act raised my interest a little bit as everything goes wildly out of control, but it took too long for me to get there. Lionel Stander is a solid presence, creating a very uneasy feeling whenever he walks in the room, but Dorleac and Pleasence began to grate on my nerves rather quickly. I've always been a big Polanski fan and he still shows here his ability to create a complete atmosphere that is fully in tune with his vision, along with his fetish for isolating his characters in secluded locations, but I unfortunately didn't care about the characters in a film that is all about them.
  • Cul-de-sac is a very beautiful black and white movie. It belongs to the lightweight category. The story is weird in an entertaining way, often amusing and sad at once. If the director tried to be willingly shallow, he was very successful. And I do not mean that ironically but say it with awe.

    The place is Holy Island, on the east coast of Northern England. It actually gets cut off with the tide. Polanski makes very good use of the location and was very lucky with the casting. All characters are rather detestable in a detached sort of way. Donald Pleasance gives the performance of his life as the emasculated, utterly humiliated owner of the castle on the island. The other two main characters are the brisk yet elf like Françoise Dorléac and Lionel Stander as a gruff, brutal gangster. There is a very strange, truly unique chemistry between Dorléac and Stander. Dorléac does something to Stander. «We call dees a bicycle», she says gleefully with her funny accent, and it nearly knocks me off my chair every time I see that well filmed, suspenseful scene. I won‘t tell you what «de bicycle» is – it may need parental guidance to watch it but does not belong to the restrictable area. Cul-de-sac has a very memorable musical score.
  • As 'Cul-de-sac' was Polanski's first movie after his brilliant psychological thriller 'Repulsion' it can't help but be a slight disappointment. Even so, I thought it was an interesting movie and I found it to be much more enjoyable than his next one the totally unfunny spoof 'The Fearless Vampire Killers'. 'Cul-de-sac' is quite difficult to catergorise. In some ways it reminded me of Pinter's 'The Birthday Party' (filmed much later than this but originally staged in the late 1950s), in others of Jack Hill's cult favourite 'Spider Baby' (made earlier but not really released until afterwards), and you could almost see it as prefiguring 'Performance' (old school gangsters meet the new world of the swinging 1960s). But really it quite an odd and unique black comedy. It may not be 100% successful, and it does have a few dull spots, but overall it's worth tracking down if you want to see something different. The main reason it succeeds for me is the unusual location of Lindisfarne, England (which I have visited), and the performances of Donald Pleasence, Francoise Dorleac and Lionel Stander. Pleasence was one of Britain's most underrated character actors, the beautiful and doomed Dorleac had appeared alongside Jean-Paul Belmondo in the entertaining thriller 'That Man From Rio', and Standish, who later appeared in movies by Leone and Spielberg, is best remembered as Max, the craggy manservant on the popular 1980s TV show 'Hart To Hart'. All three are excellent in this movie, and their interaction make it fascinating viewing. The supporting cast also includes Jack MacGowran ('The Exorcist') and an early appearance by 1970s sex symbol Jacqueline Bisset. 'Cul-de-sac' is without a doubt Polanski's most underrated movie, and fans of the unusual and the off beat will enjoy it very much. A DVD with a commentary from Polanski would would be wonderful. Any chance?
  • don250716 December 2015
    Roman Polanski and his screenwriter in this film, Gerard Brach, were said to be enamored of theater of the absurd during their sojourn in Paris in the mid-60s, and wished to make a cinematic version of the then prevailing absurdist drama. It's been reported that they asked Samuel Becket, of "Waiting for Godot" fame, if they could film one of his absurdist dramas, particularly Godot, but he refused saying that his plays were meant for the stage, and only the stage. So Brach and Polanski decided to write their own absurdist film script and wrote "Cul-De-Sac" while in France, but could find no financial backing which they later sought in England. Financial support was also difficult to find in England but their success with Repulsion (1965), a psychological-horror film, made financing available for Cul-De-Sac, which was the film they wanted to make all along. In an interview in 1970 (before Chinatown), Polanski called it "my best film. I always loved it. I always believed in it. It is real cinema."

