Random Movie of the Week: Deathtrap (1982)

(I do not own this photo)

Movies with about making a movie or play have always caught my attention.  Something about seeing the way the minds of writers work when trying to assemble a story that is meant to be nothing short of monumental is always interesting because what movie blogger does not dream about someday writing a screen play assuming they have not done so already.  This brings me to this week’s random movie Deathtrap, a comedy/mystery/thriller starring Michael Caine and Christopher Reeve which is hand down one of the cleverest movies I have seen about dueling wits.  This duel is very similar to another one of Caine’s films called Sleuth.  If you have not seen it, this is another I strongly recommend checking out!

This is a very twisty-turnie movie so I will just set up the first twenty minutes or so of the movie.  Deathtrap opens with the most recent failure of famous thriller/mystery play writer, Sidney Bruhl (Caine).  Not only is his career fading away but his marriage is at best lack luster with weak hearted Myra, (Dyan Cannon).  But things take a turn when Myra convinces Sidney to meet with a former student, Clifford Anderson (Reeve), who has just written a phenomenal script and sent it to Sidney for approval.  Seeing it as an opportunity to get his name on a big project again, Sidney agrees to meet with Clifford and the two have duel of wits about which of the writers is the better crime scene stager.  Here is a clip since there was no real trailer available:

As I mentioned this film is very cleverly written with excellent dialogue.  It shows the evolution of an idea for a script by playing it out and poking holes in all the elements of it.  Plus it develops a new angle to how a veteran writer could be intimidate by the up and coming talent that he taught and the means of testing that intellect.  Soon it becomes less about death on paper and more about the elimination of threats in reality creating a taught thriller that  will keep you guessing about what each player’s next move will be.  This is attributable to great direction by Sidney Lumet who’s other credits include 12 Angry Men, Dog Day Afternoon, and Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead.

Writing and direction can only do so much but it to be executed by the actors.  That said Caine and Reeve play off each other perfectly allowing them to display some of their best acting I have seen.  Caine much like Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal Lector in that he is very prim and proper but you do not know of what he is fully capable of until a different side of him surfaces as a result of desperation and fear.  Reeve I think is as effective as he is in this film because of Caine.  The reason they are so great together is bcause of the excellent dialogue that is only possible in a Lumet film.

Overall, Deathtrap is a very fun watch.  I give it an 8/10.  The humor is well timed and original with an ending I did not see coming.

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  1. #1 by AndyWatchesMovies on June 12, 2012 - 11:23 AM

    I’ve always been put off by the cover art for this one, sadly. I’ll be sure to check it out now that I know a bit more about the film. Nice write-up!

    • #2 by rochpikey on June 12, 2012 - 12:31 PM

      Yeah was too initially. It looks spoofy and just pain silly. But if you are a fan of the Sleuth you should enjoy this one too. I never really thought of Reeve as anyone but Superman until this movie. Definitely worth at least a watch. Thanks for the comment and hope you like it!

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