Sleuth

  • Directors: Joseph L Mankiewicz
  • Producers: Morton Gottlieb
  • Writers: Anthony Shaffer
  • Genres: Mystery, Thriller
  • Actors: Laurence Olivier, Michael Caine

Andrew Wyke is a wealthy, unhappily married country squire and writer of detective novels who delights in playing elaborate games. Aware that Milo Tindle, the struggling owner of two hair salons, is having an affair with his wife, Marguerite, Wyke invites him to his country manor house in Wiltshire. Wyke is also having an affair with a girl named Teija and is quite happy to divorce his wife. His main concern is that Tindle, a struggling businessman, will be unable to maintain Marguerite in the lifestyle to which she has become accustomed, and that she’ll leave him and return to Wyke.

Wyke suggests that Tindle steal some valuable jewelry and sell it in order to live happily with Marguerite, while Wyke will claim the insurance in order to live happily with Teija. When Tindle agrees, Wyke offers him a disguise in case of unexpected visitors and, dressed up as a clown and under Wyke’s supervision, Tindle breaks into Wyke’s manor house, blows open the safe and obtains the jewels.

Wyke then reveals that he has lured Tindle into a trap whereupon he can legally shoot him as an intruder. Wyke’s real grievance is that his wife has been having an affair with a working-class boy made good rather than a member of the upper classes like himself (Tindle’s Italian origins make him even worse in Wyke’s eyes). He looks upon Tindle as nothing more than a gigolo, “a jumped-up pantry boy who doesn’t know his place”. While Tindle begs for mercy, Wyke fires the gun and he falls to the floor.

Within a few moments, a police car, with lights flashing, reaches Wyke’s front door, and someone begins to knock. Wyke tries to retreat away from the window to avoid being seen, while Tindle, bleeding profusely and barely able to crawl, grabs the switch wired to the entirety of Wyke’s large collection of mechanical toys, which come violently to life and attract the attention of the police. As the screen fades out, Wyke realizes that he is ruined, and the dying Tindle laughs and says mockingly, “Andrew… be sure and tell them… it was only a bloody game.”

The Wicker Man

  • Directors: Robin Hardy
  • Producers: Peter Snell
  • Writers: Anthony Shaffer
  • Genres: Drama, Horror, Mystery, Thriller
  • Actors: Edward Woodward, Christopher Lee, Diane Cilento, Ingrid Pitt, Britt Ekland

Police Sergeant Neil Howie is sent an anonymous letter recommending that he investigate the disappearance of a young girl, Rowan Morrison, on the remote Hebridean island of Summerisle (a fictional island apparently inspired by the real-life Summer Isles of the Inner Hebrides).

He flies to the island and during his investigations discovers that the entire population participates in a Celtic neo-pagan cult, believing in re-incarnation, worshipping the sun and engaging in fertility rituals and sexual magic in order to appease immanent natural forces.

Howie, a celibate devout Christian, becomes increasingly disturbed by the islanders’ behaviour. In the original uncut version of the film, he witnesses couples copulating in the churchyard, in addition to finding a naked woman sobbing on a grave. He angrily threatens to involve the authorities after discovering the school mistress (Diane Cilento) is teaching young girls about the phallic importance of the maypole. Amulets such as the hag stone, toad stone, and snail stone, and the supposed cure of the whooping cough by placing a toad in a child’s mouth, closely resemble descriptions found in the book Animal Simples.[2]

Howie finds himself strongly attracted to Willow, the sexually liberated daughter of the landlord. In the restored director’s cut of the film, Lord Summerisle refers to Willow as Aphrodite when presenting her with a young male adolescent to seduce. Howie cannot help but overhear their passionate lovemaking. To compound matters, Willow tries to seduce him the following night, dancing naked and beating upon his bedroom wall, but Howie resists the torment because he does not believe in sex outside marriage.

The policeman is dragged screaming into the belly of a large hollow wicker statue of a man which is then set afire. In the final scene of the film, the islanders surround the burning wicker man and sing the Middle English folk-song “Sumer Is Icumen In” while Howie shouts out Psalm 23, then beseeches God to accept his soul into heaven. The film ends with the Wicker Man engulfed in flames, and collapsing in front of the setting sun.