    What it is is "absurdist" cinema that simultaneously, and not separately, combines melodrama and comedy, where two dim-witted, small-time gangsters confront a sadomasochistic couple in a Gothic, horror-like setting. The two criminals, trying to get away from a job they botched for the mysterious Mr. Katelbach, lose their auto on the causeway to a medieval castle on a island just off the Northumberland coast in England, and as the tide comes in, they find themselves trapped on the island with the couple who live in the foreboding castle, or rather the couple finds themselves trapped with the hoods. And so begins the wait for the rescue by Ketelbach who is sure to turn up and rescue these dim-wits from the authorities who are surely on their tail. The owner, George, is older than his wife, somewhat effete and scared, and scorned by his wife, who's sexually flirtatious; the two hoods have been shot, one is dying, and the other (Dickie) uses towels as a bandage and becomes increasingly abusive, albeit in a comical way. The actions and dialogue of the four often make no sense, but there's some macabre humor when the castle receives visitors and the couple, afraid of revealing Dickie to be who he is, use him as their butler, but the rough hood's manners, movements, and speech indicate he's never worked at Downton Abbey. In the end, one of the characters dies, one is shot, one goes crazy, and one goes off with an apparent new lover, but has Ketelbach shown up?

    Technically, this is a well-shot film, as you might expect from a Polanski film, but I don't believe absurdist drama is perfectly made for film. I believe absurdist drama is more suitable for the stage where dialogue is everything, but I'm sure some readers can cite examples that can refute my assertion. In any event, the weird humor might have been more compelling in the 1960s than I found it in 2015.
  • A wounded criminal, Dickie and his dying partner Albie find an old seaside castle.That castle is full of chickens and it is owned by the meek and a bit neurotic George and his sensual young wife Teresa.Now these two are the hostages of Dickie, who's waiting for his boss to come.Cul-de-sac (1966) was the second film of Roman Polanski in English.It's a fascinating movie, and a bit bizarre, perhaps.You have to like Donald Pleasence's work as George.His character is comical but also tragic, shy and sensitive, someone who's easy to be manipulated.The way George is ridiculed by his woman, who dresses him as a woman and puts on some make-up on him tells a lot about what kind of a man George is.Francoise Dorléac is perfect in the role of his Mrs.Lionel Stander is somewhat sympathetic as Dickie.Jack MacGowran, who's also remembered from Polanski's Dance of the Vampires from the next year, plays Albie brilliantly.Ian Quarrier plays Christopher.Jacqueline Bisset makes her second film appearance in a small role.This movie has a lot of memorable stuff.It's great to watch when they have unexpected guests of George's friends and Dickie has to portray a butler.Or the moments on the beach with Teresa swimming nude in the background.This movie has some comedy.It has some psychological thriller.It has some drama.It has everything to keep you captivated.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    One of the less popular Polanski films, made between his sleeper "Repulsion" (Catherine Deneuve's star-turn) and the hilarious horror comedy "The Fearless Vampire Killer" (starring Polanski himself alongside his ill-fated wife, Sharon Tate), "Cul-de-sac" is a bizarre film indeed. In his autobiography, Polanski stated that this was his favorite film of all, and, if he had the choice, he'd only do movies like this.

    "Cul-de-sac" is hard to classify. It is an odd kind of comedy, but not really funny, it has some thriller elements, but it's not suspenseful, there are traces of a mystery slash horror thing, but they're never obviously visible, and, finally, it is the story of a marriage. There isn't much happening, really, and if you're not into weird movies, you'll most certainly find "Cul-de-sac" boring, but if you are, it will give you lots of pleasure.

    The movie has a lot of charm, and it's craziness brings it quite close to Lester's "The Knack". Donald Pleasance's performance might be the best of his entire career. This alone makes Polanski's little masterpiece worth watching. Lionel Stander and the unforgettable Jack MacGowran are equally remarkable, and Ian Quarrier (who later played a gay vampire in "The Fearless Vampire Killers") can be seen in a supporting part. The setting (an old castle), though, is the real star of this film, and the entire thing is beautifully captured: the black-and-white-photography is timelessly elegant and Oscar-worthy. A pity "Cul-de-sac" was not a success when it was released. It came out on DVD a couple of years back and is a must for Polanski fans and film fans alike.
  • Incredible if you think that 2 years after this, Polanski directed probably one of the greatest thrillers of all time. If you're looking for a classic Polanski, this is not it.
  • If we think of Roman Polanski's pieces, Nóz w wodzie (1962)is more important, Repulsion (1965)is in my opinion almost the best movie ever made, Rosemary's baby (1968)is more horrifying and Le Locataire (1976) is more interesting, not to talk about Chinatown (1974) etc.

