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Wickedly Witty, Super-Twisty
gftbiloxi8 April 2005
When DEATHTRAP was first released, the poster--reproduced on the cover of this DVD--offered a graphic akin to a Rubik's Cube. It is an appropriate image: originally written for the stage by Ira Levin, who authored such memorable works as ROSEMARY'S BABY and THE STEPFORD WIVES, the play was one of Broadway's most famous twisters, and under Sidney Lumet's direction it translates to the screen extremely well.

DEATHTRAP is one of those films that it is very difficult to discuss, for to do so in any detail gives away the very plot for which it is famous. But the opening premise is extremely clever: Sidney Bruhl (Michael Caine) is the famous author of mystery plays, but these days he seems to have lost his touch. After a particularly brutal opening night, an old student named Clifford Anderson (Christopher Reeve) sends him a script for a play he has written. It is called "Deathtrap," and Sidney recognizes it as a surefire hit. Just the sort of hit that would revive his career... indeed, a hit to die for. And when Clifford visits to discuss the play, events suddenly begin to twist in the most unexpected manner possible.

Like Anthony Shaffer's equally twisty SLEUTH, DEATHTRAP is really a story more at home on the stage than the screen--to reach full power it needs the immediacy that a live performance offers. Still, under the expert guidance of director Sidney Lumet, it makes a more-than-respectable showing on the screen. Much of this is due to the cast, which is remarkably fine. Michael Caine gives a truly brilliant performance, Dyan Cannon is funny and endearing as Sidney's relentlessly anxious wife, and Christopher Reeve gives what might be the single finest performance in his regrettably short acting career. If you can't see it in a first-rate theatrical production, this will more than do until one comes along.

Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer
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Twist upon twist makes an absorbing mystery even better...
Neil Doyle18 February 2007
Nothing's more enjoyable for me than a who-dun-it or suspense tale that keeps you guessing throughout as to how the whole thing will end. And that's precisely what happens in DEATHTRAP, based on a chilling play by Ira Levin ("Rosemary's Baby").

And in it, MICHAEL CAINE and CHRISTOPHER REEVE get to do the kind of stunt that Caine and Laurence Olivier pulled off in SLEUTH--with just about as much skill and as many puzzles as ever existed in that extraordinarily clever play.

But because it's meant to scare you, surprise you, and keep you guessing as to the outcome, it's difficult to write a review about the plot. Let's just say that what we know in the beginning is all you have to know about the film for the present. MICHAEL CAINE is an insanely jealous playwright whose latest play has failed miserably. When a young aspiring writer CHRISTOPHER REEVE sends him the manuscript of his play, Caine realizes that passing it off as his own would solve all his problems and get his reputation back.

From that point on, it's a matter of fun and games for the audience as Ira Levin's story unwinds, managing to trump Agatha Christie for the number of twists.

Caine and Reeve play off each other brilliantly, each bringing a certain dynamic tension to the tale as well as some humorous touches that come from a script that laces drama with humor.

Summing up: Well worth seeing--but not everyone is pleased with the ending.
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A maze of plot twists and turns that keeps you guessing until the end
dwr2463 May 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Every time you think you have a handle on Deathtrap, another plot twist comes along. Best to just sit back and enjoy the ride on this one. Most noted for its on screen kiss between Michael Caine and Christopher Reeve (which was unfortunately cut from the televised version I saw), this movie has a great deal more to recommend it.

Sidney Bruhl (Michael Caine) is a very unhappy man. Once a successful playwright, his last several plays on Broadway have flopped. And while his wife Myra (Dyan Cannon) is nothing but supportive, in both the monetary and emotional sense, this does little to make Sidney feel any better. To add insult to injury, young playwright, Clifford Anderson (Christopher Reeve), has just sent Sidney a play to look at. It's Anderson's first, and Sidney can see that the young man is a gifted writer. He jokes to his wife that he should invite Anderson over, kill him, and submit the play as his own. She laughs with him at first, but when Sidney actually invites Anderson over for dinner, she worries that he may really be putting his scheme into action. And her fears just may be justified...

It's a brilliant script. There are twists and turns all through the plot, and they come faster and more furious as you get closer to the end. It's the kind of film that has you on the edge of your seat from the beginning, and keeps you there the entire time. An absolute masterpiece of suspense and mystery.

