Sometimes you can’t do anything but laugh!

Cul-de-sac is a 1966 British comedy thriller about two gangsters on the run who seek refuge in a remote castle for weak men. But when it comes to using a firearm, nothing is what it seems.

The film was directed by Roman Polanski (Ninth Gate, Lodging, Rosemary’s Baby, Repulsion) to a screenplay co-written with Gerard Brasch. Starring Donald Pleasance, Françoise Dorleac, Lionel Stander and Jack McGaughran.

Reviews [click on links to

The problem with films like Cul-de-sac is that the characters are all so unsympathetic, completely self-absorbed, and seemingly determined to make the lives of those around them as unpleasant as possible, that the average viewer can’t relate to any of them, making it impossible to emotionally empathize with their plight. 20/20 Movie Reviews

The fact that Cul-de-sac contains not a single sympathetic character does not diminish its artistic merit […] Building on two of Polanski’s favorite themes – isolation and hidden madness – Cul-de-sac gets better with each viewing, provided the viewer has the patience to watch it once. AllMovie

Lindisfarne is a beautiful and austere setting for a rather unconventional and daring process. Pleasance and Stander are both terrific in their manic, wide-eyed spontaneity. It’s tense and chaotic, with terrible characters and rabid self-accusation. It’s striking and bold, with insightful editing and a series of shots that are impressive and inspiring. Backseat Mafia

It’s a very unusual and digressive farce that I didn’t always know what to make of, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. With its dark and unconventional sense of humor, Polanski’s engaging use of memorable and often funny imagery, and coupled with enjoyable performances, this film is definitely on the successful side of my relationship with Polanski’s films. Draw: Overview

The services are excellent. Donald Compassion is perfect as the gentle husband, especially as the film progresses and he is forced to step out of character more and more. Also worth mentioning is wife Françoise Dorleac, Catherine Deneuve’s sister, whose career was interrupted by a tragic car accident. Lionel Stander is also excellent. Fantastic music movies and trolls

If you approach the film as a comedy, Polanski hasn’t always had much success in that area, and some of his comedies, including the much maligned Pirates, have been complete disasters, but it works. The best scene is when George’s old friends come to visit him and bring their youngest son, who becomes an absolute terror to everyone. Scopophilia

This (semi-successful) comedy would feel like a workshop piece, were it not for the excellent acting of Stander and Please and the somewhat egotistical and irritating performance of Dorlick. Although some scenes clearly tend to go awry, the bickering between the whiny George and the tough but sentimental Dickie can make you laugh out loud when they collide. Rotate the image

Although the plot is grim and bitterly serious, the overall tone is darkly comic, while the precise imagery effortlessly conveys the tension, claustrophobia and madness of the situation. Time Out (London)

…The director shows such style in his work and his direction that one can forgive him some excesses. Cul-de-sac is over-the-top, threatening, gritty and nerve-wracking. It’s also a bit thick in the middle and would need a serious editor to slim it down. Still, it’s worth seeing Dorlek shine….. to see. TV Guide

The actors and characters:

Donald Plesens… George
Françoise Dorlec… Theresa 19, Lionel Stander… Richard
Jack McGaughran… Albie
Ian Quarrier… Christopher
Jeffrey Sumner… Christopher
Renee Houston’s father… Christopher’s mother,
Robert Dorning… Philip Fairweather
Marie Keene… Marion Fairweather
William Franklin… Cecil
Jacqueline Bisset… Jacqueline (as in Jackie Bisset)
Trevor Delaney… Horace…


Holy Island, Lindisfarne, Northumberland, England.

Fun facts:

Contains one of the longest uninterrupted sequences in film history (at the time of release), at 7 minutes and 28 seconds (beach scene).

Roman Polanski insists on sixteen takes of the scene in which Lionel Stander drinks a cup of milk.

The relationship between Roman Polanski and the cast and crew was so bad that Donald Pleasance was chosen to lead a delegation to Polanski’s home to demand an end to his dictatorial behavior. Pleasence said later: It had to be done. Polanski was the only prima donna in this film.

No fun facts:

Roman Polanski is a fugitive in the United States. He fled the country in 1977 while awaiting sentencing for an illicit sexual relationship with a 13-year-old girl. Nonetheless, we treat Cul-de-sac, despite Polanski’s criminal acts and notorious arrogance, because it does not diminish the artistic value of his film work or the contributions of everyone else involved in the film.


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