We’ll get right down to it – I’m pretty sure you’ve seen films like Dominique before. It is a close revisiting of Diabolique from 1955, despite the fact that it’s based on the short story “What Beckoning Ghost?” by Harold Lawlor released in 1948; in fact, Dominique actually changes the names of most of its characters including its titular one almost like it wants to have a connection to Diabolique. Dominique also heavily resembles The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave (1971) – one of my favorite films – in that both center around scaring the wits out of their unsuspecting protagonists with a potential ghost story attached. By 1979, Dominique‘s storyline was clearly pretty generic, but that doesn’t stop it from being occasionally effective regardless. Director Michael Anderson was certainly no stranger to blockbuster ripoffs (Orca, primarily), but here he does craft an intriguing Gothic chiller that suffers mostly from its slow pacing.
The film “stars” Jean Simmons as Dominique, though her character is only on-screen for a few minutes. More heavily featured is her husband David Ballard (Cliff Robertson), who has concocted a scheme to scare Dominique to her literal death after she suspects insanity and hangs herself. David inherits Dominique’s fortune but also her ghost, because she comes to haunt him every night with vague death threats until a gravestone marks the exact date of his demise.
Dominique is a very slow film, one some might not even consider a burn so much as a couple of faint flickers of a match. Though it can be compared in many ways to the aforementioned The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave with its Gothic manor, easily frightened title character, and an emphasis on coffins and corpses, the majority of the film doesn’t have the vitality of that prior work; instead, Anderson tends to focus on the mundane aspects of Ballard’s life post-Dominique. He walks around the house in a stupor, occasionally experiencing a piano playing by itself or the sound of footsteps shuffling through the halls (a nice touch thanks to Dominique’s prior fall down some stairs). Unfortunately, most of these moments are tedious rather than suspenseful, but Dominique does have a few good offerings for scares including one creepy visual of the ghost getting closer down a hallway as Ballard attempts to summon the courage to confront her. Add in some eerie purple and green lighting and Dominique does at least manage to evoke a nice lurid atmosphere akin to EC Comics storylines.
The twist toward the end of the tale gets a bit nonsensical, and it’s fairly apparent right away that all is not as supernatural as Ballard thinks. Still, it’s always good to see an arrogant bastard get his comeuppance, and Robertson is especially fitting for our hatred; he plays the part well, and he remains relatable but unlikable throughout the movie. Unfortunately, Dominique doesn’t explore its secondary characters as much as it should, leaving the ending a little too abrupt (to avoid spoilers, I won’t go into any further detail) – and this is the main reason why the conclusion is apparent to the viewer far in advance.
It sounds like I’m fairly down on Dominique, but truthfully there’s a germ of enjoyable film here; it’s simply dispersed among a plodding film that could have used some trimming at the very least. And though it draws inspiration from “What Beckoning Ghost?”, the movie steals far more from Diabolique and others of its ilk than it should; if you’ve seen the previously mentioned films, you likely know exactly what’s going to happen in Dominique. On the other hand, if you’re a big fan of asshole husbands and vengeance potentially from beyond the grave, you could do worse than checking this out at least once.
Vinegar Syndrome has given Dominique new life on Blu-ray with a combo pack including a DVD version of the film. The new release features a 2k scan of the 35mm negative, and one thing is apparent: the negative itself is not in great shape, with some warping and color damage, various burns, and a line appearance occasionally. However, Vinegar Syndrome has done a good job restoring this, especially in terms of color timing; the purple and green hues look very good, if occasionally glaring. Grain is pretty heavy throughout, and darker scenes lose some detail. Still, I can’t complain about this transfer much at all, and fans should appreciate the work that has been done.
Audio is a DTS-HD Master Audio mono track, which sounds fairly good despite some minor background hissing and a little dialogue muffling. English subtitles are also included.
Extras are limited, but Vinegar Syndrome does provide two audio interviews. The first is with actor Michael Jayston (Arnold in the film) and runs about 14 minutes long, moderated by Brandon Upson. The other features assistant director Bryan Cook in a 2o minute interview with Upson. Both of these go into detail about the interviewee’s careers and not specifically about Dominique, but they’re both interesting listens. Unfortunately, video interviews are more preferably but apparently this was all VS was able to negotiate. Theatrical trailer is also on this release, and along with the extra DVD, the package also contains reversible cover art.
For fans of revenge-laden horror films and Gothic slow-burns, Dominique is worthy of a purchase.