    So why should you see Cul-de-Sac? Because it's polanski and it's not crappy. And because of Catherine Deneuve's sister Francoise Dorleac, who died way too early (in 1967, just some time after she co-starred Les Demoiselles de Rochefort with her sister).

    Once again, the main characters are separated from the world and stranger's are getting in from the outside. The movie is fun, weird and of course a must-see for a Polanski fan.
  • "Cul-de-Sac" is another strange kind of a suspense film… It is about a hoodlum invading the privacy of a rich, highly eccentric couple, impresses with its darkly comic account of power games and communication breakdown…

    Here Polanski isolated his characters in an old castle on Holy Island, off the Northumberland coast... And what characters they were: Donald Pleasance, putting on his wife's nightie and using her make-up in the retreat to which he had escaped from the unappealing world; Francoise Dorléac as the stunning bird; and Lionel Stander as the savage intruder blundering in…

    A lot of critics gave a lot of praise to this film – presumably on the precept that if it's bizarre and a bit perverse and nobody understands it, it must be good… I found it just too bizarre, too perverse, too incomprehensible to sustain the suspense that must have been intended
  • The opening scene is beautifully shot, the acting is of a high standard and Polanski overall is showing himself to be a promising director here. This is all very well, but the film works the audience far too hard. There is not a single soul or thing in the film we get to like. At first we root a little for the couple in the castle against the gangsters who interrupt their idyll. Then we find the inhabitants are either weak, flighty or deranged. Every time someone new enters we find they are despicable too. Even the island and castle is constantly derided by the gangsters with little comeback from the inhabitants. The music on the stereo is excruciating, as is the art painted by the Donald Pleasance character and the vodka made by his French wife. Films should be either uplifting, scary, educational, funny or should say something deep about the human soul, this film does none of that. It all just feels clever-clever and pointless.
  • I am a big Polanski fan and finally got around to watching this early movie of his. It appears to be low budget, but nicely shot, nonetheless. I love the environments he creates, and this wonderful castle used for the location is the most alive thing in the movie (if it hadn't been used for some slapstick comedy and thus falling apart). Some of the acting is reasonable (Jacqueline Bisset in an early, but non-speaking role, alas, is the most interesting thing, really; wish there was more of her or she had lines). Even with the few good things I listed, the movie misses on almost all cylinders, even though Polanski attempts, and almost succeeds, in making an old plot into something new, and into a black comedy as well (although it really is a rather 'gray' black comedy). It is a character study but they are all so distasteful that that fails. A very irritating movie, overall, due to the characters. I guess Polanski is a human director, after all! It could not be further from his other movies. The tragic murder of his wife, Sharon Tate, plus his later legal problems, have not happened by this release, so no obvious excuse for this self-indulgent film.
  • After a botched robbery two felons by the names of "Richard" (Lionel Standler) and "Albie" (Jack MacGowran) escape by car to an isolated castle on the island of Lindisfame in Northumberland, England. Although Richard (aka "Dickie") has injured his arm he still manages to bully the two residents of the castle, "George" (Donald Pleasance) and his wife "Teresa" (Françoise Dorléac) into allowing him and Albie, who has been shot in the stomach, into staying there until he can get help from his boss in a day or two. While they are there the personalities of the various characters begin to emerge and all kinds of situations result from it. Now as far as this movie is concerned I will just say that Lionel Standler and Donald Pleasance both performed in a very solid manner. Even so, I must confess that I thought Françoise Dorléac clearly dominated this picture with her performance and breath-taking beauty. Yet in spite of it all, I also believe that the extremely convoluted plot and the rather weak attempt at comedy greatly negated what was otherwise a brilliant performance on her part. Because of the faults just mentioned I have rated this movie accordingly. Slightly below average.
  • JasparLamarCrabb7 September 2006
    Warning: Spoilers
    Released at a time when the likes of DOCTOR ZHIVAGO and THE SOUND OF MUSIC were tearing up the box-office and winning oodles of Oscars, CUL-DE-SAC has more going on than both of those bloated epics combined. Assembling one of the most sublime casts imaginable, Roman Polanski apes his earlier KNIFE IN THE WATER by having a couple's seemingly idyllic relationship interrupted ---this time by two interlopers...a hooligan and his infirm sidekick. The couple's already precarious relationship begins to crack and ultimately shatters in a climax of distrust and panic. But not before giving their guests an unexpected run for their money. Donald Pleasence and Francoise Dorleac make a truly odd couple and, as the hoods, Lionel Stander and Jack MacGowran, are alternately menacing and pathetic. It's great to see the always interesting Stander land such a plum role. CUL-DE-SAC is probably the most cutting movie Polanski has ever made. Never too successful with comedy, Polanski infused this movie with a good deal of humor, albeit always very black. One of the films highlights has Dorleac putting a match to some paper she's stuffed between Stander's toes!
  • Bored bourgeois dilettante and his bored faux-bohemian wife live out their empty, aristocratic dreams in an isolated castle full of chickens. Chickens for life. Chickens at life. Chickens for eggs. Roosters without purpose, without worker-hens to do their dirty work; the trash piles up. The empty wife is at constant sexual readiness; but she's disappointed with the game and its players. Excitement is desired. And then in walk the criminal element, proletarian in taste, practical in nature. What a mix! There is even a visit to the castle on the hill by other bored bourgeois acquaintances, to punch up the empty, cold idiocy of the scene. And the prolo-crims, loyal to their patriarchal boss, wait to for rescue, for their Godot. But there is no more honour amongst thieves than there is amongst bourgeois and all round, disappointment reigns to the rat-tahtat-tat of gunfire and death. In the end, one betrayal is as good as another and the ultimate alienation which is the product of a narrow, individualistic lifesyle is left to howl in its usual shriveled, muted manner.
  • Easily one of Polanski's best (along with Rosemary's Baby, Repulsion, and the Pianist). I've only recently been able to acquire a copy of this fascinating story which seems to combine Harold Pinter with Woody Allen. Fine acting by all, especially the beautiful Francoise Dorleac, possibly one of the most gorgeous and under-rated actresses of the 60's. Donald Pleasance was never creepier or more pathetic. Lionel Stander was born to play Dickie and Jackie Bissett has a nice cameo role. To take this cast to that island and actually film this must have been a nightmare, but Thank God he did. I cannot believe this doesn't have more of a cult following.

