The Last of Sheila

The Last of Sheila ★★★★½

I was all in the moment I realized the screenplay was written by Stephen Sondheim and Anthony Perkins.

Clinton Greene (James Coburn), a wealthy and powerful Hollywood producer invites 6 of his Hollywood friends to spend a week on his yacht in the Mediterranean. A year ago his wife Sheila was killed by a hit-and-run driver when she left a party. The same 6 friends were at said party.

Clinton loves games and has constructed one for this cruise which he calls "The Sheila Greene Memorial Gossip Game." Each person gets a "secret" and then each night, everyone is given a clue and has to figure out what those secrets are.

The 6 friends are Christine, a Sue Mengers like agent (Dyan Cannon) Alice, a beautiful but not particularly bright movie star (Raquel Welch); Alice's husband and manager, Anthony (Ian McShane); Philip (James Mason), a film director on his way down; Tom (Richard Benjamin) a screenwriter who's mostly been doing rewrites rather than original work, and his wife, Lee (Joan Hackett).

When someone is killed during the game, it turns into an actual mystery.

It's a film with some flaws. One of the secrets is not something we'd be so casual about today and is in fact so appalling that I had a hard time with it. And the other is muddled in how it's presented--maybe it's because this is very much a product of the 1970s when Americans were trying to figure out sexuality. I don't know, but it's a little forced.

But otherwise I loved this. You have to pay attention to what's going on. The puzzles are deliberately complicated and the filmmakers assume that the audience is going to be intelligent enough to play along and figure them out too.

That's really rare.

I also have a special place in my heart for the subgenre of the 70s/80s for big casts of stars were brought together for high-budget films set in exotic locales and this fits into that quite nicely.

The backstory and production history for this are interesting too. Apparently, Sondheim and Perkins liked to construct "murder games" and based this off of that.

Some nice performances in this. Raquel Welch's is not one of them. But Joan Hackett, who is new to me, is fantastic as are Coburn, Mason, and Cannon.

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