1982, Movies

Deathtrap (1982, Sidney Lumet)

This is film version of a play, and it’s one of those plays with lots of twists. But, given the its nature, it still feels a lot like a play. And. moreover, I’m not sure it’s as funny as it thinks it is.

This is one of those plays with lots of twists, starting with one in the first act and many in the second. The twists are believable because they don’t really involve pulling the rug over the audiences eyes, rather just in hidden (or not so hidden) motivations. I certainly didn’t know what was going to happen so, in that sense, the movie works.

But it’s pretty stagey. With the exception of the opening scenes, it’s very clear it’s a play. (Basically everything takes place in a couple of rooms.) There’s very little effort to make the film more of a film and less of a play. (At least there’s a full set for the house, which makes it feel a little less like a play.)

But my bigger problem is that I’m not sure how funny it is. We both chuckled a few times, and I’m not sure either of us laughed out loud. (Maybe once, I don’t really remember.) It’s more just extremely meta. And I appreciate that aspect of it – how meta it is – but this was advertised as a comedy. If I had thought of it only as a mystery – or a meta mystery – then maybe I wouldn’t have been disappointed by the lack of laugh. (Also, it’s possible of the jokes were a little too New York Theatre for me.)

But it’s effective enough, I think, as a meta mystery. And, as I noted, the twists are feel earned and not manipulative in a way that so many twist-heavy films can be. So even though I was let down with the lack of laughs, it’s still worth watching if you’re looking for a twisty murder mystery, especially one about writing twisty murder mysteries.


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