The Blu-ray Disc
Cul-de-sac is presented in 1080p high definition with an aspect ratio of 1.66:1. Especially for the first half of the film, this is a very dark transfer, with heavy shadows overtaking large sections of the frame often. As this transfer was approved by Polanski, we can assume this is the intended look. It’s a testament to the quality of Criterion’s work that despite the darkness, blacks are never crushed and detail remains strong. The image is pleasingly film-like throughout, with a subtle layer of grain visible and rich, detail-heavy close-ups. Occasional long shots are a bit soft, but this is likely a condition of the photography. As far as I know, the film has never seen a U.S. home video release up until now, so this Blu-ray represents an excellent debut.
Audio is presented in an uncompressed monaural track that faithfully handles the dialogue-heavy film. Some portions of dialogue are a bit muffled, but it’s clearly an issue from the source. Stander’s blustering, which can get quite loud at points, never sounds harsh from the track.
Sort of a light collection of extras here, with the best being a 2003 making-of documentary originally produced by Blue Underground that runs about 25 minutes. Interviews with Polanski, producer Gene Gutowski and cinematographer Gilbert Taylor are featured in this retrospective about the film’s genesis. There’s also a 1967 TV interview with Polanski of similar length on the disc, along with several theatrical trailers. The package also includes a booklet with an essay by critic David Thompson, who dwells more on production history than analysis of the film.
The Bottom Line
Somewhere between oddity and essential part of Polanski’s career, Cul-de-sac is memorably bizarre and looks great in this Blu-ray release.