Anthony Shaffer

Anthony Shaffer

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Sleuth (1972) Review


Excellent
It's not often that you see 2-hour dramas with only two real characters in them. Sleuth is a great example of how you can take the barest of essentials -- two great actors, one great script, one great set -- and make magic happen. A young Michael Caine matches wits with Laurence Olivier over jewels, a girl, and life & death in what turns out to be a very convoluted plot of cat, mouse, dog, tadpole, and cheese... who has the upper hand on whom? You'll have to wait until the final scene. Highly recommended.

The Wicker Man (1973) Review


Extraordinary
It's difficult to shake the disquieting climax of The Wicker Man, where pious Police Sgt. Howie (Edward Woodward) of the West Highland Police is confronted by the secrets kept within the isolated Scottish island of Summerisle. Being a decent Christian, he finds himself repulsed by their pagan rituals, open sexuality, and their unwavering devotion to the Old Gods. Much like the unwitting protagonists of Peter Weir's The Last Wave and Nicolas Roeg's Don't Look Now, Howie is facing off against powers much larger than himself (and anything that is dreamt of in his narrow theology).

Called upon to investigate the disappearance of a young schoolgirl named Rowan Morrison, Sgt. Howie finds stubborn, tight-lipped resistance from the local islanders, who carry about their business unmindful of his single-minded detective work. More often than not, they treat him with bemused detachment, laughing into their drinks or simply ignoring him altogether as he marches through the rustic schoolyards, dingy inns, and lush green hills. The locations, filmed in the highlands of Scotland, possess the eerie, musty, ever-haunted quality of an Old Country worn down by time. If there is a central character in The Wicker Man, it's the timeless elements of rock and water, moss and faded wood that comprise the town squares. Sgt. Howie, a man from the city, is clearly out of his depth.

Continue reading: The Wicker Man (1973) Review

Frenzy Review


Excellent
One of Hitchcock's final movies is also one of his goriest -- his first R-rated feature -- and most dryly funny. The story's a relatively straight-up crime drama; we know who the bad guy is from the start -- Jon Finch, playing the Necktie Murderer. But he's framed another guy for his crime spree. Meanwhile, inspector Oxford (Alec McCowen) is on the case, and when he isn't tracking down clues, he's eating the increasingly questionable cooking of his trying-hard-but-failing wife. It's Hitch's last great film (he made one more movie and died eight years later), and proof that he still had his form -- last seen put to good use in 1963's The Birds.

Sleuth Review


Excellent
It's not often that you see 2-hour dramas with only two real characters in them. Sleuth is a great example of how you can take the barest of essentials -- two great actors, one great script, one great set -- and make magic happen. A young Michael Caine matches wits with Laurence Olivier over jewels, a girl, and life & death in what turns out to be a very convoluted plot of cat, mouse, dog, tadpole, and cheese... who has the upper hand on whom? You'll have to wait until the final scene. Highly recommended.

The Wicker Man Review


Extraordinary
It's difficult to shake the disquieting climax of The Wicker Man, where pious Police Sgt. Howie (Edward Woodward) of the West Highland Police is confronted by the secrets kept within the isolated Scottish island of Summerisle. Being a decent Christian, he finds himself repulsed by their pagan rituals, open sexuality, and their unwavering devotion to the Old Gods. Much like the unwitting protagonists of Peter Weir's The Last Wave and Nicolas Roeg's Don't Look Now, Howie is facing off against powers much larger than himself (and anything that is dreamt of in his narrow theology).

Called upon to investigate the disappearance of a young schoolgirl named Rowan Morrison, Sgt. Howie finds stubborn, tight-lipped resistance from the local islanders, who carry about their business unmindful of his single-minded detective work. More often than not, they treat him with bemused detachment, laughing into their drinks or simply ignoring him altogether as he marches through the rustic schoolyards, dingy inns, and lush green hills. The locations, filmed in the highlands of Scotland, possess the eerie, musty, ever-haunted quality of an Old Country worn down by time. If there is a central character in The Wicker Man, it's the timeless elements of rock and water, moss and faded wood that comprise the town squares. Sgt. Howie, a man from the city, is clearly out of his depth.

Continue reading: The Wicker Man Review

Anthony Shaffer

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