As a study in kinky insanity, Cul-de-Sac creates a tingling atmosphere. This sags riskily at times when the director unturns the screws and does not keep control of his frequently introduced comedy.
Film was shot on location in and around a lonely castle on remote Holy Island off the northeast coast of Britain. Gill Taylor’s camera bleakly catches the loneliness and sinister background that sparks the happenings.
Donald Pleasence, with steel-rimmed glasses and head completely shaven, is an obvious neurotic. A retired businessman, he is living like a hermit with his young, bored and flirtatious French wife (Francoise Dorleac), who is blatantly contemptuous of him. Suddenly, two wounded gangsters on the run descend upon them. From then on it’s a battle of nerves, a cat-and-mouse psychological tightrope walk, as an uneasy truce develops between Pleasence and Stander, while the latter waits to be rescued by the boss of his gang, who never shows.
Pleasence pours some exaggerated but distinctive thesping into his pathetic role while Lionel Stander, obviously more flamboyant, blends nicely with him, turning in a far more subtle performance of latent brutality, mixed with surface geniality, than the screenplay may have promised.