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.”

Wuthering Heights

  • Directors: William Wyler
  • Producers: Samuel Goldwyn
  • Writers: Charles MacArthur, Ben Hecht
  • Genres: Drama, Romance
  • Actors: Merle Oberon, Laurence Olivier, David Niven, Geraldine Fitzgerald

A traveler named Lockwood (Miles Mander) is caught in the snow and stays at the estate of Wuthering Heights, where the housekeeper, Ellen Dean (Flora Robson), sits down to tell him the story in flashback.

Clash of the Titans

  • Directors: Desmond Davis
  • Producers: Ray Harryhausen, Charles H Schneer
  • Writers: Beverley Cross
  • Genres: Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Family, Romance
  • Actors: Laurence Olivier, Harry Hamlin, Judi Bowker, Maggie Smith, Ursula Andress

With his grandson Perseus prophesied to bring about his destruction, King Acrisius of Argos casts his daughter Danae and her infant son out to sea in a wooden coffin. In retribution Perseus’ father, the god Zeus, orders the god of the sea Poseidon to release an ancient monster known as the Kraken to destroy Argos. Meanwhile Danae and Perseus are safely brought to the island of Seriphos.

Calibos, son of the sea goddess Thetis, is a handsome young man destined to marry Princess Andromeda, the daughter of Queen Cassiopeia and heir to the rich city of Joppa and eventually all of Phoenicia. He was given the kingdom known as the Wells of The Moon to rule over, but he eventually reduced it to a barren, swampy wasteland, hunting and destroying everything that lived there. As punishment for this and for trapping and killing Zeus’ entire sacred herd of flying horses (except for Pegasus) and his many other transgressions, Zeus transforms Calibos into a goat like monster who is subsequently shunned and forced to live as an outcast in the swamps and marshes. Thetis, furious at her son’s fate, vows that if Calibos cannot marry Andromeda, no other man will either.

Just as Andromeda is about to be sacrificed to the Kraken, Perseus appears astride Pegasus, turns the Kraken to stone with Medusa’s head, and frees Andromeda. The hero and heroine become constellations at the decree of Zeus, who does the same for Pegasus and Cassiopeia.

Spartacus

  • Directors: Stanley Kubrick
  • Producers: Kirk Douglas
  • Writers: Howard Fast, Dalton Trumbo
  • Genres: Action, Adventure, Biography, Drama, History, Romance
  • Actors: Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier, Peter Ustinov, John Gavin, Jean Simmons, Charles Laughton, Tony Curtis

The film begins with slaves working in the Roman province of Libya. Spartacus (Kirk Douglas), a burly Thracian, comes to the aid of an old man who has fallen down. A Roman soldier whips Spartacus and tells him to get back to work, only to be attacked and bitten on the ankle. For this, Spartacus is tied up and sentenced to death by starvation. Lentulus Batiatus (Peter Ustinov), a lanista (an impresario of gladiatorial games), arrives looking for recruits for his gladiatorial establishment. He inspects several slaves before finally settling on Spartacus, recognizing his unbroken spirit, along with his good health and physical condition. Batiatus purchases Spartacus and several others, then sails for Capua where his gladiatorial training camp is located. The trainer, Marcellus (Charles McGraw), immediately tries to provoke Spartacus into giving the trainer a reason to kill the Thracian as an example. Spartacus also befriends another gladiator, Crixus (John Ireland).

After several scenes showing gladiator training and life at the school, Crassus (Laurence Olivier) arrives with some companions, wishing to be entertained by watching two pairs of gladiators fight to the death. Spartacus is selected along with Crixus, an Ethiopian named Draba (Woody Strode), and another gladiator named Galino. During the first fight, Crixus and Galino are the first to fight, in which Crixus slays Galino. Next, Spartacus duels Draba and is defeated. Draba, however refuses to kill him, instead throwing his trident into the elevated spectators’ box and leaping to attack the Romans. Crassus quickly dispatches the slave and prepares to depart. As he leaves, he purchases the pretty slave woman from Britiannia, Varinia (Jean Simmons), whom Batiatus has assigned to Spartacus. Spartacus and Varinia have fallen in love, and in frustration at his loss and the overseer’s callous treatment, Spartacus begins a successful uprising. The gladiators eventually take Capua and all the surrounding districts. Many local slaves flock to the insurgents. Spartacus outlines his plan to escape by sea, aboard the ships of the Cilician pirates, who he plans to pay from the slaves’ plunder.