The acting is excellent. Caine gives his usual excellent performance, and he does exhibit a knack for playing cultured, refined, and intellectual men. Reeve also gives an excellent rendering of a man who isn't nearly as wide eyed or innocent as he seems. Cannon's franticness works well for Myra. And Irene Worth gives a nice performance as a nosy neighbor who is also a psychic.

This is a film with an ending you'd never expect, and repeated watchings help to pick up on things missed in earlier viewings. An unsung classic that is unfortunately only remembered for a scene which ruffled some sensibilities at the time - and that is a real shame.
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Surpasses Sleuth
EnriqueH17 September 2005
The comparison to Sleuth, the earlier stage-play-turned-film, is obvious and upon my first viewing I too thought Sleuth was better, but Deathtrap has, at least for me, many more repeat viewings in it than Sleuth.

I purchased Deathrap in the bargain bin at Wal-Mart, figuring that it had Caine and the underrated Reeve and was worth the 6 bucks. It was one of the finest DVD purchases I could've picked up.

It's one of those best-kept-secrets that movie buffs always are always delighted to discover. And it's totally worth repeat viewings.

Though Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine turned in bravado performances in Sleuth, I was doubly impressed with Christopher Reeve as Clifford Anderson. Reeve, rightfully associated with his now legendary portrayal of Superman, stole the show in what should've been an Oscar worthy performance. I've always felt Reeve was a type-cast actor who didn't get much of a chance to shine outside of the Superman films and a few other flawed but entertaining films like Somewhere in Time, but this film shows that his potential was truly tapped and put to use, thank goodness.

I absolutely relished Michael Caine's performance. He was glib, deliciously manipulative and sadistic. And watching him work with Reeve and Dyan Cannon was an absolute pleasure. In fact, it was thanks to this movie that I got into a "Michael Caine phase" and started renting as much of his stuff as humanly possible.

As for Deathtrap, there's enough juicy dialogue in here to fill up its "memorable quotes" section. (Unfortunately, much of the dialogue would inherently spoil the immensely entertaining plot).

It's really, really hard to talk about the movie without spoiling important plot points that are infinitely more fun to discover on your own. Needless to say, it's a must-see. But for me, it was the greatest and most rewarding blind purchase of all time.

Repeat viewings are a must.

And it deserves to sit alongside Sleuth on your DVD shelf.

I'll leave you with this beautifully written quote from the film: "I wonder if it wouldn't be...well...just a trifle starry-eyed of me to enter into such a risky and exciting collaboration...where I could count on no sense of moral obligation...whatsoever."
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Michael Caine and Chris Reeve in fine form, a filmed play about a play, a wicked dark comedy..
TxMike14 September 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Christopher Reeve was near 30 when he made this movie, right in the middle of his various Superman movies, and his character takes quite a different path here. I think it showcases what a fine actor he really was, before the unfortunate riding accident cut him short.

Here Reeve plays Cliff Anderson, a young writer who had attended a mystery writing seminar put on by the famous playwright Sidney Bruhl (Michael Caine). Cliff contacts Sidney, sends him a manuscript for his first effort, a play called 'Deathtrap.' Sidney tells his wife, Myra (Dyan Cannon) that the play is perfect, there isn't anything that could be improved. So Sidney, now with another clunker opening, needs something to get his fame and, more importantly, his fortune, back on track. So he hatches a plan to invite Cliff over, kill him steal his manuscript for his own, and all will be good again.

I didn't give anything away in what I wrote above, because all that is revealed in the first few minutes of the movie. But nothing, I mean nothing is as it seems from the opening. As the story progresses, new surprises develop. And that is the fun of the movie, which plays more like a filmed stage play. Almost all the movie takes place inside the Bruhl home on Long Island, and there are only 4 characters that matter. The 4th is neighbor Helga Ten Dorp (Irene Worth) who is psychic and can "feel" pain at various parts of the house.

