Jason’s Awesome DVD Shelf #755: Sleuth

My mother passed away unexpected 2 years ago and I think about her at least once a day. Sometimes it’s just memories of doing things with her, other times it’s things she’s taught me, other times it was goofy things she did or said that made me laugh. And then there are the movies that she introduced to me as a child. There are several movies that I’ve seen thanks to her, ranging from Star Wars to Terminator to Die Hard to several Alfred Hitchcock films, as he was her favorite director. Sometimes when I think about the movies I’ve seen because of Mom, I think about the smaller movies that, yes aren’t unknown by any means, but also I don’t see people talk about them nearly enough. One of these movies is Sleuth.

Sleuth stars Michael Caine and Laurence Olivier and that’s pretty much it. The film, based on a stage play by Anthony Shaffer who also wrote the screenplay, focuses solely on just the two characters. Now me saying this is a mild spoiler but this movie came out in 1972, so give me a fucking break.

Caine stars as Milo and Olivier stars as Andrew. Milo is a British playboy hairstylist who is having an affair with Andrew’s wife. Andrew is more than aware of this affair and doesn’t seem to mind because he’s having his own affair with another woman. Milo and Andrew’s wife want to get married and Milo needs Andrew to approve of this and divorce his wife so this could happen.

Andrew, who is a very strange guy, as he collects games, puzzles, and strange dolls and animatronics that litter the entire mansion he lives in, now alone. Andrew is also a novelist, writing detective mysteries. Milo reveals he’s doing ok money wise as his hair styling business is in the black. But Andrew tells Milo and his wife likes fancy things, things that Milo certainly can’t afford on a hair stylist’s salary. So Andrew comes up with a plan.

Milo is going to play a robber, who’s going to rob Andrew’s house of these expensive jewels that’s in a safe, and Andrew is going to orchestrate the entire thing. This involves Milo changing into a clown outfit, wearing shoes too big for him, climbing up a latter, breaking through a window, trashing the house, and finally getting punched by Andrew, in hopes that when the cops show up to investigate the burglary, they won’t suspect Milo.

Milo and Andrew proceed to set up the robbery until Andrew improvises a new scene: he shoots Milo with a gun. Then the table turns. Andrew reveals he’s NOT OK with Milo banging his wife and instead intends to murder him now that the house looks like it’s been thoroughly ram shackled. Andrew humiliates Milo some more before firing the gun while pointed at Milo’s head.

The scene fades and we cut to two days later. Andrew is alone in his now tidy house about to eat caviar (yuck) when he’s gets a visit from a Inspector. Ignore the fact this Inspector looks like Michael Caine in Mrs. Doubtfire style makeup and he talks like Michael Caine doing a deep voice, this is a totally different character, you guys.

The Inspector tells Andrew that Milo has disappeared and he was last seen going to Andrew’s house, and that someone who drove by Andrew’s house (which is by itself in the country side) heard gun shots. While investigating the house, The Inspector finds bullet holes, notices the garden has been dug up, and there is dried blood on the stairwell that Andrew shot the gun at Milo’s head.

Andrew claims he’s innocent, saying he only wanted to teach Milo a lesson and play a game with him. He insists the bullet he used to shoot at Milo was blank and everything was just a rouse. The Inspector doesn’t buy any of this and sets to arrest Andrew when OH MY GOD YOU HAVE TO BE SHITTING ME THE INSPECTOR IS ACTUALLY MILO IN DISGUISE!!! NOBODY SAW THAT COMING!

I know this isn’t the best angle and the water marks ruin it but trust me, that is Michael Caine behind Laurence Olivier.

Andrew, thinking this was Milo getting back at him, tells him “good one, let’s have a drink, ol’ chap” but Milo drops a bomb. This was only just a taste of revenge Milo had in store for Andrew. He actually murdered Andrew’s girlfriend, in the house, and hid all the evidence that would prove Andrew actually did it, and the cops are going to show up in 15 minutes to arrest Andrew unless he finds all the evidence. Then it turns into a scavenger hunt as Andrew runs around his house finding all the clues and destroying the evidence before the cops show up.

Well…in a DOUBLE TWIST turns out Milo lied about this and only wanted to make a fool of Andrew. Milo states he’s going to get Andrew’s wife’s things and be on his way. Andrew decides to really kill Andrew with the gun, with real bullets this time, but READY FOR A THIRD TWIST?!? Or fourth? Whatever. Milo told the cops what Andrew did to him and while they didn’t take it seriously, they know if Milo is shot at Andrew’s house, Andrew can’t use the whole “he was a robber” story and they’ll just plain arrest him for murder. Andrew calls Milo’s bluff and shoots Milo and with the timing of a stage play turned into a movie, the cops show up and start banging on the door. Milo gets the last laugh, literally, and dies.

Wow, this movie is great! You can tell Michael Caine and Laurence Olivier had a blast making this movie, especially Olivier. He just prances around the house, yelling non-sense to a confused Caine, who then has his turn of fun later on. Great performances all around, the one setting doesn’t feel to claustrophobic, and yes even though you can tell it’s Michael Caine playing the Inspector in the middle of the movie, it’s still fun to think that maybe Andrew DID murder Milo and we didn’t see him hide the body and start to question what really happened.

This movie isn’t streaming anywhere, but the remake is featuring Michael Caine in the Olivier role and Jude Law in the Michael Caine role. I haven’t seen that so I can’t tell you if it’s worth your time or not. But if you can find the 1972 version, I highly recommend it. My mom had great tastes.

5 rating systems out of 5.

-Jason

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