Batiatus and Varinia leave for Gaul via the Appian Way and find Spartacus hanging on the last cross by the road, not quite dead. Varinia shows Spartacus their newborn son, vowing that he will grow up a free man, promises to tell her son, “Who his father was, and what he dreamed of,” and bids Spartacus a final farewell. With one last breath, Spartacus’s head slumps back, and Varinia gets back onto the wagon and rides on.

Hamlet

  • Directors: Laurence Olivier
  • Producers: Laurence Olivier
  • Writers: Play, William Shakespeare, Screenplay, Laurence Olivier
  • Genres: Drama
  • Actors: Laurence Olivier, Basil Sydney, Eileen Herlie, Jean Simmons

The film follows the overall story of the play, but cuts nearly half the dialogue, and includes an opening voice-over that represents Hamlet’s fundamental problem as indecision.

The film begins with a narrator quoting some of Hamlet’s lines from Act I Scene IV:

The narrator then breaks from Shakespeare’s words to inform us “This is the tragedy of a man who could not make up his mind.”

The action begins on the battlements of Elsinore where a sentry, Francisco, (John Laurie) is relieved of his watch (and questioned if he has seen anything) by another sentry, Bernardo (Esmond Knight), who, with yet another sentry, Marcellus (Anthony Quayle), has twice previously seen the Ghost of King Hamlet. Marcellus then arrives with the skeptical Horatio (Norman Wooland), Prince Hamlet’s friend. Suddenly, all three see the Ghost, and Horatio demands that the ghost speak. The ghost vanishes then, without a word.

Inside the Great Hall of the castle, the court is celebrating the marriage of Gertrude (Eileen Herlie) and King Claudius (Basil Sydney); old King Hamlet has died under mysterious circumstances and his wife, Gertrude, has, within a month of the tragedy, married the late King’s brother. Prince Hamlet (Laurence Olivier) sits alone, refusing to join in the celebration, despite the protests of the new King. When the court has left the Great Hall, Hamlet fumes over the hasty marriage, muttering to himself the words “and yet, within a month!” Soon, Horatio and the sentries enter telling Hamlet of the ghostly apparition of his father. Hamlet proceeds to investigate, and upon arriving on the battlements, sees the ghost. Noting that the ghost beckons him forward, Hamlet follows it up onto a tower, wherein it reveals its identity as the Ghost of Hamlet’s father. He tells Hamlet that he was murdered, who did it, and how it was done. The audience then sees the murder re-enacted in a flashback as the ghost describes the deed – Claudius is seen pouring poison into the late King Hamlet’s ear, thereby killing him. Hamlet does not at first accept this as the truth, and then prepares to feign madness, so as to test Claudius’ conscience, without jumping to conclusions.

Hamlet meets Laertes’ challenge, and engages him in a duel. Hamlet wins the first two rounds, and Gertrude drinks from the cup, suspecting that it is poisoned. Whilst in-between bouts, Laertes rushes Hamlet, and strikes him on the arm, fatally poisoning him. Hamlet, not knowing this, continues to duel. Hamlet eventually disarms Laertes, and switches blades with him. Hamlet then strikes Laertes in the wrist, fatally wounding him. Gerturde then submits to the poison, and dies, warning Hamlet not to drink from the cup. Laertes, dying, confesses the whole plot to Hamlet, who flies at Claudius in a fit of rage, killing him, before finally expiring himself. Horatio, horrified by all this, orders that Hamlet be given a decent funeral, and the young prince’s body is taken away, while the Danish court kneels and the cannons of Elsinore fire off a peal of ordinance in respect. (A few women can be seen weeping quietly in the background.)