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A heist (we never learn what kind of heist) has obviously gone wrong
for gangsters Albert (Jack MacGowran) and Richard (Lionel Stander),
leaving both of them injured. But despite their car having broken down,
they have managed to make a getaway and now seek abode in a castle on some
peninsula that turns into a regular island during tide. From there,
Richard desperately tries to phone their boss Katelbach while Albert is
Problem is, the castle is not uninhabited, there is
millionaire-turned-artist George (Donald Pleasence) and his wife Theresa
(Francoise Dorléac), and while Albert finally dies for good, Richard
plays his cat-and-mouse game with them, in which he takes more and more
joy since George is way too much of a coward to put up any opposition, and
even his wife gets more and more fed up with him.
Things take a turn however when George and Theresa receive unannounced
visitors, Philip (Robert Dorning) and Marion (Marie Kean), their son
Nicholas (Trevor Delaney), and their friends Cecil (William Franklyn) and
Jackie (Jacqueline Bisset). Theresa immediately seizes the opportunity and
introduces Richard as their butler, letting him do low menial jobs of all
sorts, however, neither she nor George manage to really take full
advantage of the situation despite the fact that Cecil has brought a
loaded gun (solely for hunting purposes). Then though George explodes when
young Nicholas rather accidently fires the gun and breaks one of the
castles priceless painted glasses - but unfortunately George directs his
anger at the wrong persons and throws Philip and Marion and company out -
which means they are once more alone with Richard, who soon enough thinks
it's payback time ...
Then however Richard learns that Katelbach won't be coming or sending
help and he's all on his own - so he wants to acquire George's car.
However, Theresa has since stolen Richard's gun and handed it over to
George - who eventually gets in such a worked up state that he actually
shoots Richard. But Richard, with his dieing breath, is still able to
fetch his machinegun from his broken down car and prepares to shoot his hosts
- when he finally falls over dead and when the machinegun goes off all it
does is perforating George's car and blowing it up.
Killing Richard however has driven George totally over the edge, and
when Cecil comes back - to fetch his gun of all things - he actively
throws Theresa out and forces her to leave with Cecil.
The last image sees George sitting on a rock near the castle,
whimpering, while the tide is coming back ...
Quite simply put, a great movie: A rather unlikely marriage of a gritty
thriller in the Desperate Hours (1955, William Wyler) mold and
absurd drama à la Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot, handled by
Roman Polanski who in the mid-1960's was at the height of his game and who
seems to instinctively know how to make perfect use of the (limited but
pittoresque) locations. Add to this a great cast (with the always
dependable Donald Pleasence giving probably his finest performance) and a
perfect score by Krzysztof Komeda and you've got one great movie.
Definitely recommended !!!