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Theatre: Sleuth

Andrew... remember... be sure and tell them... it was only a bloody game.
Milo Tindle

A 1970 play by Anthony Shaffer, which became a 1972 film, also written by Anthony Shaffer.

Remade in 2007 by Kenneth Branagh with a script by Harold Pinter.

Andrew Wyke, a mystery writer, realizes his wife is having an affair with the middle-classnote  Milo Tindle. He finds in Milo the opportunity to divorce his wife, but he needs to avoid having to pay alimony. So, he challenges the younger man to rob his house; Milo can get rich off his loot, while the insurance company will handsomely reimburse Andrew. Milo complies; but just as he pulls it off, things get really complicated.

The play features examples of:

  • And You Thought It Was a Game: Several times the line between game and real life thread becomes blurred.
  • Blatant Burglar: The first disguise Andrew proposes for Milo to wear during the staged burglary is the classic outfit complete with striped jersey and a bag with SWAG written on it.
  • The Chessmaster: Both Milo and Andrew.
  • Chromosome Casting: A male example. Granted, it does have a Minimalist Cast.
  • Disney Death: Milo. He's not so lucky the second time.
  • Evil Plan/Kansas City Shuffle: The scheme in the opening paragraph was just a precursor to Andrew's real scheme: to humiliate Milo, by means of shooting him with blanks, because he, a middle-class son of immigrants, dared to mingle with the upper class. It's the former because it starts and drives the plot. It's the latter because the one being schemed thought they knew where to look and what was going on but the real scheme is coming from another direction. From there it gets a lot more complicated.
  • Famous Last Words: After being shot for real, Milo lasts long enough to get out a victorious, "Game, set, match".
  • Genre Savvy: Both characters try to use their knowledge of detective stories to their advantage.
  • Gold Digger: Marguerite, according to Andrew.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Milo, who initially disapproves of Andrew's gameplaying, starts playing back to prevent Andrew getting the last laugh, and proves disconcertingly adept.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: Discussed during Inspector Doppler's conversation with Andrew.
  • Meaningful Name: Inspector Doppler.
  • Minimalist Cast: It has only five characters. And only two actors.
  • Mood Whiplash: The initial burglary plot is quite silly, as Milo disguises as a clown and makes a mess of the robbery attempt, but after the first or second plot twist it becomes extremely dark.
  • Most Writers Are Writers: Andrew, has become wealthy as a successful writer of popular, though now old-fashioned, crime fiction novels, which feature an aristocratic amateur detective, St. John Lord Merridew.
  • Police Are Useless: Early on Milo complains that in Andrew's detective books the Police are always incompetent and leave the work to the amateur sleuth. Later he has to experience the fact firsthand.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Relatively subtle, but in addition to being a snob in general, Andrew throws some anti-Italian slurs at Milo.
  • Reason You Suck Speech: Andrew gives Milo a "Reasons Why I Hate You" speech at the end of the first act.
  • Rich Suitor, Poor Suitor: Sort of. Andrew sees it this way.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Andrew lectures Milo about the upper class being smarter and better, and believes his amateur sleuthing is superior to real-life detective work. Milo and Inspector Doppler basically the same person go out of the way to prove Andrew so very wrong about both.
  • Thanatos Gambit: In reprisal for the Kansas City Shuffle, Milo manipulates Andrew into killing him for real and getting caught red-handed.
  • The Cake Is a Lie: The jewels are a lie!

The 1972 film adds examples of:

  • Blood from the Mouth: Milo in the final scene.
  • Concealing Canvas: Discussed. When looking for the safe, Milo dismisses the painting of Andrew's wife as the hiding place as he has seen it too often on TV.
  • Famous Last Words: The same circumstances as in the play, but the words themselves are different: in fact, this is where Milo says the page quote.
  • Mobile Maze: Andrew's got one.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: An In-Character example. Michael Caine struggles a bit with Milo's Inspector Doppler accent.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: Andrew. The creep factor is dialed up with long shots of his moving, dancing, watching-you toys.
  • Shout-Out: Andrew, a popular detective writer, has a sign that reads "221 B Baker Street" in his basement.
  • Spoiler Opening: Subverted; despite what the credits may tell you, Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine are the only actors who appear in the film.

The 2007 film adds examples of:

  • Anti-Hero: Milo is revealed to be a sociopath on Andrew's level.
  • Casting Gag: Michael Caine, who played Milo to Laurence Olivier's Andrew in the 1972 film, starred as Andrew to Jude Law's Milo in the 2007 version. Jude Law had played Michael Caine's part in the remake of Alfie.

CleopatraCreator/Joseph L Mankiewicz    
The Skin Of Our TeethTheatrical ProductionsThe Slutcracker
ShaftMysteryFiction/FilmChinatown
The Heartbreak KidCreator/Magnetic VideoThe Turning Point

alternative title(s): Sleuth
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