Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

Blind Alley "Cats" Appeal Repulsively

Cleveland Press May 27, 1967

"Cul-de-Sac" (Blind Alley) is a movie about some creepy people involved in a bizarre situation in a drafty old castle on the coast of England.

It has been directed by Roman ("Knife in the Water") Polanski, who is in genius at developing black comedy.

He has used the stock situation of a gangster taking over a household but instead of playing it out as melodrama he distorts the viewpoint and evokes a grim humor.

Frog-voiced Lionel Stander is the wounded outlaw who invades the coastal castle that turns into an island when the tide comes in. Left behind in their damaged car on the beach is his more seriously wounded companion, Jack MacGowran.

Living in the castle are Donald Pleasence as a queer old gentleman who sometimes runs around wearing his wife's nightgown and her lipstick. His wife, Francoise Dorleac, is a hot--blooded young Frenchwoman who runs around in her wedding ring and often little else.

Stander easily frightens the cowardly Pleasence who in turn is nagged and belittled by his wife. During the course of Stander's stay, his friend dies, guests arrive and there is a wait for a mysterious friend who will rescue Stander.

When guests show up Stander poses as a butler while Pleasance bullies a little boy and his wife flirts with a handsome young man.

Such things as a burial, shooting and beating are treated with twisted humor. The movie is a lengthy exposition of how unsavory some people can be.

"Cul-de-Sac" has a roughly repulsive appeal to it -- like watching a snake -- and some splendid acting, especially from old-timer Stander. Polanski's drama is too drawn out, a factor which allows a viewer to dwell on its lack of believability.

This movie won two film festival awards last year but just why escapes me.