Cul-De-Sac (1966)

Cul-De-Sac (1966), directed by Roman Polanski.

An odd couple -- meek Donald Pleasence and his gorgeous young French wife, Françoise Dorléac -- living in a medieval fortress on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, Northumberland, England, UK, cut off by the tide twice a day -- are held captive by a pair of bank robbers (?) on the lam. This is not the best couples therapy for them.

It is a dark, absurdist comedy, sort of a European screwball treatment as informed by Samuel Beckett. I don't remember hearing of it until it appeared on Criterion Blu-ray. It was a good find, recommended if you like a little absurdist theater.

Pleasence was a remarkable package of talent: both mild and intense, self-effacing and psychotic.

Little flashes of nudity by Dorléac, well-placed and made more alluring by being so brief.

Watching this, I was thinking how much she looked like Catherine Deneuve in Polanski's Repulsion (1965) the previous year, a remarkable resemblance with her hair arranged the same way. Then I remembered: they were sisters. I presume Polanski was smitten with both; I know François Truffaut was.

I last saw her in Billion Dollar Brain (1967). She died at age 25 in a car accident as that film was being finished.

The big gunman is gruff-voiced American actor Lionel Stander, last seen in Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936). He's pretty great but as far as I know he always did supporting character roles.

His partner is Irish actor Jack MacGowran (another Beckett connection) who was in many Polanski films, notably as the goofy Einstein-like professor in The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967), a spoof of Hammer Dracula films.

Early appearance of "Jackie" Bisset in a small role.

Photographed by Gilbert Taylor.

Criterion Blu-ray.