Roman Polanski’s Cul-De-Sac
cul–de–sac 1: a blind diverticulum or pouch 2: a street or passage closed at one end.
Two wounded criminals Dickie (Lionel Stander) and his pal Albie (Jack McGowran) are stranded on an island shore road after their car breaks down. While Albie sits on the verge of dying as the tide begins to rise, Dickie tries to find some help nearby. Luckily he comes across a seaside castle which is owned by a strange little Englishman named George (Donald Pleasence) and his young, beautiful French wife Teresa (Francoise Dorleac). Dickie quietly hangs around the place until he can call his boss Mr. Katelbach and let him know where he is and to have him send some “friends” to pick him up. After eating some raw eggs in the family’s chickenhouse Dickie introduces himself to the couple who don’t appreciate his unannounced presence. When they’re alone Teresa and George play little games. For instance, Teresa likes to get George dressed up in her nightgown and put makeup on his face. Dickie asks George and Teresa to help him bring Albie back to the castle, after which Albie loses his bearing as he slowly succumbs to his wounds and dies. Meanwhile, Teresa and George’s own friends show up with their bratty young son Horace. They enjoy the afternoon until the visit comes to an abrupt, unpleasant end when the mischevious Horace fires off a shotgun. With tempers and frustrations rising, Dickie soon finds himself caught in the center of George and Teresa’s twisted, out of control lifestyle.
One of Cul-De-Sac’s most interesting qualities is the mixture of eccentric personalities it tosses together. At the forefront is Lionel Stander (Once Upon A Time in the West) whose voice is so gravelly, whenever he talks it cuts through the movie like a buzzsaw. Donald Pleasence’s George literally looks like a loose screw, his bald head and lanky frame paired with his nervously unattached persona are ominous. Francoise Dorleac’s Teresa is like an aloof little girl, playing music and using George as a toy to keep herself amused.
Director Roman Polanski is known for such classics as Rosemary’s Baby (1967) and Chinatown (1974) but Cul-De-Sac is a peculiar little gem from his filmography. A perfect film for late night viewing.