    Now that it's on DVD, hopefully, it will attract more attention. Great cinematography and Oscar-worthy work from the leads. Rated a 9.
  • The wounded criminal Richard "Dicky" (Lionel Stander) and his dying partner Albie (Jack MacGowran) seek for shelter in an old seaside castle full of chickens and owned by the eccentric and coward American George (Donald Pleasence) and his slut French wife Teresa (Françoise Dorléac). While waiting for the rescue of his boss, Albie dies and Dicky develops a strange relationship with the odd couple.

    The cult and awarded black comedy "Cul-de-sac" is a weird and bizarre movie. I do not know whether this sort of non-sense humor is dated or works for European, but in my concept most of the jokes are not funny. Nevertheless it is worthwhile watching this film, first because it is one of the first works of the great director Roman Polanski, and also because it is one of the last works of Catherine Deneuve's sister Francoise Dorleac, who prematurely died in 1967 when her sports car crashed and burned in Nice, France. My vote is six.

    Title (Brazil): "Armadilha do Destino" ("Trap from the Destiny")
  • I thought after connecting with Herzog's STROSZEK, I'd seen the oldest dark comedy that would ever resonate for me on a relatively deep level, but Cul-de-sac just did it, so we can push that number back 11 years from 1977 to 1966.

    A couple of Polanski's early films, Repulsion and The Tenant, are already two of my favorite films of all time, so it's no shocker that I loved this as much as I did, but the level of comedy to it was almost unexpected. To me, this movie is primarily a comedy, through and through. I see a lot of mediocre reviews claiming that the comedy was too prominent, which took away from the dread a film would generally attain amidst an effective thriller, however, if you don't view the movie as a thriller, you won't find yourself disappointed...

    I was cracking up through the majority of the film. It just gets funnier and funnier as it goes. All 3 lead actors and their respective characters are an absolute riot, each offering their own twist of madness to the group, and they only get more interesting and more amusing as the film progresses. There are a few sequences in which I felt a bit of concern and/or shock as one would with a drama or thriller, but otherwise I simply got off on the wild performances, conversations, and moments throughout. Finally, I understand why Donald Pleasance is a notable actor - what a legendary character and performance he gives here. I also had no idea Catherine Deneuve had an older sister (who apparently died in a car accident soon after making this, her last movie) - she is nearly as intoxicating as her legendary sister, and the rugged Lionel Stander made an epic first impression on me - he's almost like a cartoon character, consistently. You can't take him super seriously as a "villain" but to me that was the point. You put these 3 in a blender and they still won't blend... it's perfect.

