I’d forgotten the sheer brilliance of The Last of Sheila (1973). Or rather, I think when I watched it last, as an early teen, I didn’t appreciate it. Or maybe, it was just that on the Super 8 reels my parents used to own, the sound wasn’t clear and I missed half the dialogue. Irrelevant…what’s important is now…how excellent it is. And how wonderful it is to re-watch after soooo many years…and only remembering who did it at the moment the culprit is revealed (again).
The opening scene, set by that perfect, almost stereotypical mystery music, has Sheila running from a party to be hit (and run) by an out-of-control car not a few minutes later. Fast forward a year to 6 guests, invited by Clinton (Sheila’s husband, played by James Coburn), onto his yacht for a few days of time out and with a mystery game. These 6 guests were all present at the party the night Sheila was killed. And Clinton’s game isn’t really a game…it hits all too close with those supposedly random secrets he allocates to each person (at his insistence that it is just fun). When things go wrong, as they usually do, the whole thing unravels…or, comes together.
I must say, to come up with such a clever story requires close on genius. Every action, every line of dialogue is critical to the story. You won’t notice many of the things on first viewing but on round two (or more), you’ll discover just how it all fits perfectly right in front of your eyes…with you barely noticing. Ultimately you’ll have it spelt out for you and you’ll go “ah, of course” or “duh, so obvious”. Followed by Clinton’s response to “I like any game where you don’t have to move” of “Well, you don’t have to for this one…if you’re smart enough”…little do you realise just how true it is. It is all right there in front of you…if you’re smart enough.
Now, I won’t go into many more details because this is one you just have to watch. At least twice. I’d hate to spoil anything upfront because anything I say will give it away.
Directed by Oscar nominee Herbert Ross, and written by Oscar winner Stephen Sondheim and nominee Anthony Perkins…the stars are of course James Coburn with Raquel Welch, James Mason, Ian McShane, Richard Benjamin, Dyan Cannon and Joan Hackett as his 6
suspects friends…well, probably not suspects as I think he knows all along who the killer is.
Here’s the trailer:
And for some more mysteries…head on over to Pop Culture Reverie (here) for the Mystery Mania Blogathon.