“There’s nothing like a little bit of mayhem to cheer one up.”
An aristocratic mystery writer (Laurence Olivier) invites his wife’s lower-class lover (Michael Caine) to his house, proposing an elaborate game of calculated heist that quickly turns into a much more serious cat-and-mouse affair.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Class Relations
- Joseph L. Mankiewicz Films
- Laurence Olivier Films
- Michael Caine Films
- Play Adaptation
Joseph Mankiewicz’s final film as a director was this adaptation of Anthony Shaffer’s hit Broadway play, about a successful mystery novel writer who revels in the opportunity to utilize the “tools of his trade” as he engages in an increasingly taut game of cat-and-mouse with his wife’s lover. The storyline is full of so many spoilers that, as most reviewers have noted, it’s best not to read too much about the film ahead of time if you want to remain surprised throughout. With that said, I’ll keep this review rather short, simply noting that both Caine and Olivier’s performances are spot-on throughout, and that Mankiewicz’s direction of a decidedly house-bound play is consistently innovative and fresh, with excellent use made of various props around the house. Enjoy!
Note: Not surprisingly, it seems that Shaffer was “partially inspired” by his game-loving friend, Stephen Sondheim, who co-wrote (with Anthony Perkins) the similarly plot-twisty thriller The Last of Sheila (1973).
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Laurence Olivier as Andrew Wyke
- Michael Caine as Milo Tindle
- Fine direction by Mankiewicz
Yes, as a most enjoyable thriller.
(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)