SPOILERS. When you watch long enough you find that Sidney and Clifford are apparently gay lovers, and the whole thing was hatched by them to dispose of wife Myra who has a weak heart. Sidney and Cliff have an apparent fight, Sidney apparently chokes him with a chain, Sidney and Myra bury him in the garden at night, but when Cliff comes back in, alive, Myra has an attack and dies. So Sidney and Cliff set up house together, call each other endearing names, even kiss once on camera. There never was a completed play called 'Deathtrap' but Cliff is writing one which is based on what just happened. When Sidney finds out he does not approve, than the two men begin to distrust each other. This friction caused their disposal, and in the end it is Helga Ten Dorp who writes the play 'Deathtrap' and sees it to amazing commercial success.
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The closest thing to modern Hitchcock...
midnightrane28 January 2002
No one better spoil this piece of work! Awesome movie! Written expertly by the likes of Ira Levin and depicted with the best performance of Christopher Reeve's career and one of Caine's very best, this is simply excellent. I wish I could catch a staged version somewhere...maybe someday I will. I hope this grossly underrated, overlooked film has not become too difficult to locate because it a 'must' for any Hitchcockian, Agatha-phile or lover of great film. One of very few movies I couldn't instantly solve or predict and worth a second or even third viewing, "Deathtrap" gets a 9/10 and earns every iota of it. We need and deserve more movies like this!
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A Good Whodunnit Dramedy
Rainey Dawn18 October 2014
As one reviewer said "It's hard to talk about this film without giving too much away" - and I do agree with this statement about the film. This is a movie one just has to simply watch for themselves because if you are told to much about the film then it would ruin the entire movie.

Is Deathtrap good? Yes it is a very good mystery dramedy (comedy-drama). It has it's comical moments but the film also has it's times of drama. If you like mysteries then you may enjoy this film.

Are you wanting a double feature? I would recommend this movie (Deathtrap) along with movies like: "Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid", "Clue", "Sleuth", or "Murder by Death".

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How To Build A Better Deathtrap
NJMoon6 September 1999
Unlike Tinseltown's version of HELLO, DOLLY!, Jay Presson Allen's screen adaptation of Ira Levin's hit Broadway thriller couldn't wait for it's stage incarnation to shutter before putting it up on the silver screen, so producers wisely decided to make the most of it's lengthy White Way run! The film's opening and closing scenes are shot inside New York's intimate Music Box Theater where DEATHTRAP played for nearly five years. Even the film's final fadeout on the theatre marquee is a version of the stageplay's famous logo. (Although marketeers decided to go with a more fun Rubik's Cube icon for the movie.)

Now on a low-priced DVD release, DEATHTRAP seems just as fresh and inventinve as ever. The cast is just right (better than their stage counterparts) and location scouts should be applauded for finding a suitably spooky house for our "one room, two act thriller" to take place in. Opened up in surprisingly simple and innovative ways, director Sidney Lumet wisely tags any "new" material onto the beginning and end of the film and leaves Levin's wickedly twisty center alone.

The film's last scene is a major Hollywood departure from the boards, and slightly undermines one of Levin's plot points from earlier in the film [Helga (about a dagger): "Will be used by another woman BECAUSE of play."]. Like Robert Altman's THE PLAYER, however, our new finale helps the film fold in on itself once again and blurs the lines between stage, screen, and (could it be?) real life!
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Great movie but where is the widescreen DVD?
T Dalbeck12 September 2006
Definitely one of the most witty and twisted who-dunnit I ever seen. Christopher Reeve and Micheal Caine were brilliant and kept me going through the whole affair.

Very classy set pieces and the props really lend a sense of atmosphere to the proceedings. The minimalist feel works for the whole picture.

My only complain isn't with the film itself but the lack of a decent widescreen edition of the movie on DVD. I own the fullscreen version (which proves I love the film enough to endure fullscreen presentation) but a awesome Deluxe or 'special' edition would most surely get my cash.
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An excellent mystery movie soaked in wit
Lawson20 June 2003
Deathtrap runs like a play within a movie about who did what to whom, as it primarily takes place on one set. The premise is that an accomplished playwright, whose star is falling, receives a magnificent manuscript from a former student and so he plans to off his protege and appropriate his play, to the (loud) protests of his wife. Or so you think, for the first half of the movie. Past the halfway mark, Deathtrap begins to throw in twists and surprises that turn its premise on its head, then right around, and then in a mad spin, all the time keeping its title appropriate. It's an excellent mystery movie soaked in wit.

