Thursday, March 3, 2011
DEATHTRAP (1982). Director: Sidney Lumet. Based on the Broadway play by Ira Levin.
"I'll tell you how good it is -- even a gifted director can't hurt it."
If only ... Playwright Sidney Bruhl (Michael Caine) is dismayed when his latest offering is trashed by the critics, even though his faithful and wealthy wife Myra (Dyan Cannon) remains his biggest booster. When he reads a play written by Clifford Anderson (Christopher Reeve), a student of his, Bruhl hatches a plot to steal away the script anyway he can. But things are a little more complicated than at first they seem. Caine and Cannon are superb, and Reeve offers one of his best performances, but while the film is entertaining and has a few twists, the characters remain one-dimensional and the film is, ultimately, just a psycho-sexual stunt. A better writer could have made something out of the generational difference between two of the protagonists and their perhaps divergent attitudes toward their sexuality -- all of which seems thrown in just for some added "shock" value and is never explored with any depth or intelligence. [Even in 1982 a film that basically traded off "nasty queers" was pretty dated; meaning the movie was hardly "hip" as its makers must have thought] Irene Worth is irritating as a psychic neighbor, but Henry Jones is, as usual, adept as Bruhl's lawyer. Lumet turns in one of his better directorial jobs although he's certainly no Hitchcock.
Verdict: Not as much fun as it sounds. **.