Jumped Up Pantry Boy Who Doesn't Know His Place.
The National Film Theatre on London's South Bank is a wonderful thing. It is cheap (six quid for a film), comfortable and people go to watch the film and not talk, eat popcorn and unwrap sweets. It also shows some old classics that you wouldn't find at the local Multiplex.
Last night, Electroboy and me went up 'that London' to see Sleuth, Joesph L. Mankiewicz's excellent 1972 film scripted by Peter Shaffer adapted from his own play. The film pairs up Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine as an unlikely screen double act in a tale of twists, turns, games and retribution.
The film centres of Olivier's Andrew Wyke, a success writer of crime novels, who invites a new neighbour Milo Tindle over for a chat. Wyke reveals that he knows that Milo is having an affair with his wife and the game begins. Wyke says that his wife, who has expensive tastes, could not be kept, by Milo in "the manner to which she has become accustomed" and proposes that if Milo can support her, he is willing to let her go, so he can in turn live with his mistress. He devises a plan in which Milo would steal his wifes jewels pocket the cash and then Andrew could claim the insurance money. Everybody gets what they want and everybody is happy. Or so it seems!!
I won't reveal more because I don't want to spoil the film but I will say that the film is as twisty and turny as a twisty turny thing and that it has real moments of tension and humour. The performances are superb. Olivier tears up the scenery like he always has and although extremely good is out acted, in my opinion, by Caine. He is quite brilliant and gives his best ever performance. I've always been a big fan of Michael Caine but it can't be denied that he is usually an extension of Michael Caine in his screen perfomances. Here though, he is stretched and pulls it off with ease. When he got the part he famously said "With Olivier, I can't lose. If I'm not as good as he is, nobody will be surprised. If I give him a run for his money, peple will say 'Fancy Michael Caine doing that!'" Well he was right in almost every aspect except he was better than Olivier.
If you can find this on DVD or it is on telly I'd advise giving this film a watch, two or more if you can. I've seen it countless times now and always pick up something new from it. It should be regarded as a classic and perhaps the finest adaptation of a stage play on screen.