Michael Caine, as the senior playwright, plays himself in this movie - a slightly loony and very dramatic Brit. No surprises here - he does his usual good work. He gets the best line of Deathtrap, which he executes perfectly: "What is your definition of success, being gang-banged in a state penitentiary?"

Christopher Reeve, on the other hand, juggles comedy and drama in a surprisingly strong performance playing the ambitious (and psychopathic) young playwright. He also gets to show off his very toned body, which he must've retained coming off the Superman movies.

Caine and Reeve have collaborated in another movie that's one of my favorite comedies - Noises Off. It similarly revolves around a play as well, although this time Caine is the director and Reeve is an actor. They are joined by comic veterans Carol Burnett, John Ritter, Marilu Henner (Taxi) and Mark Linn-Baker (Perfect Strangers). Together, they demonstrate the calamities that befall the bed-hopping cast and crew of a play. On the surface, the movie looks to be mostly slapstick but upon watching you find that they are many subtle jokes that require more than one viewing to catch. Wish this underrated movie was available on DVD.
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Not as good as I expected
Arctic_Wizard5 June 2008
Shame really - very rarely do I watch a film and am left feeling disappointed at the end. I've seen quite a few of Ira Levin's adaptations - 'Rosemary's Baby' and 'The Stepford Wives' - and liked both them, but this just didn't appeal to me.

When I read the plot outline - an award winning playwright (Michael Caine) decides to murder one of his former pupils (Christopher Reeve) and steel his script for his own success - I was excited. I like thrillers, Michael Caine's a good actor, Sidney Lumet's a good director and Ira Levin's work is generally good.

I won't spoil it for anyone who hasn't seen it yet, but all I'd say is there are LOADS of twists and turns. So many its kind of hard to explain the film's plot line in detail, without giving it away. I enjoyed the first ... 45 minutes, before the twists and turns began to occur and at that point my interest and enjoyment began to fade out. Though I have to give Lumet credit for the very amusing ending which did make me laugh out loud.

The main cast - Michael Caine, Christopher Reeve, Dyan Cannon and Irene Worth - were all brilliant in their roles. Though Worth's obvious fake Russian accent got on my nerves slightly (nothing personal Irene, I think any actor's fake accent would irritate me). Not sure if Cannon's character was meant to be annoyingly funny but Dyan managed to annoy and amuse - at the same time.

Anyone reading this - I don't want you to be put-off watching this because of my views - give it a chance, you may like it, you may not. It's all about opinion.
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One of the most underrated films of all time!
A.Rausch29 March 1999
This is one of my favorite movies of all time. It's great and the acting is brilliant. In the scene in which Michael Caine calls the police in tears and then stops the waterworks the second he finishes the call really displays Caine's brilliance. The twists are a lot of fun. The film is top-notch.
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So Easy to Spoil...
BaronBl00d22 March 2008
Ira Levin's Deathtrap is one of those mystery films in the tradition of Sleuth that would be very easy to spoil given any real examination of the plot of the film. Therefore I will be brief in saying it concerns a play, one man who is a famous mystery playwright, another man who is a promising writer, the playwright's wife who is much younger and sexier than the role should have been, and one German psychic along for the ride. Director Sidney Lumet, no stranger to film, is quite good for the most part in creating the tension the film needs to motor on. The dialog is quick, fresh, and witty. Michael Caine excels in roles like these. Christopher Reeve is serviceable and actually grows on you the more you see him act. Irene Worth stands out as the funny psychic. How about Dyan Cannon? Love how Lumet packaged her posterior in those real tight-fitting pants and had her wear possibly the snuggest tops around, but she is terribly miscast in this role - a role which should have been given to an older actress and one certainly less seductive. But why quibble with an obvious attempt to bribe its male viewers when nothing will change it now? Deathtrap is funny, sophisticated, witty, and classy. The mystery has some glaring flaws which do detract somewhat, and I was not wholly satisfied with the ending, but watching Caine and Reeve under Lumet's direction with Levin's elevated verbiage was enough to ensnare my interest and keep it captive the entire length of the film.
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Sleuth slayers
jc-osms24 September 2010
Enjoyable if forced murder mystery whodunit kind of thing played to the max and beyond pretty much as a two-hander by Caine and Reeve. "Deathtrap" seems to try to send up every Agatha Christie - type concoction there's ever been, throwing in more twists than a Chubby Checker revival show, but seems to forget that Peter Schaffer's "Sleuth" got there before it a decade earlier.

