Sleuth (1972)

Genres - Mystery  |   Sub-Genres - Psychological Thriller, Whodunit  |   Release Date - Dec 10, 1972 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 138 min.  |   Countries - UK  |   MPAA Rating - PG
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This 1972 masterwork doesn't just have a surprise ending, but a surprise beginning and middle as well. Its corkscrew plot unfolds in a 16th-century English mansion owned by Andrew Wyke, an upper-class mystery writer played by Laurence Olivier. The action focuses on a battle of wits between Wyke and Milo Tindle, a lower-class owner of hair salons played by Michael Caine. When the two confront each other in the mansion over Milo's affair with Wyke's wife, the conflict begins. It's hard to decide what's more entertaining -- the repartee, the black humor, the convoluted plot, or the surprises that pop up like jack-in-the-boxes. Olivier and Caine are superb as devilishly devious opponents in a game of one-upmanship that could turn deadly at any moment. Director Joseph L. Mankiewicz pulled off a plot trick of his own to prevent audiences from guessing the outcome of the film: In the cast, he listed the names of fictional actors to fool the audience into thinking that someone would show up at a crucial moment to reverse or further the fortunes of Wyke or Tindle.