Starring: Laurence Olivier, Michael Caine
Director: Joseph L Mankiewicz
A famous mystery writer (Olivier) obsessed with games and automatons invites his wife’s lover (Caine) to his home to discuss his impending divorce, but what transpires is a deadly game of cat and mouse…
Based on a successful stage play, the film takes place only on the house and grounds of the wealthy man and though other characters are talked about, only the two men are ever seen. Personally, I feel like this movie really feels like a filmed stage play, with it’s use of the one location.
The leads are two of cinemas greatest actors, and they bounce of each other so well, chewing up the scenery and putting on voices and personas to confuse each other. They were both nominated for Oscars, and the film is generally considered a great credit to Mankiewicz, as it was his last film. There are so many twists and double crosses to the plot, even fooling the viewer with fake credits sequences at the start.
Although I do think that the performances of Caine and Olivier show a remarkable talent, and it’s wonderful to see two men from such different generations clearly have a wonderful time, I couldn’t help but feel like the whole thing was kind of silly and a bit self indulgent somehow. I found it very hard to believe that they would be fooled by each other in any way and Olivier’s house and toys made him feel to me like a cheesey bond villain. It’s also quite a long film, and with double crosses on top of triple crosses, it all felt a bit long and contrived to me.
But the two leads are remarkable.
See It If: you’re a fan of Caine or Olivier, they are good, but the whole film is rather long and more than a bit over the top.
2 thoughts on “Classic Movie Of The Week: Sleuth (1972)”
I haven’t seen Sleuth since its original release. I had only the vaguest idea at age 11 who these two fine actors were, but I enjoyed it.
Maybe not so much now. Plays translated to the screen often end up feeling like… plays translated to the screen. The Hill, featuring Sean Connery, is another example.
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I agree with you, they can feel so static and slow. Not always something that works well.
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