Caine's in on this of course, he now playing the Olivier role as the ageing dominating schemer of the two, with Reeve as the initially submissive but later resistant junior partner in the former's nefarious, ingenious if somewhat far-fetched plan to bump off ailing wife Dyan Cannon (who couldn't look healthier, as a matter of fact) and get his hands on her massive fortune.

The initial twist is well staged and does come as a big surprise but subsequent events fail to repeat the trick and the insertion of the ludicrous Scandanavian medium Helga Ten Dorp (there must be an in-joke anagram in her name I've not yet deciphered) to sweep up the pieces with her thick-as-Nordic-snow accent takes it just too far over the top.

For all that, it's directed at pace with no let up on the camp factor from the normally straight-arrow Sydney Lumet and features a slightly awkward full-on kiss between the leads with a complete lack of conviction on either side. It's one of perhaps too many unintentional comical scenes in this play within a play get the idea, but you sense that no-one minds too much in any case, so irreverent is the whole concept and execution here.
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Merwyn Grote11 January 2008
The trick to creating a good, solid mystery story is as much a matter of timing as its about plot contrivances, colorful characters or surprising twists. Anyone who has ever labored in frustration with an un-finishable Sunday New York Times crossword knows that any puzzle that takes too long to solve ceases to be any fun. The best murder mysteries, be they on film or in print, are slight affairs that get to the point, spell out their clues, line up their suspects and, hopefully, zap us with a few surprises; being complicated without being unduly confusing. And they play fair; on second, third and fourth viewings of the clues and red herrings we should be just as pleased to marvel at how well it all comes together as we were at being surprised in the first place. Indeed, good thrillers should get better on repeated viewings as we anticipate the double and triple crosses.

Sidney Lumet's comedy-thriller DEATHTRAP, as derived from Ira Levin's hit Broadway play, is a great example. It moves along at a tidy clip, skillfully juggling its clues, being (almost) totally honest with us (even when it is lying to us) and yet never revealing where it is going (even when it is telling us where it might go). It is less a murder mystery movie in the traditional vane than it is a movie about murder mysteries, derived from a play about playwriting. Rather than going backward -- a murder and then an investigation to explain why everything happened -- DEATHTRAP leads us through the crime(s) step by step, leaving ample room for the unexpected; as the ads advise it is less a "whodunit" than a "who'lldoit."

DEATHTRAP is often compared (unfavorably, oddly enough) to the play and movie versions of SLEUTH, though in reality it has much more in common with SCREAM, the self-mocking essay on teeny-bopper horror flicks. Like that clever film, DEATHTRAP labels itself (a thriller about thrillers), sets it parameters ("a one-set, five character moneymaker") and then proceeds to deconstruct its genre by revealing itself as "the most outlandish and preposterous set of circumstances entertaining enough to persuade an audience to suspend its disbelief."

DEATHTRAP bravely gives us a mystery with only five major characters, two of which are of minimum importance. Henry Jones as a cagey lawyer is on hand mostly for exposition (and to supply us with his penchant for folksy charm) and Irene Worth is all quirks and comic relief as a psychic-cum-sleuth who acts as the nominal detective. That leaves three main characters to be the killer(s) and/or the victim(s): It is a testament to Michael Caine's abilities that as Sidney Bruhl, a down-on-his-luck author of mystery plays, he creates a character who we intrinsically like and trust, even as we recognize immediately that almost everything he says is a lie. As his adoring, if somewhat ditzy wife, Myra, Dyan Canon flirts with being over the top by giving a roller-coaster ride of a performance with a character that by turns seems to be frail or overbearing, crafty or hysterical, timid or bold and uncompromisingly in love with a less than reciprocating Sidney. The third angle of this unexpected triangle is a fledgling playwright named Clifford Anderson played by Christopher Reeve in such a way that we never quite get a handle on just who his character is: enthusiastic preppie wannabe writer, semi-innocent victim or cunningly charming sociopath. As the various character dance around each other, the cleverly dour script adapted by ace scribe Jay Presson Allen manages to be consistently amusing, even as it builds suspense. And even after the final twist (an improvement over the play's finale), it may not be quite clear just who has manipulated who to do what.

