#77 Sleuth

Sleuth (1972)

Dir: Joseph L. Mankiewicz

Two ‘Sir’s’ and one house!

This was adapted from a very popular stage play, about a very well-to-do man (Sir Laurence Olivier) who likes games, and decides to play one with his wife’s young lover (Sir Michael Caine). However this is no light and fun game, and things venture into sinister waters.

As it was adapted from a stage play, the film has characteristics of such, with a small cast, simple and few locations, and a strong focus on dialogue. It’s within that dialogue really that everything happens, with the film having very little quiet time at all, there’s talking almost all the way through. You can clearly see Laurence Olivier’s stage experience coming through as his character speaks in such a purposely theatrical and eloquent way, and disguises his meanings and intentions behind some witty banter.

Micheal Caine is also on fine form, as the first part of the film sees him caught up in Olivier’s twisted games, but then later on springs into his own powerful delivery in a brilliantly different way (I’m trying to avoid spoilers).

I don’t think I can say a lot more without risk of giving twists away, though I’ll venture that there’s a character who reminded me very much of an English version of Peter Falk’s ‘Columbo’ character. Though it sticks very much to the strengths of theatrical productions with the tiny cast, single location, and focus on dialogue, it uses those as strengths rather than constraints to really bring out the best in the actors performances, and they really become magnetic presences on screen.


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