Cul-de-sac (1966 film)

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Original film poster
Directed by Roman Polanski
Produced by Gene Gutowski
Michael Klinger[1]
Tony Tenser
Written by Roman Polanski
Gerard Brach
Starring Donald Pleasence
Françoise Dorléac
Lionel Stander
Music by Krzysztof Komeda
Cinematography Gilbert Taylor
Edited by Alastair McIntyre
Compton Films
Tekli British Productions
Distributed by Sigma III (Original)
Transmission Films (Online)
Release date(s)
  • 17 June 1966 (1966-06-17) (London)
  • 24 June 1966 (1966-06-24) (BIFF)
  • 7 November 1966 (1966-11-07) (United States)
Running time 112 minutes[2]
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget £120,000[3]

Cul-de-sac is a 1966 British psychological thriller directed by the Franco-Polish director Roman Polanski. It was his second film in English, written by himself and Gérard Brach.

The cast includes Donald Pleasence, Françoise Dorléac, Lionel Stander, Jack MacGowran, Iain Quarrier, Geoffrey Sumner, Renée Houston, William Franklyn, Trevor Delaney, Marie Kean. It also features Jacqueline Bisset (credited as Jackie Bisset) in a small role, in her second film appearance. The black and white cinematography is by Gil Taylor.


The film begins with gangster Richard pushing his broken-down car through rising seawater while his companion Albert lies inside, bleeding from a gunshot wound after a bungled robbery. Cut off by the unexpected rising tide, they are on the only road to a bleak and remote tidal island where, in a dark castle on a hilltop, the effeminate and neurotic George lives with his pretty young wife Teresa. Richard then proceeds to hold the two hostage while awaiting rescue by his boss, the mysterious Katelbach.

When Albert dies from his injuries, Richard decides to take over the castle as George grows increasingly paranoid and hysterical, Teresa increasingly flirtatious, and Richard more violent. George shortly throws a party for some of his friends, leading Richard to pose as a servant while Teresa begins to flirt with one of the guests, Cecil.

Richard realizes that his boss Katelbach is not going to come, so he demands George drive him to the mainland by causeway. George, who has had enough of Richard's orders, goes berserk and shoots Richard. Teresa, meanwhile, abandons George for Cecil. Abandoned, George walks to the beach and sits down as the tide rises while weeping at the departure of his wife.



The film was shot on location in 1965 on the island of Lindisfarne (also known as Holy Island) off the coast of Northumberland, England. Lindisfarne Castle, which served as the home in the film, is now a National Trust property and can be toured by the public; despite the passage of forty years, the building and its surroundings are largely unchanged.


Cul-de-sac currently (July 2012) holds an 84% approval rating on the film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, based on 19 reviews.


Like his previous film Repulsion, it explores themes of horror, frustrated sexuality and alienation, which have become characteristic of most of Polanski's films, notably Rosemary's Baby and The Tenant.

Cul-de-Sac has been compared in tone and theme with the works of Harold Pinter and Samuel Beckett;[4][5] Jack MacGowran was renowned for his stage performances of Beckett's plays. The film's German title is Wenn Katelbach kommt (When Katelbach Comes).


Cul-de-sac was awarded the 1966 Golden Bear at the 16th Berlin International Film Festival.[6]


  1. ^ Matthew Sweet "The lost worlds of British cinema: The horror", The Independent, 29 January 2006
  2. ^ "CUL-DE-SAC (12A)". British Board of Film Classification. 2012-11-15. Retrieved 2012-11-15. 
  3. ^ John Hamilton, Beasts in the Cellar: The Exploitation Film Career of Tony Tenser, Fab Press, 2005 p 75
  4. ^ "Cul-de-sac". British Film Institute. 2006-04-04. Retrieved 2007-06-19. 
  5. ^ Bergan, Ronald (2006-09-19). "Gérard Brach". Observer Unlimited (The Observer). Retrieved 2007-06-19. 
  6. ^ "Berlinale 1966: Prize Winners". Retrieved 2010-02-17. 
  • Katz et al. (1994). The Macmillan International Film Encyclopedia. HarperCollins. ISBN 0-333-61601-4. 
  • Polanski, Roman (1984). Roman. New York: Morrow. ISBN 0-688-02621-4. 

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