Lumet is by no means a master of comedy, so he lets his able cast have free reign to flesh out the characters and they all give sharp, theatrical, yet subtle work, with Reeve being particularly noteworthy. But what Lumet does so well is to work skillfully in tight quarters. As he did brilliantly in 12 ANGRY MEN, he takes a one-set play, and with a minimum of opening up, manages to make what could have been cramped, stagy and stagnant seem endlessly photogenic and spacious. The setting, a country home converted from an old windmill, is relatively small, but as designed by Tony Walton it manages to be both cozy and charming, as well as spooky and treacherous. It is so truly difficult to tell where the studio set and the real country house cross boundaries that to a degree the set becomes a sixth character. And as the scene of the crime, it is a most inviting deathtrap indeed.
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Inside Out
tedg6 August 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I'm watching a bunch of movies now for historical value. Many, like this one, were entertaining at one time. I suppose you can get some pleasure from being reminded what type of person you were or could have been to be entertained by this, but its not quite the same is it?

The historical value is in the overt self-reference, what the popular press calls self-reference.

This started life as a play, the sort of play that people wealthier than moviegoers could go to and be amused instead of challenged, where the immediacy of theater was squandered so that some folks could be pleased with having completely enveloped and mastered a clever narrative.

That it is a film of a play makes it slightly more interesting and somewhat lightens the repulsive notion of people needing to be occupied, their food chewed for them.

Here we have a playwright writing a mystery play that we see, the script in the typewriter literally being what we see. Its "Seven Keys to Baldpate." A truly clever origamic elaboration on this model is "The Shining." The elaborations we have here are two. One is that we have in fact that we have two playwrights involved, spatting gay lovers. The second is that they stage (at the beginning) a play within the play to scare a woman to death for her money.

She's incidentally perhaps the earliest older woman (45) presented as sexy (in a movie way) in a Hollywood movie. (Mrs Robinson only acted sexy.)

The twists are two. One is interesting, that the younger man wants to make the play within be the play without. We know this will happen because we have the play we see. The second twist is that the battling playwrights kill each other and the script we see is actually produced by a "psychic" neighbor, our surprise designated viewer.

Seeing these two actors (Caine and Reeves) reminds us of two similarly "self-referential" projects they were in, "Sleuth," and "Noises Off," both better.

Also, seeing two men kiss (in the most minimal and stagy manner) and read all the fuss Caine made about it, seems amazingly strange today.

Ted's Evaluation -- 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.
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Too bad they do not make such movies today...
dbdumonteil3 February 2004
Okay,it recalls "Sleuth" (1972).Okay ,it borrows the first part from Clouzot's 'Les Diaboliques" .But forget "sleuth"and "Diaboliques" and you can enjoy this armchair thriller:after all,Sidney Lumet has always been fond of these stories which take place in an enclosed space,and from the very start of his career,"twelve angry man" ,but also "the hill" "murder on the orient express" and his towering achievement "dog day afternoon".And anyway it's based on a play by Ira Levin ("the Stepford wives" and of course the brilliant "Rosemary's baby") Besides,in his preface to Agatha Christie's plays ,Levin mentions Anthony Shaffer .And Michael Caine's presence makes us think of Mankiewicz's celebrated movie.

The main difference with "sleuth" lies in the fact that almost any social comment has disappeared:it's detective story for the sake of detective story.The actors overplay and their lines are a bit tongue-in-cheek (speaking of Reeve's character,Caine mumbles :"don't you think HE's one of them?)Actually,it's grand guignol,Punch and Judy all over the place and if you like the genre,you will not be disappointed. Reeve particularly proves he was much more than Superman.

The ending , on a stage ,is another nod to "sleuth" :the whole movie looks like a filmed stage production,but where's the problem?So did "twelve angry men".When Lumet comes back to "true" cinema,is he so convincing with the likes of "the firm"?

People who enjoy a murder mystery peppered with humor should see this.
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Plot twists create an enjoyable movie
CharlieB-530 July 1999
If you are looking for a sonic-boom-special-effects monster, click the BACK button on your browser.

