YEAR RELEASED: 1978
DIRECTOR: Michael Anderson
CAST: Cliff Robertson, Jean Simmons, Jenny Agutter and Simon Ward
REVIEWED BY ANDREW GARVEY
One of those films that has slipped into the public domain before its time, Dominique (known in the US, and for the UK video release, as Dominique is Dead) was made in Britain in 1977 and released the following year.
It was directed by the accomplished Michael Anderson, whose career spanned six decades and is best known for Second World War classic the Dam Busters (1955) and one of the most joyous, delights of it’s age, Around the World in 80 Days starring David Niven (1956).
In the 1970s, Anderson made sci-fi classic Logan’s Run in ’76 and immediately afterwards, the ill-conceived and sneeringly-received Jaws rip-off, Orca. Next, he made Dominique, a film a million miles away from dystopian futures and angry ocean mammals.
The late Cliff Robertson, playing his role with a sort of sleepily concerned and angry look on his face most of the way, is businessman David Ballard, a cold, greedy piece of work whose plan is to mentally torment his much-richer wife to the point of suicide.
The unfortunate, and titular Dominique Ballard obligingly hangs herself late one night in the conservatory, despite seemingly being well aware of his nasty and humiliating schemes, and surely all that’s left for David is to collect his ‘winnings’ when her will is read on Halloween.
But soon enough, Dominique apparently begins haunting David’s nights, and even his days, returning the favour from beyond the grave and stalking the dark, echoing marble-floored hallways of their enormous home.
Speaking of graves, events start to pick up once a headstone, bearing David’s name and foretelling his imminent death, appears next to his wife’s. Of course, for this film, events picking up means they move ever-so-slightly faster than the especially lackadaisical snail’s pace of the preceding hour or so.
While Dominique has its spooky moments, and a handful of scenes including Jenny Agutter (every film from this era should have at least a few – seriously, every last one of them) its far more interesting as an idea than as a finished product.
By far the film’s biggest problem is that it feels like a 50 or 60 minute script has been dragged and stretched to, and beyond, breaking point to more than 90 minutes that feel significantly longer. The sheer amount of time spent watching characters walk around the house is staggering and, most of the time, incredibly dull.
Without straying too far into spoiler territory, the ending is, at least, a satisfying one, so long as you don’t think too hard about things.
As a public domain, copyright-free film Dominique is easily, legally available on YouTube and at the Internet Archive. It’s worth a look if you like your horror mysteriously understated, gore-free and at a very, very leisurely pace.
ANDREW GARVEY lives in Staffordshire. He writes (infrequently) about mixed martial arts, professional wrestling, history, horror and folklore. Follow him on Twitter: @AMGarvey Check out more Andrew Garvey articles for the Spooky Isles here.