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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Deathtrap (1982)

A once successful playwright (Michael Caine) of thrillers has had a series of flops. Fortunately, his wife (Dyan Cannon) has money though she is afflicted with a weak heart. He invites an aspiring young playwright (Christopher Reeve), who has sent him the manuscript of a thriller he wrote, to his home with the intention of murdering him and stealing his play which he believes will be a smash hit. From there, the twists and turns come left and right. Thriller plays with minimal characters (DEATHTRAP has five) are often quite successful on Broadway but the transition to film is a bumpy one and not always satisfying. For every WAIT UNTIL DARK that manages not to collapse under its theatrical origins and actually convinces you you're watching a movie, you have verbose and static vehicles like DIAL M FOR MURDER and SLEUTH which can't shake off their proscenium past. DEATHTRAP is such a vehicle. I suppose Sidney Lumet's success with MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS suggested he might be the right man for the job but he doesn't do much here, but given his excesses as a director, perhaps it's just as well. Caine is quite good, there's not much Cannon can do with her part and Reeve is too obvious. Johnny Mandel's score mimics John Addison's score to SLEUTH (intentionally?) but Tony Walton's set design is very impressive. With Irene Worth and Henry Jones.

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