    On top of all that, the setting and the cinematography is gorgeous. I love the pace of the whole thing. It's long enough that you can get lost in it, and feel like you're stranded there with them. It's just right. The most special part is really just how unique this movie is - the specific combination of everything - I've never seen anything like it. Fully enjoyable and I would absolutely say a CLASSIC and a MUST-SEE as far as Polanski goes. Wonderful!
  • Roman Polanski steers a film along in one location or kind of place with just a few characters like it's nobody's business. He's one of the most brilliant at it, at being able to veer away from making things static and stagey just like the chamber pieces Knife in the Water or Death and the Maiden. Cul-de-sac is no exception, but it also has the distinction of being one of Polanski's comedies- however here, perhaps, it's the most successful and masterful of them all (albeit the others I can recall are Fearless Vampire Killers and Pirates, which are good but lessor works) because of his trust in the purely existential horror of the situation. I was laughing to the kind of harrowingly funny situations the characters would get into, or the strange awkwardness of such things as a little kid wielding a shotgun and cursing or watching poor Jack MacGowran stuck with a bullet in his belly in the getaway car as it slowly sinks in the coming tide.

    But lest not forget that as with many other Polanski films, for all of his own ferocious and oddly subtle command of a lens (most notable is the 7-minute long take on the beach which is only fluid inasmuch as the characters slightly move about in the setting), the performances catapult it into uncharted territory of eccentricity and brilliance. Lionel Stander, for one, gives maybe one of his definitive performances in a career of minor character actor parts (i.e. "you might remember me as Barman in Once Upon a Time in the West), characterized by his gravely voice and quintessential tough-guy-noir face and demeanor, playing one of the criminals taking over and hiding out in the 11th century castle of Donald Pleasance and Francoise Dorleac. Pleasance and Dorleac are also perfectly cast as seeming caricatures (Pleasance's George as the meek and mild-mannered retired worker and Dorleac as his dripping-with-French-sexy-and-slightly-crazy wife) who peel back layers of their characters as it goes along. At the least, it should be noted, it's an incredible career highlight for the underrated Pleasance and an intriguing and nasty turn from Dorleac.

    Cul-de-sac is a howler of a black comedy, with pitch black jokes involving a dead body and his burial, the untimely arrival of a bunch of George's bourgeois friends, and ending in a crazy purging freak-out from George. Sometimes single lines stand out (Stander delivering "Mental retiring or something" is classic), or just a sudden physical motion, and Polanski is always there to add some taut level or even claustrophobia. But what is richest of all in the film is the implications on the human capacity for choice and cruelty. Throughout George is made a point of ridicule, mostly by his own wife, for not being manly enough to stand up to this grater-voiced thug and is not helped by him first appearing- as a funny/personal in-joke between husband and wife- in lipstick and a dress, and we see both his entire spectrum of personality and psychology along with the wife and Richard (poor MacGowran, as mentioned, is relegated mostly to being laid out on a table pontificating as a yin to Richard's yang).

    If there could be a word to apply to what unravels in Cul-de-sac morbid would probably be the one to use in describing the bulk of the picture. And Polanski, no stranger to morbidity, transforms his picture into a bizarre, troubling and, very morbid and complex examination of what lies beneath a simple film-noir; it's very funny, very tragic, and satisfying as 60s cinema could get. Only drawback: lack of decent prints in the USA and lack of access to videos make it near impossible to see the picture as originally intended or in good condition. Thankfully, it's so good that one can forgive finding the occasional bootleg with so-so transfer quality.
  • This film is really hard to describe, so I'll just jump to why I enjoyed it so much...

    The acting is phenomenal.

    The beautiful black and white cinematography.

    The morbid humour.

    The menacing atmosphere.

