UK 1965


Director: Roman Polanski

Production co: Compton/Tekli

Producer: Gene Gutowski

Screenplay: Roman Polanski, Gerard Brach

Cinematography: Gilbert Taylor

Editor: Alastair McIntyre

Sound: Stephen Dalby

Music: Chico Hamilton

104 mins

16mm/Black & White




Carol Ledoux, a Belgian girl, works as a manicurist in London, sharing a flat with her sister Helen. Moody and inclined to fits of abstraction, she seems oppressed by the frequent presence in the flat of her sister’s lover Michael, and fastidiously objects to finding his toothbrush and razor lying about; and her own boyfriend, Colin, is puzzled by her coldness and indifference to him. Left alone when Helen and Michael go on holiday to Italy, Carol begins to go to pieces, suffers from hallucinations, is fired from her job, shuts herself up in the flat and disconnects the telephone after receiving an abusive call from Michael’s wife (intended for Helen). Worried because he hasn’t been able to get in touch with her, Colin calls at the flat, and breaks down the door when he is unable to make her open it; frightened, she bludgeons him to death, throws his body into the bath, and tries to barricade the broken door. Then the landlord calls for the rent and forces his way in; at first appalled at the mess, he gets the wrong idea, starts to make advances, and is slashed to death with Michael’s razor. Returning from their holiday, a horrified Helen and Michael find her lying inert and staring-eyed on the floor. 

Press Materials


“In the 1960s Polanski, like a number of foreign directors, was drawn to the UK and the trendiness of the ‘Swinging London’ scene. Repulsion was his first English language film and financed by Compton, an exploitation movie company that wanted to go arty/legit and saw the expatriate Pole, much acclaimed for Knife in the Water (1962) as the ideal and cheap(ish) way to do so.


Repulsion's plot is simple: Carol (Catherine Deneuve), a young Belgian woman, lives in a London apartment with her older sister, Helen. Carol is a bit unhinged, with a revulsion to men and sex. Naturally, then, nice guy Colin's attempts to chat her up don't get very far. Helen, meanwhile, is carrying on with a married man, Michael (trivia buffs might care to note that Repulsion features the first orgasm ever heard in British cinema). Helen and Michael go off on holiday, leaving Carol alone in the flat. It doesn't take long for her to crack up completely...

Repulsion is one of those rare horror films which manages to transcend its genre ghetto to be a must see for anyone with an interest in cinema generally. In this, and many other ways, it follows in the footsteps of Hitchcock's Psycho and Powell's Peeping Tom. Like Hitchcock's film, Repulsion is a prime example of the cinema as shock machine: Everyday sounds—dripping taps, ticking clocks, and bells—resonate with menace. Phantom attackers suddenly appear. Walls split open, or have hands emerge from them. An intruder is slashed up with a straight razor. But, like Peeping Tom (with which it shares an opening shot of an eye, along with Bunuel's Un Chien Andalou) there's little mystery about what's going on. Instead, the emphasis is upon exploring the lead characters insanity. And here Repulsion, with its more straightforward plotting, is more believable than Powell's film.


Repulsion is perhaps Polanski's and Deneuve's finest hours. Polanski's direction is simply masterful. Here, he's a virtuoso who manages to avoid simply showing off. Near every shot is in there for a good reason. Progressively, we're taken deeper and deeper into Carol's psyche, as her apartment is rendered both her prison and the landscape of her mind. Deneuve is utterly convincing in her role. Largely mute, she accomplishes so much through gestures and looks.” — Keith Brown, Edinburgh Film Society


“Roman Polanski's directing career has been so eclipsed by his personal excesses that we tend to forget he's responsible for some of the most disturbing, stylish films of the 60s and 70s. Rosemary's Baby and Chinatown cemented his reputation in the United States, but it was Repulsion, a 1965 psychological thriller that opens today at the Castro for a one-week revival, that introduced Polanski to English-speaking audiences.




“One of the most frightening and disturbing pictures ever made, Repulsion contains a scene in which a man's face is slashed with a razor until he dies, captured by Polanski's camera with a clinical expertise that pushes the viewer's nervous system to the edge. Repulsion has often been compared to Psycho, but Polanski's film, rather than presenting a portrait of a psychotic killer from outside, pulls the audience into the crazed individual's mind.


“Deneuve plays a Belgian manicurist working in London and living in an apartment with her sister, Furneaux. She becomes increasingly unhinged, apparently due to her feelings about sex, which simultaneously repulses and attracts her, and about which she is constantly reminded by the presence of Furneaux's lover. When her sister goes on holiday, Deneuve is left to fend for herself and becomes the victim of terrifying, destructive hallucinations within the confines of the apartment. Repulsion tells a simple story, but Polanski turns it into something undeniably brilliant. The director-writer took great pains in creating the proper composition and details for his nightmarish black-and-white visuals, extracting

Carol: Catherine Deneuve

Helen: Yvonne Furneaux

Colin: John Fraser

Michael: Ian Hendry

The Landlord: Patrick Wymark

Mme Denise: Valerie Taylor

Bridget: Helen Fraser

Miss Balch: Renee Houston

John: James Villiers

Reggie: Hugh Futcher

Workman: Mike Pratt

Mrs Rendlesham: Monica Merlin

Manicurist: Imogen Graham