Once again I find myself under the influence of one of the many podcasts to which I listen. There is a question that is asked of the listeners and guests by the hosts of this particular show. They ask: What movie do you stop and watch whenever it’s on?
Pretending they asked me, I found myself stumped for an answer. I really couldn’t think of one and I do like movies. I frequently rewatch my favorites. Still, a film didn’t come to me. So, the question moved its way to the back of my mind.
Flipping channels the other night, I stopped when I noticed Sleuth (1972) was playing. It was at that moment I realized this was the second time in as many weeks I had stopped to watch it after it had been playing for an hour or more. I had my answer!
What a terrific movie!
It consists of just three amazing performances. Sir Laurence Olivier as the wealthy, eccentric, game-playing mystery novelist Andrew Wyke; Michael Caine as the beauty salon owner and not the right sort (according to Wyke) of British person Milo Tindle; and, a new-comer to film at the time, theater veteran Alec Cawthorne as the smarter-than-he-looks Inspector Doppler. And that’s it! No one else appears on camera.
Watching these actors is a treat.
Now I have to be very careful not to give anything away, but I should give you an idea of what the film is all about…
Andrew Wyke has invited Milo Tindle for a chat at his stately manor. Andrew had done very well with his popular mystery novels featuring his detective St. John (in British it’s pronounced sin-jin) Lord Merridewe, he can afford to be eccentric as Milo finds him writing another masterpiece in the center of a maze made of well manicured shrubs.
We soon learn why this meeting is taking place. Andrew knows that Milo is having an affair with his wife Marguerite. Marguerite is a woman accustomed to having the finest things and Andrew isn’t sure Milo is up to the task. That is if Milo is to take Marguerite off his hands. You see, Andrew doesn’t mind the affair and hopes to be rid of her, but Milo just doesn’t have enough money to keep her happy, so she might try to come back.
However, Andrew has a plan. Milo is to disguise himself (as a clown it turns out) and break into the Wyke estate. There he will steal some very valuable jewels, which he can sell in Amsterdam. He’ll get big money for them. Andrew will collect the insurance and be rid of his wife.
That’s the scheme anyway. It doesn’t quite go as planned. Or does it?
Oh, I wish I could tell you more. The story takes a turn or two before Inspector Doppler even shows up. And then is twists even more.
I won’t say anymore about where the film takes its viewers, because it’s so much fun watching it unfold. And if you haven’t seen it, I don’t want to spoil it for you.
Two incidentals: There is a cameo of sorts by Joanne Woodward. She appears in a portrait painting of Marguerite. And the film was remade in 2007. It starred Michael Caine, as well. This time he plays Wyke’s role.
Now, you’ll excuse me. I need to flip the channels. It might be on.
Feel free to comment and share. But, please, don’t spoil it.