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The Last Of Sheila Review

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Millionaire Clinton Green invites six friends to a party on his luxury yacht, named after his late wife Sheila. Green arranges a complicated murder mystery game that is also designed to reveal his guests’ nastiest secrets – but when he is murdered, the gu

★★★★

Here’s a terrific script – written by talented amateurs, as it happens – turned into an okay movie by merely professional direction from Herbert Ross. The actor Anthony Perkins and lyricist Stephen Sondheim loved murder mysteries, bitchy showbiz/high society gossip and elaborate party games –so they concocted this ingeniously-intricate murder mystery set on a millionaire’s yacht, with an array of amusingly nasty suspects squirming during a complicated guessing game that gets sidetracked by the host’s murder.

The party includes washed-up screenwriter/toady Richard Benjamin, his brittle wife Joan Hackett (the only one with honest feelings), trash-mouthed agent Dyan Cannon (‘Get me a glass of water and a couple of lesbians’), suavely perverse director James Mason, hirsute gigolo Ian McShane and dynamite dim-bulb starlet Raquel Welch. Along with an outrageous Coburn, who does one scene in drag, the entire cast enjoy themselves as thoroughly nasty, but entertaining people, and clawing verbally at each other as a genuinely ingenious, Agatha Christie-level set of clues (hint: ‘the last of Sheila’ is ‘A’) shuffle together to provide a satisfying puzzle.

        Perkins said later that he wanted it to be as bizarre and incomprehensible as Lady From Shanghai, but Ross worked too hard at making the story clear to the rubes.  It remains an underrated pleasure, a rare original film mystery (most whodunits are adapted from novels – which means your target audience already knows the solution) with dialogue as precisely turned as one of Norman Bates’s twitches or Sweeney Todd’s razor-rhymes.

It's the script that's the real star here as the dialogue and the intrigue sparkles.

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