"Sleuth" has an incredibly high rating of 8.1 at the present time. This would make it one of the best, or at least one of the most enjoyed films of the 1970s. So, imagine my surprise when I found I disliked the movie!The story is essentially a two person play put on film. A famous writer (Laurence Olivier) invites his wife's young lover (Michael Caine) to his manor and they two talk and talk and talk and talk. Ultimately, the older man convinces his rival that he wants to help him. To do so, he'll help the younger man arrange a fake robbery. And, the young guy will be able to take a box filled with jewels as a goodbye present. The older man, then, will declare the loss with his insurer and everyone will be happy (aside from the insurance company). There are many twists and turns...many.So why didn't I like this film? I already mentioned that it's VERY talky. But it also fails for me because of the incredible over- acting by both leading men--particularly Olivier. I know he has a golden reputation, but here he just seemed unrestrained and occasionally really overdid it. Not an enjoyable experience overall for me.
Like the house in Long Day's Journey Into Night the estate on which Sleuth was shot almost is a character itself in this film adaption of Andrew Shaffer's play. From the cinematographer's point of view Sleuth can be best compared to that classic film of Eugene O'Neill's play. The souls of the dysfunctional Tyrone family are laid bare there. In Sleuth upper class mystery writer Laurence Olivier and hair salon owner Michael Caine are also laid bare. The difference is that these two are hardly related, in fact are antagonists in every way possible.That's because Caine has been bedding Olivier's wife. Not that it is of any real concern to Olivier as he has a mistress of his own. But there is a certain patrician pride involved.So he gets Caine over to his estate on a pretext and the two of them start playing mind games. Olivier is far more experienced at this then Caine, his set do it for sport. He beats Caine, but Caine comes back in a week for rematch and Caine who has a surname anglicized from Italian and had a humble station in life plays quite for real. He's also a fast learner.Dialog is almost all in this battle of wit and the repartee from Anthony Shaffer's pen is superb for both characters. Sleuth got four Oscar nominations and two of those went to both Olivier and Caine for Best Actor. But even with them splitting the Sleuth vote I doubt that either would have beaten Marlon Brando that year for the Oscar.I have not yet seen it, but I look forward to the remake of Sleuth with Caine now aged into the mystery writer's part. But this version is more than adequate, in fact superb.
Crime fiction writer Andrew Wyke (Laurence Olivier) invites hairdresser Milo Tindle (Michael Caine). He surprises Milo with questioning if he wanted to marry his wife Marguerite. Marguerite is high maintenance and he suggests a scheme to Milo to steal his jewelery while he claims the insurance. After guiding Milo all around the house in a fake break-in, he shoots Milo. Inspector Doppler comes to investigate Milo's disappearance but it's only the start of the continuing twists.What's the motivation for Milo to go see Andrew in the first place? What's in the note? That kind of bothered me. It starts like an Agatha Christie murder mystery in that it feels fake. It's highly questionable why Milo would trust anything that Andrew comes up with. The whole fake break-in feels fake. Luckily it's a little comical. It's fun to have Olivier and Caine play around but I never bought into the whole premise. I'm not thrilled by all the twists and turns. It felt like manufactured story constructions but Olivier and Caine are wonderful.
Michael Caine and Laurence Olivier together. Need I say more. This, of course, was based on an incredibly successful stage play. It involves more twists and turns than can be mentioned here. The cool thing is that there is gamesmanship at every turn, and these two wonderful British talents don't disappoint. It involves a plot to get rid of a extravagant woman through manipulation. The kicker is that the two principles are both masters at solving problems, using creative solutions. They are equals and that's where the fun comes in. I have always loved it when a mystery film has enough complexity to have me fooled. Being a suspicious viewer, I really watch for nuances in these films, but this time they got by me. One of the best films of the Seventies.
In England, the Italian English hairdresser Milo Tindle (Michael Caine) is invited by the successful writer of detective stories Andrew Wyke (Laurence Olivier) to visit his isolated house. The lower class Milo is the lover of Andrew's wife, who is used to have a comfortable life, and he intends to marry her. Andrew proposes Milo to steal his jewelry simulating a burglary. Milo would make a fortune selling the jewels to an intermediary; and Andrew would be reimbursed by the insurance company and would not pay alimony. However, the whole situation was part of an evil game. When Milo vanishes, a detective visits Andrew to investigate what really happened that night, when deadly games are disclosed."Sleuth" proves that a great screenplay, an outstanding director, two top-notch actors and four scenarios suffice to make an excellent movie with four nominations to the Oscar. The intelligent and wit theatrical story has amazing lines and twists in a duel of cat and mouse between two icons, and has not aged. My vote is nine.Title (Brazil): "Trama Diabólica" ("Diabolic Plot")