Cat 'n' Mouse Trap
As a movie reviewer "Deathtrap" is a frustrating movie, not because it is bad, in fact it is darkly funny and quite brilliant. Nope it is frustrating because I can't go into detail about what happens because the joy of "Deathtrap" comes from darkly funny twists which take you by surprise. But to give you an idea it is basically a game of cat n mouse, something which sits between "Sleuth" and "Clue" delivering mystery and laughs a plenty.
Because I can't go in to a huge a mount of detail I will tell you about the opening part which sees Sidney Bruhl as a failed playwright who after reading the manuscript of young an inexperienced author Clifford Anderson is blown away by how good it is. So impressed is Sidney that he comes up with a plan to lure Clifford to his remote home and murder him so he can pass the play off as his own much to the horror of Sidney's wife Myra who can't believe her husband would think such a thing. But he does and with her reluctant help buries Clifford in the vegetable patch because it would be easier to dig, except their new neighbour Helga ten Dorp, a psychic, pays them a visit and senses things are not right.
Now that may seem like I have told you a lot but trust me I have barely told you a thing because "Deathtrap" is a movie which leads you to think one thing and then does something very different. In fact I will add at the point I stop you begin to suspect Sidney may decide he needs to murder Helga as well to cover his tracks. But all the twists which follow are quite brilliant as a game of cat n mouse develops as people try and outwit each other.
Now cat n mouse with twists isn't anything new, but there is a real playfulness about "Deathtrap" which revels in being darkly funny. In these opening scenes we see Sidney trick Clifford into putting on handcuffs and there is this sense that Clifford has cottoned on to what Sidney is up to, they try and outsmart each other with Clifford saying he arranged for someone to phone up with Sidney testing him, cunningly probing him to see if he is telling the truth. And this continues through out, characters toy with each other, they suddenly go from being one thing before becoming something else.
But it is not just the clever cat n mouse story and writing which makes "Deathtrap" so entertaining it is well cast from Michael Caine as the nefarious playwright through to Christopher Reeve as the young, handsome Clifford with his gee whiz attitude. In fact the casting of these two is brilliant because it makes one of the twists even more surprising; actually surprising is not the right word for it as it is a WTF moment. Throw in Dyan Cannon as Sidney's hysterical wife Myra plus Irene Worth as the quirky psychic Helga ten Dorp and you have a small ensemble playing some wickedly funny characters.
The only real negative about "Deathtrap" is that at just short of 2 hours it is not punchy enough with the middle act dragging on longer than need be. But whilst feeling overlong every minute is still entertaining and once you get the first twist you are waiting in eager anticipation for the next, trying to second guess what could be coming.
What this all boils down to is that "Deathtrap" is a thoroughly entertaining and in some ways wrongly over looked cat n mouse movie. It may lack the punch of other movies and goes on a little too long but the clever writing and even cleverer casting makes it a movie well worth a watch and not just one watch but several because it never stops being entertaining even when you know what is going to happen.