Monday, 5 October 2009

Dominique (1978)

Dominique (aka Dominique Is Dead) is a rather old-fashioned sort of movie to have been made in 1978. It appears to be a traditional kind of ghost story, but really it’s a psychological thriller very much in the style of the movies Hammer were doing in the early 60s, movies like Paranoiac and Nightmare.

Unfortunately Hammer not only did this kind of thing first, they also did it much better. Once you figure out the kind of movie that Dominique is then the plot becomes all too predictable, and the plot twists more or less announce themselves. It features a fairly strong cast but they don’t really get to extend themselves to any great degree.

Dominique (Jean Simmons) is a very wealthy woman married to moderately successful stock-broker David Ballard (Cliff Robertson). David has a beautiful and much younger half-sister named Ann (Jenny Agutter). Dominique had an accident some time earlier and has never been quite the same since. She seems forgetful and confused, and even a bit mad. This madness, or perhaps the fear of madness, drives her to suicide. But after her funeral it seems she is reluctant to stay dead, and David finds himself haunted. He hears strange voices, and a piano playing when there is no-one there, and keeps seeing a figure dressed like his late wife. Is this the ghost of Dominique?

David persuades the family chauffeur Tony (Simon Ward) to join him in a midnight foray to the cemetery to check on Dominique’s coffin. And then a mysterious headstone appears, next to Dominique’s, with David’s name on it.

Cliff Robertson is adequate in the role of David, and Simon Ward is shifty and obsequious as the chauffeur. Jean Simmons and Jenny Agutter are both talented actresses but they have little to do in this movie. Flora Robson and Judy Geeson also make appearances but their parts are sadly underwritten. In fact most of the characters are underwritten.

There’s some reasonably effective moody cinematography. Michael Anderson’s direction isn’t especially inspired. The pacing is a little slow but the main problem is that the plot just isn’t clever enough to maintain much interest.

This is a harmless enough time-killer but it’s not really worth the effort of seeking it out. Get hold of some of Hammer’s early 60s black-and-white horror thrillers instead to see how this type of movie should be done.

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