Hot off the success of Repulsion, Polanski reteamed with key creatives including cinematographer Gilbert Taylor and screenwriting partner, Gérard Brach. Shooting once more in England and in black and white, Polanski creates a hermetic world brimming with perversity, male sexual anxiety and brutish violence. Despite the dark comedy of terrors the film offers, Polanski’s deft lightness of touch permeates the film’s escalating tension and inevitable violence.
The mercurial off-screen temperaments of stars Donald Pleasence and gravel-voiced American character actor Lionel Stander (playing Richard, one of the goons who make the couple hostages in their own home) heightened the atmosphere on a shoot that was also beset by volatile weather and tides. Jack MacGowran, who played Albie, Stander’s wounded partner in crime, endeared himself so deeply to Polanski, the two would appear on screen together in Polanski’s vampire spoof, The Fearless Vampire Killers, the following year.
Written before Repulsion, the germ of the story for Cul-de-Sac was formulated while Polanski and Brach were both licking their wounds in the wake of respective marriage breakdowns and spending considerable amounts of time watching 1930s and ‘40s Hollywood gangster films at a repertory cinema they frequented in Paris.
6 Nov - 10 Nov
Polanski’s highly original absurdist comedy draws on the gangsters-on-the-lam genre, infusing it with sexual neurosis and dark comedy. Donald Pleasence plays a retired, middlebrow businessman living in a remote castle on the tidal island of Lindisfarne with his restless young wife (played by Catherine Deneuve’s sister, Françoise Dorléac). Their isolation keeps the two together but cracks appear with the unexpected arrival of two gangsters seeking a hide-out.