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Crooked House is a British mystery film directed by Gilles Paquet-Brenner, based on Agatha Christie's novel of the same name. The film stars Max Irons, Terence Stamp, Glenn Close, Gillian Anderson, and Stefanie Martini.

In post-WWII England, private detective Charles Hayward is hired by his former lover Sophia to solve the murder of her wealthy grandfather. But when he heads to the deceased's mansion to investigate the case, he realizes that everyone is a suspect — including Sophia herself.

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Tropes used in Crooked House include:

  • And I'm the Queen of Sheba: When Taverner questions Charles about his foray into intelligence work in Cairo, Charles protests:
    Charles: I was a diplomat.
    Taverner: And I'm a duchess!
  • Angry Guard Dog: The Leonides family keep two trained attack dogs on the property that Eustace is especially close to. They catch Charles when he is snooping around the treehouse and maul him slightly. Lady Edith claims this proves they like him, as they could easily have killed him.
  • Big Fancy House: The manor house the Leonides' reside in.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: Aristide Leonides wanted to control every aspect of the lives of his family, and insisted that that all live together in the one mansion. As a result, the entire house is a seething cauldron of rivalry, jealousy, insecurity, hatred and bitterness.
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  • Convenient Terminal Illness: Lady Edith learns that she is dying of cancer, and decides to kill herself by driving her car off a cliff. She takes Josephine with her because she knows that Josephine has committed two murders and, if not stopped, will commit more. If she is caught, Edith knows Josephine will spend her entire life in an institution. Edith leaves behind a note confessing to the murders, so that Josephine will go to her grave with her name unbesmirched.
  • Destroy the Evidence: Sophia burns the manuscript of her grandfather's memoirs; claiming that it contained embarrassing details of his involvement in the armaments trade during World War II, but nothing relevant to his murder. A justifiably miffed Charles points out that he now has no way of verifying that.
  • Dinner and a Show: When the Leonides family sits down to dinner with Charles, it isn't long before the family's dirty laundry starts being aired: with accusations of everything from murder to Communism.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Josephine murders her grandfather because he stopped her ballet lessons. Later, she murders Nanny because she thinks Nanny has taken away her notebook.
  • Enfant Terrible: Josephine, who kills her grandfather simply for not paying for her ballet lessons - and doesn't stop there.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: Lady Edith's car explodes after driving off a cliff in a quarry. In this case, the explosion is a visual shorthand to inform the viewer that the occupants of the car are dead without having to show the bodies.
  • Everyone Is a Suspect: Everyone is Aristide Leonides' household had a reason for wanting him dead: his second wife, his sister-in-law, his sons, his daughters-in-law, his grandchildren, the tutor, the nanny... And the method used—Medication Tampering—was one that any of them could have employed.
  • Fingerprinting Air: Aristide's eserine bottle turns out to have no fingerprints on it. This is treated as suspicious by the police, as a medicine bottle that gets used regularly should have a large number of fingerprints of various clarity on it. The only reason it should be clean is if someone deliberately wiped it down, presumably to conceal who put the eserine in Aristide's insulin.
  • Frame-Up: The murderer stages a very effective frame-up of Brenda and Laurence; creating some extremely damning evidence and carefully leading Charles to it in such a way that it seems like he discovered it. It probably would have stuck if they had not committed another murder.
  • The Gambling Addict: Philip. He is living in the family home because his father bailed him out of gambling debts, and returning home was the price he had to pay. He even rolls a dice to decide if he'll answer Charles' questions.
  • Heads or Tails?: Roger admits that he had not read Philip's screenplay before deciding not to fund it; instead opting to toss a coin. When asked why he tossed a coin, he replies that he couldn't find a die.
  • Henpecked Husband: The emotionally-immature Roger was not only under the thumb of his father, but also that of his domineering wife Clemency. Pretty much every decision he makes in the film is shown being dictated to him by Clemency.
  • Heroic Suicide: Lady Edith learns that she is dying of cancer, and decides to kill herself by driving her car off a cliff. She takes Josephine with her because she knows that Josephine has committed two murders and, if not stopped, will commit more. If she is caught, Edith knows Josephine will spend her entire life in an institution. Edith leaves behind a note confessing to the murders, so that Josephine will go to her grave with her name unbesmirched.
  • Hero's Classic Car: Charles drives a maroon Bristol 405 with its distinctive third headlight in the centre of the grille. Although the car is not particularly old for the period when the story is set, it is in less than pristine condition. Charles admits that he bought it third hand, and it has a number of quirks, such as having to shove the driver's side door open with his elbow.
  • Incriminating Indifference: Charles notes that no one in Aristide Leonides' family (except his second wife) seems at all distressed by his murder. Reactions range from crocodile tears, to utter indifference, to a grudging admittance that they'll miss him, to outright admission that they hated him. As Charles notes, this makes everyone look like a viable suspect.
