Sleuth (1972 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Joseph L. Mankiewicz|
|Produced by||Morton Gottlieb|
|Written by||Anthony Shaffer|
|Music by||John Addison|
|Editing by||Richard Marden|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Running time||138 minutes|
|Box office||$5,750,000 (rentals)|
Sleuth is a 1972 mystery film, an adaptation of the Tony Award-winning Sleuth by British playwright Anthony Shaffer. The screenplay was adapted by Shaffer. Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, the film stars Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine, each of whom was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance. This was Mankiewicz's final film.
Milo Tindle (Michael Caine), a moderately prosperous, rather flashy self-made London hairdresser, the son of an Italian immigrant and an English farm girl, arrives at a large stately home in the Wiltshire countryside, belonging to Andrew Wyke (Laurence Olivier), a pompous, highly eccentric, quite wealthy crime fiction author. A member of the upper class and with a great concern for tradition, Wyke is popular worldwide for his aristocratic detective, St. John Lord Meridew.
Andrew quickly acknowledges that he knows Milo is having an affair with his wife, Marguerite. Milo, in return, reveals that he knows Andrew is having an affair with a Swedish prostitute called Thea, and that Andrew’s wife will raise a divorce action based on this.
Andrew has a proposition. He suggests that Milo steal his wife's jewels, along with the receipts for their purchase, and has arranged for him to fence the jewels for £170,000 cash, enabling him to maintain Marguerite’s very expensive tastes, while Andrew will be able to claim the insurance money.
To make the burglary seem convincing, Andrew suggests that Milo actually burgle his house. This Milo proceeds to do, instructed by Andrew at every step of the way. Frequently, Andrew’s fondness for playing games exasperates Milo, who wants Andrew to be more serious about their scheme. Andrew is irritable and makes disparaging remarks about Milo being of Italian descent. However, it appears that they also are stimulated by each other in some way and that Milo is enjoying playing Andrew’s "game."
When the time comes for Milo and Andrew to stage a fight, Andrew pulls his gun and creates some bullet holes. Milo is then supposed to tie up Andrew, to be discovered by the cleaner the next day, but instead, Andrew turns the gun on Milo. He says that he will not accept another man stealing his wife, and has merely set up the burglary so that he can kill Milo and plead self-defence. Milo attempts to flee, but Andrew has kept his car keys. Milo breaks down into tears and begs for his life. Andrew takes Milo to the staircase, where he expresses his contempt for working-class, non-English people like Milo, points the gun at Milo's head, and fires.
A few days later, Andrew is in the kitchen preparing to eat caviar and listening to Cole Porter songs (he admires all things 1930s), when the doorbell rings and Inspector Doppler of the Wiltshire Constabulary arrives. Doppler is investigating the disappearance of Milo Tindle. Andrew explains that what the inspector assumes to have been a murder was just a game. Andrew says he simply "tested" Milo, humiliating him by putting him in fear of his life. Claiming to have shot Milo only with a blank cartridge, he tells the inspector that Milo passed out with shock and fled upon awakening.
Doppler refuses to believe any of this. He points out numerous pieces of evidence that suggest Andrew’s guilt, including bullet holes in the wall, a passerby hearing shots fired and droplets of blood on the staircase. Andrew grows nervous as the clues stack up against him. Doppler indicates a mound of earth in the garden. Even if Milo is not buried under it, he says, it could suggest that Andrew killed Milo, panicked, started to dig a grave, then disposed of the body elsewhere.
Andrew becomes hysterical, demanding the right to see a lawyer and struggling with Doppler. At the point of Andrew’s greatest frustration, Doppler pulls away a latex mask; he is in fact Milo, wearing an intricate disguise. Andrew did indeed not kill Milo, who has now avenged his humiliation by playing a game of his own and humiliating Andrew.
Recovering his composure gradually, Andrew congratulates Milo on his ingenuity. The two become fairly affable again. Andrew explains his philosophy of games-playing and how Milo must surely concede that life has been much more exhilarating since his first visit to the house. Milo expresses contempt for Andrew’s attitude that they are now even. Milo says he actually "heard the sound of my own death," and, accordingly, has decided to take the game one step further by actually killing somebody.
Andrew’s air of insincerity and silliness crumbles as Milo explains that he has killed Andrew’s mistress, Thea. A disbelieving Andrew calls Thea’s flat and is shocked to have the horrifying news confirmed by a roommate.
Milo points out that after Andrew “killed” him the other day, he told the police about it, mentioning that Andrew had expressed an interest in committing the perfect murder. The police promised to arrive at 10pm that evening -- it is now 9.45. Milo has planted three items around the house which incriminate Andrew as a murderer. He gives the "game-player" a chance to save himself by finding all three.
A frantic Andrew tries to decipher Milo’s clues. He must crawl through a coal box to extract one item. His anxiety grows with each passing minute. Milo looks out a window and announces that a police car has arrived. Andrew locates and destroys the final piece of evidence, a stocking used to strangle Thea, just as Milo leaves the room, opens the door and invites in the police.
At this point, Milo returns to the room by himself. To an astounded Andrew, he reveals that he did not in fact kill Thea, but has arranged this entire ruse with her willing cooperation.
