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October 2010

Cul-de-sac

cast: Donald Pleasance, Fran�oise Dorl�ac, Lionel Stander, William Mervyn, and Jack MacGowran

director: Roman Polanski

107 minutes (12) 1966
widescreen ratio 1.78:1
Odeon DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 7/10
review by J.C. Hartley

Cul-de-sac

Not as scary as Repulsion, and not as menacing as the Pinteresque/ Beckett screenplay would suggest, this is a wonderfully black comedy, made outstanding by a performance of particular idiosyncratic brilliance by the normally saturnine Donald Pleasance.

Dickie (Lionel Stander) and Albie (Jack MacGowran, The Fearless Vampire Killers) are gangsters, making their way over the causeway to Holy Island. Dickie has a wounded arm; Albie has been gut-shot. Dickie sees Teresa (Fran�oise Dorl�ac) philandering with her pretty-boy neighbour Christopher, while the latter's parents converse with Teresa's husband George (Donald Pleasance).

Dickie takes over George and Teresa's home, the 'castle' on Lindisfarne Island. Dickie is waiting for rescue by his boss Mr Katelbach, after a botched job. Albie dies, and Dickie forces the couple to help in his burial. Teresa goads George about his inadequacy, and the visit by some of George's old friends and their annoying spoilt brat of a child eventually trigger a reaction in George. Dickie's abandonment by Katelbach and George's acquisition of balls signal a final confrontation.

A scenario, not as disturbing as say The Homecoming or The Birthday Party by Pinter, nor as complex as Beckett's Waiting For Godot, but in the same essential mood. Pleasance, who would normally play a role of great menace, is here the worm who turns. He is hugely watchable. Lionel Stander is Ernest Borgnine crossed with Lee Marvin. A fabulous extras package provides a stills gallery, a trailer for Repulsion and a South Bank Show interview with Polanski, plus an excellent making-of interview featurette which reveals how Lionel Stander came to live his character.

Dorl�ac was arguably never as attractive as her sister Catherine, but her sulky-face and aggression, was sexier. Donald Pleasance steals the picture with his vulnerability and his tentative relationship with his bullying tormentor Dickie. The UK loves its gangsters, but the portrayal is never straightforward.



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