  • It Amused Me: The killer's motive was she was bored and thought a murder investigation would spice things up.
  • The Last Dance: Lady Edith learns that she is dying of cancer, and decides to kill herself by driving her car off a cliff. She takes Josephine with her because she knows that Josephine has committed two murders and, if not stopped, will commit more. If she is caught, Edith knows Josephine will spend her entire life in an institution. Edith leaves behind a note confessing to the murders, so that Josephine will go to her grave with her name unbesmirched.
  • Literary Allusion Title: To the nursery rhyme There Was A Crooked Man.
  • Maybe Ever After: The ending of the film suggests that Charles and Sophia may get back together, though it's not definite.
  • May–December Romance: Aristide Leonides second wife Brenda is in her 30s, while he was in his 80s. His children regard her as the Gold Digger, while she claims she was in love with him. The slightly more objective characters, such as Sophia, at least admit that he was in love with her.
  • Medication Tampering: Aristide Leonides is murdered when his killer switches his insulin with toxic eye drops.
  • Murder by Mistake: Nanny is fatally poisoned when she drinks Josephine's hot chocolate. This is a case of the killer making herself look like the intended target. Josephine hated hot chocolate, and never drank it. Nanny only made it for her so she could drink it herself.
  • The Napoleon: Aristide Leonides is described as being 'almost a midget'. This is implied to have fuelled his aggressive nature, leading to his ruthlessness in business, his fanatical anti-Communism, and his need to dominate and control his family.
  • Never One Murder: The murder of Aristide Leonides is followed later by the more baffling (and seemingly motiveless) murder of Nanny; although it does clear the two characters who had been arrested for the first murder.
  • No Badge? No Problem!: Because Charles is a private investigator hired by a member of the family, he can go places that the police can't; a fact that Detective Chief Inspector Taverner takes advantage of.
  • Oedipus Complex: Philip and Roger both harbour a deep resentment towards their father Aristide, and wish to supplant him as head of the family. For his part, Aristide took a great pleasure in keeping his sons solidly under his thumb. To add to the mix, Philip's son Eustace admits to having the hots for his step-grandmother.
  • Passed-Over Inheritance: When Aristide Leonides' real will comes to light, it reveals that Leonides has left control of the family corporation, and the vast bulk of his wealth, not to either of his sons, but instead to his granddaughter Sophia.
  • The Patriarch: Aristide Leonides ruled over everyone in his family, controlling everything they did.
  • Phone Booth: When Charles meets with his CIA contact, they hold a private conversation by standing in phone booths next to each other and conversing via the phone.
  • Plot-Triggering Death: Aristide's murder sets off the events of the whole film.
  • Posthumous Character: Aristide Leonides is dead at the start of the film. Sophia hires her former lover Charles to investigate the murder.
  • Red Herring: Several. The most obvious ones include Brenda being the one who gave Leonides the fatal dose of eserine, her affair with Laurence and the fact she stood to inherit the estate. Charles himself almost dismisses this entirely as being far too convenient. Another is a new will turning up naming Sophia as the benefactor; it's also thrown around that she specifically hired Charles to investigate because he would be unlikely to suspect her, due to their previous romantic relationship. As it turns out neither Brenda, Laurence or Sophia was the killer.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Magda Leonides is convinced that she is a great theatrical star. One character describes her as starring in plays that no one sees, and another indicates that most of her career has been spent in provincial repertory.
  • Snooping Little Kid: The 12 year old Josephine spends all of her free time sneaking around the mansion, spying and eavesdropping on her family and writing everything down in her notebook. She even has a telescope in her treehouse that allows her to see into her step-grandmother's room. She is convinced that she knows everyone's dirty secrets, and two attempts on her life convince Charles that she knows the identity of the murderer. She does, because she's the one who did it.
  • Tampering with Food and Drink: The murderer doses Josephine's hot chocolate with cyanide, although Josephine is not the one who ends up drinking it.
  • The Un-Favourite: Aristide passed over his eldest son Philip and gave control of his business empire to his younger son Roger, despite Roger being totally unsuited for the position.
  • White-Dwarf Starlet: Magda claims that she and Philip were once the most glamorous couple in London. If this is true, then her current position definitely makes her one: doing provincial reparatory and clinging desperately to the hope that Philip's screenplay is going to make her a star again.
  • Who Murdered the Asshole?: Aristide Leonides was not a very nice man.
  • Would Harm A Child: The murderer makes two attempts to kill Josephine. It is actually Josephine herself. Also Edith murders her own great-niece by driving off a cliff with her, though it's as part of a Heroic Suicide, as she had figured out Josephine was the killer and wanted to spare her from spending her life in an institution.


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