O@tM: The Last of Sheila (1973)

Sheila Green (Yvonne Romain) is killed in a hit-and-run car accident while walking home from a party one night. A year later, her multi-millionaire husband, Clinton (James Coburn), invites a group of friends (James Mason, Raquel Welch, Dyan Cannon, Richard Benjamin, Joan Hackett, and Ian McShane) to spend a week with him on his yacht. Clinton loves to play elaborate games and he assigns everyone a secret – one is an alcoholic, another an informer and so on – that they are not to share with anyone. Every day for the next six days, they will call into a port where they will be given clues to discover one person’s secret. The game takes a deadly twist when a murder tales place and it all has to do with the game they have been playing and the secrets that Clinton assigned at the outset. β€”garykmcd

To say it right away, this isn’t a great film. It’s a formulaic whodunnit from the time when Whodunnits were all the rage, always great ensemble casts and mostly based on the one or the other Agatha Christie story.

The Last of Sheila indeed

Sheila features a great ensemble as well but misses the same old Christie blueprint, which turned out to be a great decision by the film makers. The solution of the riddle came a bit too early and was too clear cut, which led to a fantabulous 3rd act.

No more spoilers. 😐

So why haven’t we heard about this specific movie yet? The characters are all assholes, all of ’em. Even the bereaved husband. And one more suspicious than the other … and we wouldn’t give a fuk about any of them, sad but true. I mean they are all supposed to be actors and producers, which makes for some funny one-liners but turns most of them into cheap cartoon figures without real character. Even if their portrayal is probably pretty realistic, at least one character, one hero we can root for would’ve made this movie so much better.

I guess that is the main reason for Sheila’s comparative obscurity: The lack of a hero or a real detective who we can observe while he’s untangling the net.

But enough complained, all in all is The Last of Sheila sooo so so much better than what we get today. What was the last original whodunnit we got to see, apart from some Agatha Christie remakes? Right, Rian Johnson’s Knives Out. And that thing was crap, was it not? Still in the same tradition films like Sheila were forged like 50 years ago: One-dimensional characters and a clever plot full of twists and turns.

And that’s what Sheila had to offer apart from a sexy cast: a clever twist. Good enough for hubby and me. We had a good time without getting angered by SJW resentiments, studio politics and overblown personalities. I’m quite sure the 1973 cast featured enough egomaniacs as well, but since they were supposed to play more or less themselves, it fitted the movie quite well.

Speaking about the cast:

Cream of the crop at their time!

CONCLUSION: I said it already, The Last of Sheila isn’t a great masterpiece but competently done and it fulfills its purpose. We got what we expected, a nice – if somewhat cheesy – film with a great cast and enough shenanigans to spice it up.

Well, have you noticed that in most of the “great” movies of the 60s and 70s the acting is all around pretty hammy and a bit overdramatic? I guess today’s actors and directors have become better in that regard … but only in that. The movies themselves are often crap, just crap. Why? Because the studios fear producing average flics which produce an average box office profit. So the producers and studio bosses became risk-avert and are only betting on guaranteed successfully movies … and failing more often than ever before and sinking billions of woolongs into badly miscalculated trainwrecks.

How good that we still can enjoy nice flicks like The Last of Sheila, don’t you think?

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