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I thought I'd kick the new year off with another movie marathon. I thought it was time to check out a few old school mystery flicks. Som...

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

The Last of Sheila (1973)

I’d never nor heard of The Last of Sheila before but I’m glad that it finally popped up on my radar. The movie follows a rich man named Clinton, played by James Coburn, who invites a select group of six friends to spend a week with him on his yacht. He is known for his game playing so when he assigns them all a secret identity warning them not to share it with anyone else, they don’t think much about it. But there is a lot more to this party game then idle fun because Clinton is using it to expose the person who killed his wife, Sheila, exactly one year earlier and all his guests are suspects. When he is killed on the second night of the trip many secrets are revealed, including who killed Sheila. But just when you think the mystery is solved there is a twist!

This is a fun mystery movie that is clever in the execution of its story and is filled with great actors that keep even slowest parts of the movie interesting. I thought it was interesting that the initial death of Sheila turns out not to be a murder but an honest accident. It was a hit and run which was preventable but not intentional. Though the killing of Clinton and how it connects back to the rest of the plot is well executed. I’m a big murder mystery fan and normally figure these things out, which doesn’t take any enjoyment away, but I pride myself on figuring them out before the big reveal. Here the story kept me guessing until the end and when we do see what was going on it the movie takes the time to show us the clues that were in front of our face the entire time. The murder weapon, motive, and identity of the killer were all shown but subtly without spoiling it. I loved this.

The cast is filled with familiar faces. Dyan Cannon, James Mason, Ian McShane (seriously does this guy ever age?), Richard Benjamin, and Raquel Welch all star and are given decent parts. Of course, James Coburn is the mastermind of the game, though he dies midway thru so we don’t get as much of him as I would have liked. In the end though Mason is my favorite character as he becomes the detective of sorts who figures out what happened. After a big final showdown/struggle the story resolves in an oddly disturbing way that I didn’t see coming. I could say more but don’t want to spoil it. All I will say is I suppose that it really is a Hollywood ending.

When doing research for this review I noticed that the script was written by Anthony Perkins. Yes, that Anthony Perkins of Psycho fame! He along with his co-writer, Stephen Sondheim, used to put on murder mystery parties for their famous friends. One of whom suggested that they turn the idea into a movie. I’ve already mentioned how much I enjoyed The Last of Sheila and the twists and turns the plot takes so I sort of wished we got more. I don’t know if this wasn’t a hit or perhaps wasn’t something that they wanted to pursue, but it was certainly a missed opportunity.

In the end if you are a fan of the genre and dig movies with amazing casts like Evil Under the Sun, then I think you will get a kick out of The Last of Sheila. It is a good watch and worth checking out.


© Copyright 2023 John Shatzer

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