Deathtrap was written by Ira Levin (Sliver, The Stepford Wives, Rosemary's Baby). It's a stage play, adapted for the screen. 95% of the movie takes place in the gorgeous home of playwright Sidney Bruhl (Michael Caine). He's the author of a fabulously successful Broadway play, but his last 4 efforts have flopped - horribly.

An aspiring playwright, Clifford Anderson (Christopher Reeve), who attended a play-writing workshop given by Sydney, has sent him a copy of the play he has written. Sydney tells his wife, Myra (Dyan Cannon) the play is fabulous - a sure-fire hit. But is it good enough to die for? Time will tell.

Clever dialog and numerous twists and turns in the plot keep this movie entertaining from beginning to end. The whole cast seems to have a good time. It's reminiscent of another fun Michael Caine mystery: Sleuth. Worth watching.
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bobnewbie21 August 2008
I do not believe all the praise for this movie. The play and movie were a ripoff of Sleuth. Michael Caine wishes he were Olivier, and Reeves wishes he were Caine. Caine even had the nerve to do a remake of Sleuth with Jude Law playing his original part. Jude Law? You mean the one that did the remake of "Alfie"?

This movie was made during a period of Caine's career when it was obvious he needed to pay off gambling debts. He would do anything for money. He would star in such award winning movies such as this, and "Beyond the Poseidon Adventure". What seems to be driving the praise for this movie is Reeves death. He deserves better than to be remembered for this lousy movie. And so does Caine. This movie can be found in the $5.97 bin at Walmart. Along with gems like "The Island", and "Blame it on Rio".
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A witty but convoluted thriller.
gridoon1 September 1999
Incredibly convoluted mystery-thriller is highlighted by witty dialogue ("Well, it's not what you'd call involuntary homicide") but has a few TOO many twists. Caine gives another astonishing performance, but I've watched "Deathtrap" three times and that "stormy" resolution always seems barely comprehensible.
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So glib and lightweight it almost blows away in the draft...see the first Sleuth instead
secondtake16 December 2011
Deathtrap (1982)

If you have seen "Sleuth," the first version from 1972 or so, you'll know what "Deathtrap" is trying to by. Michael Caine is not the only common thread between the two. Add to this a mysterious murder, a lot of coy double takes and visitors to a rich man's house with peculiar intentions, and a kind of play made into a movie feel, undisguised.

It is fun in the background, it has a bright late seventies feel (I know it's from 1982, don't worry). But if you really pay attention, if you were even to have been in the theater and spent money to be engaged, you might well wish you had tried harder, and that the movie makers had tried a lot harder. There will always be poignance to seeing Christopher Reeve at his pretty and charming best, though he's pretty dull stuff here (compared to both "Superman" of course and the iconic "Somewhere in Time" from just two years before).

Caine is pure Caine, hard to fault, and if you already like him you'll like him still. I do, and he made it sustainable. But the plot? Well, it's all farce to the point of not really caring what happens. Even "Murder by Death," with all its superficial plot twists, revels in being superficial--it's just "fun" all around. This one is not quite fun, nor is it as ingenious or beautifully written as "Sleuth."

The source of "Deathtrap" is a fabulously successful Broadway play, and why it didn't quite transfer to film is something to argue about. Sidney Lumet is certainly a really capable director, with some classic films like "Dog Day Afternoon" and "Fail-Safe." behind him. What "Deathtrap" lacks for a director is true drama, however, and the finessing, the faking, the lighthearted coyness requires a certain sensibility not quite working here.

I think the two women in the cast, the wife and the psychic neighbor, are both so caricatured they're hard to take, too. Add all of this up, and you have mostly the endless twists and surprises to keep you going--and again, "Sleuth" has it all over this one in that camp.

Not that you won't be surprised! If you do watch it and hang in there, you'll be twisted and amused. Which is the main point.
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Gleefully mean-spirited misanthropic thriller
lemon_magic2 July 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I would not hesitate to put this adaptation of 'Death Trap" in a top 5 list of the best stage-to-movie adaptations ever. Caine and Reeves (an underrated actor who never really got a chance to do more than soggy romances and "Superman") play off each other extremely well here. Even Dyan Cannon - who I normally don't care for - is perfectly cast in a role that exploits her annoyance value as an actress.

