Color, 1978, 95 mins. 17 secs.
Directed by Michael Anderson
Starring Jean Simmons, Cliff Robertson, Jenny Agutter, Simon Ward, Ron Moody, Judy Geeson, Michael Jayston, Flora Robson, David Tomlinson, Jack Warner
Vinegar Syndrome (Blu-ray & DVD) (US R0 HD/NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)

A Dominiquefilm that seemed to haunt Dominiquethe shelves of every single mom and pop video store in the '80s without anyone ever talking about it, Dominique (a.k.a. Dominique Is Dead) somehow did its best to hide the remarkable caliber of its talent in front of and behind the camera. That may be because the film is something of a tough sell in general, an old-fashioned spooky thriller that doesn't firmly decide on a genre (horror? suspense film? arty mood piece?) until the last few minutes. It also gets away with its wildly overqualified cast by only using most of them for a scene or two, even keeping star Jean Simmons in a mostly supporting role with less than half of the film actually on screen. Released in 1979, this was a very late entry in the '70s wave of post-"horror hag" classy all-star thrillers like Night Watch and the remake of The Spiral Staircase designed to provide an alternative to the more violent horror hits that were flourishing throughout the decade. None of them took off at the box office, but on VHS they found more of an audience where their cozy chills could work more effectively.

Based on a novel by Irish supernatural writer Harold Lawlor (earlier adapted as a Thriller episode under its original title, What Beckoning Ghost), the story revolves around the highly unlucky marriage of the wealthy David and Dominique Ballard (Robertson and Simmons), with the latter suffering from recurring nightmares. Dominique becomes convinced that David Dominiqueis up to something fishy and could be trying to drive her mad, which eventually culminates in Dominique hanging herself and being Dominiqueburied. But is she really gone? The family doctor (Oliver's Moody) signed off on the death certificate, Dominique's sister Ann (Agutter) doesn't seem to be able to contest anything, and family chauffeur Tony (The Monster Club's Ward) is trying to keep things under control as the will reading approaches. Soon questions arise. Did David drive her to suicide? Is Dominique really dead, since her ghost seems to be haunting him at night in their house? And what's the final end game behind the whole thing?

While the plot here may not be any great shakes, there's plenty of fun to be had in watching all of the enjoyable supporting players drifting in for their glorified cameos including Goodbye Gemini's Judy Geeson, Mary Poppins' David Tomlinson, and The Beast in the Cellar's Flora Robson. On top of that this was directed by Michael Anderson, still coasting on his Oscar-winning Around the World in 80 Days and the fairly successful Logan's Run (also with Agutter) as well as the more troubled cult favorite, Orca. He clearly has fun with the second half of the film focusing on the hauntings as he breaks out the color gel lighting and Gothic trappings like flickering candles and a self-playing piano. On top of that you get a shuddery score by David Whitaker (Scream and Scream Again, The Sword and the Sorcerer) and attractive cinematography by the great Ted Moore, hot off of a string of James Bond films and the last two Ray Harryhausen Sinabd titles. As a result, you get fairly Dominiqueshopworn source material invigorated a bit more than expected by everyone involved. Dominique

Despite its pedigree, Dominique was given only a nominal theatrical release around the world and was most widely seen via that aforementioned VHS from Prism. After that it mostly fell into obscurity again, popping up only via some terrible gray market releases taken from that same tape. The dual-format 2019 release from Vinegar Syndrome will be the first chance almost everyone will have to see the film in prime condition thanks to a new 2K scan from the negative, and it looks superb with excellent detail and sometimes blazing color where it's required. In addition to the very spoiler-y theatrical trailer, two new audio interviews via phone with Vinegar Syndrome's Brandon Upson are added starting with veteran actor Michael Jayston (14m54s), who goes into his entire career including his work on Doctor Who and a wide range of feature films and theatrical productions. Next up is assistant director Brian Cook (24m6s), who offers a detailed account of his ascent in the industry from studio runner through such projects as The Wicker Man, Orca, Golden Rendezvous, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Reviewed on April 4, 2019.