    This film is unlike most of what I have ever seen, and the best film I have had to the pleasure to see from Polanski so far. Some people will not like it, for like most truly great films, it's, say it with me, NOT FOR EVERYONE! Is it a thriller? Is it a drama? Is it a comedy? Is it a horrorfilm? Who cares? It's a masterpiece no matter what!
  • I was aware of this film for many years but knew nothing about it, apart from the fact, Polanski directed it. I've always, anyway, been a greater fan of the less lauded Polish director, Jerzy Skolimowski, director of the 1970 classic, Deep End.

    Cul De Sac is a comedy without laughs, a suspense film without tension, an allegory without obvious allegorical juxtaposition, it nevertheless, maintains a brooding atmosphere and elicits splendid performances from Donald Pleasance as the wimpish, effete keeper of the castle, Francois Dorleac, his sensual wife of ten months standing and Lionel Stander, as the wounded American gangster entering their quaint, secluded,confined, Northumbrian world. The black and white contours of the coast is matched by the elegance and beauty of Dorleac during her regular,unclothed, associations with the water; she has an aura of vulnerability, more so, when I learnt she died in a car crash a year or so after making this film, aged 25.

    Some of the dialogue is piquant, but I liked the scene in which ulcer-suffering Pleasance is forced to drink alcohol by the gun-toting Yank and becomes almost human, thereafter. Not a good advert for Alcoholics Anonymous.

    When some interlopers appear, the film loses some of it's claustrophobic edginess, but I enjoyed seeing the late William Franklyn in a cameo, taking Dorleac's home-made hooch nervously to his lips, raising an eyebrow and saying "excellent". He later made his name in TV ads in the UK, drinking tonic water and similar, each time uttering an immortal phrase, hinting at the brand name: "Sch, you know who..." In this case, we all know who is behind this interesting period piece.... Polanski, as if you didn't know.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Cul-de-sac, like Polanski's first movie, is a movie about human relationships. In fact one could find many similarities between this movie and Knife In The Water. Dickie, a wounded criminal takes his dying partner, Albie, to a nearby castle and makes the two occupants hostages. Albie dies and Dickie has to wait for his boss, the mysterious Kateblbach, to come and rescue him. The tide has come up and the castle is currently unaccessible. So he has to spend the night with the couple, George and Teresa, waiting for rescue.

    In an ordinary movie, this could lead to a tense, suspenseful situation. But in Polanski's hands it becomes a study about human existence and the unpredictability of human behavior. For starters, there's no hero in this movie - George is a coward unable to take a stand; Teresa, disgusted by him, starts to get closer to Dickie. Dickie is a brute but he's hardly a monster: so long as people do as he says, he's alright with everyone. Many humorous and absurd situations arise from this relationship, as George and Dickie engage in conversations by the beach while Teresa bathes; or when Teresa, instead of running away, goes to Dickie to have a drink of vodka with him. People who expect their movie characters to behave in certain ways may be surprised, baffled or infuriated by this trio.

    My favorite part of the movie is when guests unexpected arrive at the castle and the couple and Dickie have to pretend he's their gardener. With the tables inverted, Teresa proceeds to abuse Dickie as much as possible. One can easily see the hatred and tension boiling inside Dickie as he struggles to keep up appearances.

    The tree main actors are quite good in this movie - Françoise Dorléac, Lion Stander, and especially Donald Pleasance as George. For me he had the most difficult and courageous role in the movie, that of playing a weak-willed, cowardly man who tolerates abuse after abuse. Such frailty is rare in cinema since it's not very appealing, but unusual as it may be it strikes a chord for how familiar it is.

    Once again I'm marveled at how Polanski manages to create a movie out of so little resources: a castle, three actors, and what else? Just clever writing, good camera work and imagination. Although Polanski has done better movies, Cul-de-sac has an undefinable quality that grips the viewer's mind and doesn't let go.
  • This film is Polanski's 'Citizen Kane'. From then on, he never got better (but still quite good as in 'Chinatown' for instance). It is a tight, existentialist film, situated on an island (during flood, when tide, not an island). It featured Francois Dorleac, the equally beautiful but more romantic sister of Catherine Deneuve, who died not many years after this in a car accident if I remember correctly. I haven't seen a film in which she stared that wasn't good but here is the best of them. 'I started at the top and since then I'm been working myself down', said Orson Welles in 'F as in Fake', his last film. Polanski could say (almost) the same (he had done polish films before this one and I don't know if 'Repulsion' was before or after this one). An outstanding masterpiece good for many viewings and not on DVD (of course, I almost say).
An error has occured. Please try again.