Sleuth

1972, Movie, PG, 138 mins

Review

SLEUTH
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This stylish, intelligent mystery is full of delightfully unexpected twists, and boasts extraordinary performances from Michael Caine and Laurence Olivier. Caine, the owner of a chain of hair salons, is invited to the 16th-century country home of Olivier, a well-known detective novelist with a passion for elaborate games. Olivier reveals that he knows Caine is having an affair with his estranged wife, but instead of being angry, he is delighted and proposes a scheme that will profit both men. Olivier's idea is for Caine to put on a clown disguise and steal his wife's jewels, thereby allowing Olivier to collect the insurance money and Caine to fence the gems and support his lover in the style to which she is accustomed. The film goes through a number of shocking reversals on its way to the surprising but satisfying end. The script, written by Anthony Shaffer from his own stage play, is an actor's dream, and the two stars whip up their roles with relish, pulling the mystery back and forth in this deadly cat-and-mouse game. Director Joseph L. Mankiewicz was determined to keep the unusual nature of his mystery a secret to the audience throughout. The credits include "Alec Cawthorne" as Inspector Doppler, "Eve Channing" as Marguerite Wyke, "John Matthews" as Detective Sgt. Tarrant and "Teddy Martin" as Police Constable Higgs; none of them exist. Olivier's wife, Marguerite, appears in the film only as a portrait on Olivier's wall; actress Joanne Woodward actually posed for the painting, and "Eve Channing" is a film buff's in joke; it combines the names of the lead characters, Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter) and Margo Channing (Bette Davis), in Mankiewicz's classic film ALL ABOUT EVE. leave a comment

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