The Last of Sheila (1973)

the last of sheila

Rian Johnson listed this film as an influence on Glass Onion, his recent Knives Out sequel for Netflix (which is excellent, I highly recommend it) so I thought I’d give it a watch. Almost immediately the influences come flying right at you from the television screen.

The story involves a group of rich, beautiful, (mostly) young people who have found success in the movie industry. They’ve been invited by their friend Clinton (James Coburn) for a week aboard his yacht where he had prepared some delightfully complicated game.

The game involves revealing select secrets from each person (alcoholic, ex-convict, homosexual, child molester, etc) and will conclude with the revelation of who ran over Clinton’s wife one year prior and didn’t have the decency to stay with her and maybe call for help. Everyone more or less enjoys the game until someone actually dies and then it becomes a very real murder mystery.

Glass Onion is a lot bigger, a lot bolder, and a lot more fun, but The Last of Sheila is rather delightful in its own way. The cast includes James Mason, Ian McShane, Raquel Welch, and Dyan Cannon. It was shot on location in the Mediterranean. It was written by Stephen Sondheim and Anthony Perkins of all people.

Clinton is a movie producer and he has an idea bout making a movie about his dead wife’s life. He wants everyone he’s invited on the boat to help him make it. They, scriptwriters, directors, and actors all, desperately need him and this movie to help their sagging careers. It is full of twists and turns, mysteries and reveals. The cast is clearly having a good time.

It isn’t quite as punchy as I’d like it to be, and the direction by Herbert Ross never excites. He certainly doesn’t make great use of the beautiful setting. It feels very much of its time. One of the big secrets is the character is homosexual which wouldn’t be a big deal now, but in 1973 could be quite detrimental for a celebrity working in Hollywood. That is more scandalous within the film (as is being an alcoholic and a shoplifter) than the revelation that one of them is a child molester which is shrugged off by the characters and the film. But mostly the film is a lot of fun and if you liked Glass Onion I highly recommend it.

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