ⓘ Cul-de-sac (1966 film)


ⓘ Cul-de-sac (1966 film)

Cul-de-sac is a 1966 British psychological comic thriller directed by the Polish director Roman Polanski. It was his second film in English, written by Polanski and Gerard Brach.

The cast includes Donald Pleasence, Françoise Dorleac, Lionel Stander, Jack MacGowran, Iain Quarrier, Geoffrey Sumner, Renee Houston, William Franklyn, Trevor Delaney, Marie Kean. It also features Jacqueline Bisset credited as Jackie Bisset in a small role, in her second film appearance. The black and white cinematography is by Gil Taylor.


1. Plot

Gruff American gangster Dickey pushes his broken-down car along a causeway through rising seawater while his eccentric companion Albie lies inside, bleeding from a gunshot wound after a bungled robbery. Cut off by the unexpected rising tide, they are on the only road to a bleak and remote tidal island Lindisfarne in Northumberland, where, in a dark castle on a hilltop, a deeply neurotic and effeminate middle-aged Englishman named George lives with his promiscuous young French wife Teresa. Dickey disconnects the phone lines and proceeds to hold the two hostage while awaiting further instructions from his underworld boss, the mysterious Katelbach.

When Albie dies from his injuries, Dickey decides to take over the castle. George briefly entertains some of his obnoxious friends who show up at the castle unannounced, leading Dickey to pose as a servant while Teresa begins to flirt with one of the guests, Cecil.

Dickey eventually gets word that his boss Katelbach is not going to come, so he demands George drive him to the mainland by causeway. George, who has had enough of Dickeys bullying, suddenly goes berserk and shoots him dead with his own gun Teresa had stolen Dickeys pistol from his coat pocket and encouraged George to use it. Before dying, Dickey manages to retrieve his tommy gun from his broken-down car, which he had hidden away in the chicken house. Too weak to fire the gun at George, Dickey collapses to the ground and the automatic discharge from the weapon causes the car to explode in flames inside the chicken house. Fearful of being implicated in the killing and of possible reprisals from Katelbachs other henchmen, Teresa frantically insists that she and George abandon the castle together. But George is in a state of shock and seems unable to leave. Desperate and afraid, Teresa runs off by herself and hides in a closet. She is later rescued by Cecil, who had returned to retrieve his rifle.

Now utterly alone, George runs along the beach at daybreak. He finally sits down on a rock in the fetal position and weeps hysterically as the early morning tide rises around him.


2. Cast

  • William Franklyn as Cecil
  • Marie Kean as Marion Fairweather
  • Geoffrey Sumner as Christophers father
  • Iain Quarrier as Christopher
  • Lionel Stander as Dickey
  • Trevor Delaney as Nicholas
  • Jack MacGowran as Albie
  • Jacqueline Bisset as Jacqueline
  • Donald Pleasence as George
  • Renee Houston as Christophers mother
  • Robert Dorning as Philip Fairweather
  • Françoise Dorleac as Teresa

3. Production

The film was shot on location in 1965 on the island of Lindisfarne also known as Holy Island off the coast of Northumberland, England. Lindisfarne Castle, which served as the home in the film, is now a National Trust property and can be toured by the public; despite the passage of time, the building and its surroundings are largely unchanged.


4. Interpretation

Like Polanskis previous film Repulsion, released the year before, it explores themes of horror, frustrated sexuality and alienation, which have become characteristic of many of the directors films, especially Rosemarys Baby and The Tenant.

Cul-de-Sac has been compared in tone and theme with the works of Samuel Beckett and Harold Pinter, and these similarities are underscored by the casting of two principal roles in the film: Jack MacGowran was renowned for his stage performances of Becketts plays and Donald Pleasence originated the role of Davies in Pinters The Caretaker. The films German title is Wenn Katelbach kommt When Katelbach Comes. Christopher Weedman also notes the films similarities with "such hard-edged Humphrey Bogart hostage thrillers as The Petrified Forest Archie Mayo, 1936, Key Largo John Huston, 1948, and The Desperate Hours William Wyler, 1955."


5. Awards and reputation

Cul-de-sac was awarded the 1966 Golden Bear at the 16th Berlin International Film Festival.

Cul-de-sac currently July 2012 holds an 84% approval rating on the film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, based on 19 reviews.