Milo has now beaten Andrew twice at his own game, making him the winner. He brags that Thea was only too happy to pretend to have been abducted. Furthermore, contrary to Andrew's arrogance about his own sexual prowess earlier, Thea has described him as impotent. Milo goes on to mock Andrew’s detective character, St. John Lord Meridew, adding insult to injury. He leaves Andrew utterly humiliated, going upstairs to retrieve Marguerite’s fur coat.
While Milo is upstairs, a furious Andrew locates a pistol. He begins to conceive in his mind what he will tell the police, that he saw Milo come down the stairs with Marguerite’s coat and shot him as a thief. Milo returns downstairs, where Andrew informs him of his intention. Milo observes that doing so would be foolish and useless on Andrew’s part, inasmuch as Milo really did go see the police about the other day’s events, and they really are due at Andrew’s house any minute. Milo turns to leave, smiling, and Andrew shoots him in the back.
As his adversary lies dying, Andrew tells him there was no way he was going to fall for the same trick three times. Just then, a car is heard coming up the driveway, and blue lights are seen flashing. A horrified Andrew realises that Milo was telling the truth; the police really do know about the staged burglary. He will now be convicted of murder. All the toys in Andrew’s living room go off, seemingly laughing at him, as he stands, ashen-faced, at the foot of the stairs. Milo’s last words are, "Andrew, don't forget, be sure and tell them, it was all just a bloody game."
Shaffer was initially reluctant to sell the film rights to the play, fearful it would undercut the success of the stage version. When he finally did relent, he hoped the film would retain the services of Anthony Quayle, who had essayed the role of Wyke in London and on Broadway. Alan Bates was Shaffer’s pick for the part of Milo Tindle. In the end, director Mankiewicz opted for Olivier and Caine.
When they met, Caine asked Olivier how he should address him. Olivier told him that it should be as "Lord Olivier", and added that now that that was settled he could call him "Larry".  According to Shaffer, Olivier stated that when filming began he looked upon Caine as an assistant, but that by the end of filming he regarded him as a full partner.
The film is noted for its prop-cluttered set designed by Ken Adam, its quasi-baroque music score by John Addison, and its Oscar-nominated performances from Olivier and Caine. The likeness of actress Joanne Woodward was used for the painting of Marguerite Wyke. 
The film was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Michael Caine and Laurence Olivier), Best Director and Best Music, Original Dramatic Score. Olivier won the New York Film Critics award for Best Actor as a compromise selection after the voters became deadlocked in a choice between Marlon Brando and Al Pacino in The Godfather after Stacy Keach in Fat City won a plurality in initial voting and rules were changed requiring a majority. Shaffer received an Edgar Award for his screenplay.
The film was the second to have its entire credited cast (Caine and Olivier) nominated for Academy Awards after Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf in 1966 and the first where all of the actors in the film were nominated. (Virginia Woolf featured uncredited bit parts by actors playing the roadhouse manager and waitress.) This feat has been repeated only by Give 'em Hell, Harry! (1975), in which James Whitmore is the sole credited actor.
The production team intended to reveal as little about the movie as possible so as to make the conclusion a complete surprise to the audience. For this reason there is a false cast list at the beginning of the film which lists fictional people playing roles that do not exist, as well as a fictional actor credited as Doppler. This "game" not only serves as irony, but continues to deceive new audiences. The same trick was pulled in the original stage version.
Much of the story revolves around the theme of crime fiction, as written by Dorothy L. Sayers (Lord Merridew = Lord Peter Wimsey) or Agatha Christie, whose photo is included on Wyke's wall, and how it relates to real-life criminal investigations. Class conflict is also raised between Wyke, the long-established English country gentleman, compared to Tindle, the son of an immigrant from the working-class streets of London.
Deleted footage 
While questioning Wyke, Doppler points out that the clown costume that Tindle was wearing when he was shot is missing, though the clown's mask is later found and put on the head of the plastic skeleton in the cellar. He is probably implying that Tindle was buried with it.
In the trailer for the film, there are the scenes with Doppler laying out the evidence against Wyke as shown in the movie. They include him pulling open the shower curtains in one of the bathrooms and exposing the clown's jacket, dripping wet and apparently with bloodstains on it. This scene was not included in the final film.
2007 film 
On 7 September 2006, Kenneth Branagh announced at the Venice Film Festival his new film of the play, with the screenplay by Nobel laureate Harold Pinter. Caine starred in this adaptation, this time in the role of Wyke, while Jude Law played Tindle as a struggling actor. Production was completed in March 2007, and released in the UK on Friday, 23 November 2007. The remake did not use a single line of Shaffer's script, and was considered unsuccessful in comparison to the original.
- Box Office Information for Sleuth. The Wrap. Retrieved April 4, 2013.
- "Big Rental Films of 1973", Variety, 9 January 1974 p 19
- "Follow these clues to the original 'Sleuth'". USA Today. Retrieved 24 June 2012.
- Inside Oscar, Mason Wiley and Damien Bona, Ballantine Books (1986)
- "Sleuth (1972)". rottentomatoes. Retrieved 21 May 2010.