A wounded gangster takes a newlywed couple hostage
in their own home while he waits for assistance.
Directed by Roman Polanski
Written by Roman Polanski and Gérard Brach
Starring Donald Pleasence, Françoise Dorléac, Lionel Stander,
Jack MacGowran, Ian Quarrier, Robert Dorning, Marie Kean
Cul-De-Sac is a brilliant comedy that showcases the surprising range of Donald Pleasence as well as the versatility of Roman Polanski as a filmmaker. It's absolutely hilarious and, at times, can be super tense. Lionel Stander does a tremendous job playing the oddly likable gangster villain Dickie, and together with Françoise Dorléac, the three leads have perfect chemistry that keeps this film and its characters straddling the fine line between genius and madness. After all, who knows who we really are when we're under duress? Perhaps that's when our true selves are revealed.
Pleasence is George, a stuffy Englishman who recently purchased an island castle for him and his gorgeous new wife Teresa (Dorléac). But when Dickie, a wounded gangster with zero regard for anyone else's living space, shows up demanding assistance for his more seriously wounded partner Albie (Jack MacGowran), George and Teresa find themselves in a bit of a pickle. Dickie threatens to kill them while they wait for Dickie's boss to come bail him out of trouble, but the couple start to unravel awfully quick. Dickie, in a way, helps them realize that their identities are a front for their true selves. George, in reality, could care less about the history of the castle. He just enjoys lording his status over people beneath his station. Teresa, on the other hand, is attracted to danger and perilous situations, which she tries to create by manipulating George into shooting Dickie, which drives George into madness. It's a great metaphor for how we hide our real selves until we're forced into the light.
I think Cul-De-Sac is one of Polanski's most brilliant films and a truly entertaining watch. The cast is brilliant, the comedic timing is impeccable, and the extra layer of drama really pushes this film into the spotlight and makes it special. If it were easier to find, I'd recommend it, but considering how hard I had to look, I'd consider this film a true gem.