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Cul-de-sac
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Reviews & Ratings for
Cul-de-sac More at IMDbPro »

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2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Great Style

Author: (trent@entelchile.net) from Chile
17 August 1999

Roman Polanski is one of the few directors that have never disappointed me. He have a very cold directing style. The movements and positions of the camera are very photographic. This movie continue the line of Repulsion and A Knife in the Water.

Please excuse my English, and e-mail me for talking. I will be happy of chatting with you about films or anything.

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3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Polanski - As If You Didn't Know...

7/10
Author: michael-1151 from United Kingdom
29 December 2006

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.

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3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Pleasantly surprised! Not a waste of time.

6/10
Author: Space_Lord from Auckland, New Zealand
23 December 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Watched this film last night, part of a Polanski DVD box set a friend lent me.

After a bungled job, two injured criminals hide out in an 11th century castle owned by a retired businessman (George) and his hot young wife (Teresa).

One of the criminals, Dicky, soon establishes his dominance over the couple and threatens them if they don't help while he waits for his boss Katelbach. A group dynamic is soon formed where the weak-willed, ineffectual George is walked all over by both Dicky and his wife.

Personally, my favourite sequence in the movie is where George's pompous friends arrive unexpectedly and Dicky is forced to act as the couple's gardener! During this, George finally grows some balls and tells his so called friends exactly what he thinks of them. This liberating experience sets the tone for the rest of the film as George struggles to maintain a sense of dignity without offending his captor, all the while being cuckolded by his wife.

Once again Polanski manages to build a feeling of rising tension throughout the film. Some beautifully shot sequences, sharp dialogue and great character interaction make this a great film to watch if you've got some time to kill.

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4 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

A menacing and morbidly funny masterpiece

10/10
Author: pinback-6 (pinback@speed-racer.com) from Umeå, Sweden
21 March 2000

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!

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5 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

one of the most unusual and unlikely dark comic masterpieces

10/10
Author: MisterWhiplash from United States
23 August 2008

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.

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5 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

The dead end kids...

7/10
Author: (swillsqueal@yahoo.com.au) from Perth, Australia
10 July 2007

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.

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8 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

Mood piece with terrifying results

9/10
Author: shepardjessica from sparks, nevada
23 June 2004

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.

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10 out of 20 people found the following review useful:

the best film by polanski

10/10
Author: Karl Ericsson (karlericsson@telia.com) from sweden
14 November 2001

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).

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15 out of 30 people found the following review useful:

Too bizarre, too perverse, too incomprehensible to sustain the suspense that must have been intended…

7/10
Author: Righty-Sock (robertfrangie@hotmail.com) from Mexico
30 April 2005

"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…

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2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

An Extremely Convoluted Plot

4/10
Author: Uriah43 from Amarillo, Texas
25 September 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

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.

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