I'm not sure that comparisons of "Deathtrap" with "Sleuth" - another brilliant stage-to-screen adaptation featuring Michael Caine - are valid, or even fair. Yes, the two stories have a lot in common. But "Sleuth" is as much about class warfare as the battle of wits, and the house in "Sleuth" is set is at least as much a character in the movie as the two actors - the house doesn't really have an equivalent in "Deathtrap". And "Deathtrap" isn't so much a battle of wits as it is a pointed vignette about how people are no damned good (and never as smart as they think they are) and deserve everything they get. I'll just say that both movies are superb examples of the genre, and well worth your time and money. This is America, after all. You don't have to choose!

I won't give away the twists and turns of the plot, but I don't think it matters anyway. I've watched the DVD eight or nine times in a dozen years, and still enjoyed the chemistry and the timing and the mean, scary moments when things go "all pear shaped". It's all done so well that the ride becomes more important than the actual destination.

Anyone who likes black-hearted comedy and suspense in the Hitchcock style of film-making will probably enjoy "Deathtrap" immensely.
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A constantly twisting plot and a great cast combine to make a thriller that Alfred Hitchcock would be proud of.
Jack the Ripper188819 January 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Surely a thriller that would make Alfred Hitchcock cry at its creativity, DEATHTRAP is a thriller where the plot is always shifting and there are twists around every corner. Not for someone who is dead tired, no. You need to be fully awake and aware in order to watch this film. Michael Caine, Christopher Reeve, and Dyan Cannon who really likes to scream a lot team up to form the clever twists and the bitingly sarcastic humor.

While not really a laugh-out-loud comedy, DEATHTRAP does manage to choke up some black humorous laughs. I was also surprised by the film's PG rating, even since it was made back in 1982, this was still a shock because of the film's violent nature. Not for younger viewers, especially since there are some grotesque sexual references in this film as well.


Not a really popular movie, but this film is surely bound to be a hit with most who can appreciate good plot twists. If you are the kind of person who is easily bored, then this film will cease to please you, but if you can take the time to sit down and really think about the movie you are watching, then this film is bound to be a good time for you. Again, not a must-see, only because not everyone will like this, and yes at times this film is a little dull and boring. But, everything falls into play nicely in the final act, and the film has one of the best credit sequences in recent memory. I recommend WILD THINGS if you enjoyed this film. Both are sneaky, stylish films that will please those who are patient enough to get into this delightful murder mystery.

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see a live performance
kk284018 January 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Very uneven with mediocre performances by Reeves, miscasting of Dyan Cannon,and even Caine, although good, couldn't carry this feeble performance.

(Spoilers) Inexplicably, they change the two genuinely scary parts of the movie: the reappearance of "Clifford" both from the first "attempt" and the second attempt at murder. In the first, he's supposed to break through the french doors, and the second, he appears out of the dark when, illuminated by a bolt of lightning, he is suddenly seen above Sidney's head swinging a pike or axe for one final attempt to kill Sidney with his dying breath. Both of these sudden appearances are genuinely startling--in the play, but not in the movie. The very end, too, is inextricably squandered.

Don't waste your time or money. Unfortunately, no other version exists. Wait until a performance comes to your town. We just saw one by a volunteer amateur company in a small gin-rickety playhouse, which was far better than this.
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Far less clever than Sleuth
vostf18 May 2015
... and about as much fun as a stale Colombo episode. I don't know about the original play but it appears much too stagey a story to be compelling from the start.

From the very sluggish start I think I can point the finger at the adaptation. Deathtrap is utterly boring for about 30-45 minutes. Maybe if I hadn't read the premise I would have been a tad more patient but the setup really wears down the plot in the first act.

The twisty second act is no more clever than a routine Agatha Christie whodunit. You are so well trained to think ahead of the characters by then that only the very ending can surprise you. And it is not really a surprise that lifts the lot above the pedestrian level of its trodden murder mystery snail-path.

So Deathtrap seems to me as the inopportune adaptation of weak stage material. The cast do their best but they can't make up for the lack of effective tension, resulting mainly from too much direct talk about death and traps.
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