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The lost movie of the week: Sleuth (1972)

A movie is an adventure, a great ride, a thrilling moment, a laugh you share, a tear you shed. A movie can be like a great love, it’s stay with you forever. ‘Sleuth’ contains all those features which make this film an amazing movie in a great decade for cinema in general. The 70’ was the decade of: ‘All the Presidents Men’, ‘The Godfather’, ‘Taxi Driver’, ‘Jaws’, ‘Star Wars’ etc. All classics and ‘Sleuth’ can be counted among them.

The film was the last feature directed by the great Joseph L. Mankiewicz (‘All about Eve’, ‘5 Fingers’, ‘Cleopatra’) and it starred Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine.  ‘Sleuth’ is based on the play by the legendary English playwright Anthony Shaffer, who wrote the screenplay for the feature. The movie is a cat-and-mouse game between the upper-class contemptuous but playful Andrew (Laurence Olivier) and the working class owner of a hair salon Milo (Michael Caine). Milo has an affair with Andrew’s wife and decides to tell Andrew that she is leaving Andrew for him. To tell you more would give away the twists and turns and tricks on both the audience and the characters which would be a shame.

Intimidated by Laurence Oliver, Michael Caine didn’t know how to address Laurence Oliver. To which the older actor responded:”well I am the Lord Olivier and you are Mr. Michael Caine. Of course that’s only for the first time you address me. After that I am Larry and you are Mike.” A great way to start the production of a film which is funny, scary and emotional. It is the perfect mystery film which will keep you in the dark till the very end of the feature. ‘Sleuth‘ contains everything to make it an iconic movie.

Laurence Olivier was, shortly before production began, unceremoniously fired from his position as head of London’s National Theater Company, surprisingly considering the amount of work and years he put in to start the theater company and build the complex.  Due to the incident, Olivier was taking a sedative which caused him to stumbled, forget his lines and lose focus. Eventually, after a difficult start of the production, and with the help of Caine and Mankiewicz, who worked patiently with the great actor, the mood and focus of Laurence Olivier came back and he gave one of the best performances of his career together with Michael Caine.

The film received four Academy Award nominations: Best Director, Best Original Dramatic Score (John Addison) and Best Actor nods for both Olivier and Caine.

A remake of the film was produced in 2007 with Michael Caine and Jude Law, directed by Kenneth Branagh. But the remake doesn’t hold up to the original which was simply put: a real masterpiece.

Stanley Berenboom

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