Thursday, March 2, 2017

Movie #392: Deathtrap

Deathtrap is a 1982 thriller starring Michael Caine, Christopher Reeve, Dyan Cannon, Irene Worth, and Henry Jones. It's based on the play by Ira Levin, which I think I auditioned for once.

Sidney Bruhl (Caine) is a playwright who's lost his edge; his last few plays have flopped and he's anxious about sponging off his rich wife, Myra (Cannon). He receives an unsolicited play from a new playwright named Clifford Anderson (Reeve), and jokes to Myra about murdering him for the play, but then when Anderson actually arrives, he goes through with hit, strangling him in front of Myra. Then, the next night, Anderson returns from the grave to beat Bruhl to death, and Myra dies of a heart attack.

Which, of course, was Bruhl and Anderson's plan all along - kill Myra, take her money, and live together as lovers. Of course, it all comes unraveled when Anderson starts writing what happened as a play, and Bruhl conspires to kill him. And in the midst of all this is Helga Ten Dorp (Worth), a psychic who lives up the way and (correctly) predicts some of the death.

When I read this play years ago, I noticed that Bruhl and Anderson were coded as gay, but it's not explicit. In the movie, they kiss, and this was 1982, so that's kind of a big deal (and this was, what, two years after Superman II, so Reeve in this role, that was pretty daring).

The movie is good and very watchable (movies based on plays can get talky, for obvious reasons). Caine is perfectly smarmy and, at times, menacing as Bruhl, and Reeve switches from gentle lover to scary monster on a dime. I found Cannon's portrayal of Myra to be a little overwrought (lots of screaming), but Worth was perfect as Helga.

Interestingly, the play ends with Helga and Porter (the lawyer, played her by Jones) circling each other with Helga holding a dagger, arguing about who's going to write the play based on these events; meanwhile, Anderson and Bruhl have killed each other. The movie ends with Anderson and Bruhl both dying, but Helga surviving and making a hit play out of it. I think I prefer the stage ending in concept, though making it work on screen would have been difficult (it kind of ends in the middle of a tense scene). Overall, though, this is a fun movie and I'm glad we picked it up.

My Grade: A-
Rewatch value: Medium

Next up: Doctor Strange