Directed by Sidney Lumet
Written by Jay Presson Allen, from a play by Ira Levin
Starring Michael Caine, Christopher Reeve, Dyan Cannon, Irene Worth
Plot twists are a mainstay of classic mystery fiction. And occasionally, there’s a work that’s nothing but plot twists. One of the best examples of this is Deathtrap.
Sidney Bruhl (Michael Caine) is a playwright fighting off a string of Broadway flops. Desperate for success, he gets a manuscript titled Deathtrap, from a former student, Clifford Anderson (Christopher Reeve). It’s brilliant and Sidney thinks on stealing the manuscript and taking credit for it* and invited Clifford to their house. Sidney’s wife Myra (Dyan Cannon) is uncomfortable with the idea, stressing her already weak constitution. And a mysterious psychic, Helga ten Dorp (Irene Worth) shows up at the house, and complicates matters.
I can’t really discuss much of the plot; the fun is watching it unfold. It has more twists than a mountain road, and most of the fun of the film is to follow them.
The movie was based on a play by Ira Levin** and directed by Sidney Lumet, who is best know for more serious work. It’s often compared to Sleuth,*** though it’s different in many ways, lacking the cat and mouse games that made Sleuth successful.
Caine gives his usual excellent performance, while Reeve, trying to shed his association with the Man of Steel, shows that he’s more than just a superhero actor.
The movie was a moderate success. One thing that hurt it was something that occurred that was very notable in film history, but which gave away one of the twists, and also kept audiences away.****
Still, if you’re looking for a light thriller with plenty of surprises, Deathtrap is a good choice.
*A very annoying cliché about writers. It’s acceptable here because of what happens afterwards, but there are so many times when that is the basis of a mystery that I’m tired of seeing it.
**Author of Rosemary’s Baby, The Boys from Brazil, and many other successful thrillers.
***Caine starred in the movie version of that (twice).
****Highlight text below to display
A passionate kiss between Sidney and Clifford.