Saturday, July 23, 2016


Last weekend, I had the opportunity to watch Deathtrap off of my DVR. It turns out that you can get it on Blu-Ray from the TCM Shop, so I'm not opposed to doing a fuller-length post on it. Doing an actual full-length post, however, may be a bit of a problem, as you shall soon see.

Michael Caine plays Sidney Bruhl, a playwright living out on Long Island with his wife Myra (Dyan Cannon), who has a heart condition. As the film opens, Sidney is on Brodaway at the premiere of his new play, while Myra is at home taking her pills waiting for the reviews. Those reviews are unfortunately negative. Where Sidney used to be the big hit of Broadway writers, he's become a dud with his past several plays, this one apparently being the worst of them all.

Having a string of failures is obviously a problem, but there's another indignity coming. At the premiere of his play, he was sent by courier a copy of a play-in-progress called Deathtrap, by Clifford Anderson (Christopher Reeve), who had been a student of Sidney's at a seminar Sidney did the previous year. Clifford would like an honest review of it, if that wouldn't be too much trouble. Sidney brings Deathtrap home with him, reads it, and discovers... this is the perfect two-act play. It'll be a surefire hit on Broadway and make big money for its playwright.

So at this point Sidney has an outlandish idea. Nobody else but him, Clifford, and Myra know that Clifford is writing this play; Clifford doesn't have any family and not much in the way of friends around since he's cloistered himself away writing Deathtrap, and so on. So it would be just too perfect if Sidney invited Clifford over for the review, then killed Clifford and took credit for the play himself. Since this is a movie and the plan is such utter nonsense, you know that Sidney is going to put it into action.

Now, all of this happenns in the first few reels, and by the time Sidney reveals the truth of what he's going to do to Clifford, the movie is maybe a half-hour into its two-hour running time. And that's why it's tough to do a real full-length post on the movie. You know that there's a lot more that's going to happen, but for a reviewer to suggest what any of that something is would be to give away a lot of the plot. And Deathtrap the movie is not one of those where you want to know too much about what happens going into it.

That having been said, the movie is pretty good. Michael Caine goes a bit over the top, I think, but then this is based on a stage play and you get the impression that Caine is almost playing to the back rows here. It's material that probably works better on a stage than on the screen. Christopher Reeve is excellent; he's not just Superman when it comes to being an actor. Dyan Cannon isn't bad, although she here is the latest in a long line of Hollywood actresses who look a bit miscast as seriously ill women. The one cast member I found irritating is Irene Worth, who plays a psychic, who shows up in a couple of scenes to be just too convenient. I also had a problem with the ultimate ending wrapping up all the loose ends, which seemed even less plausible than the rest of the movie.

Any quibbles aside, Deathtrap is well worth watching.

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