"If you love mysteries and are tired of the brainless detective films being released on a regular basis these days, you OWE it to yourself to watch this taut yet darkly sardonic thriller! The Agatha Christie type script (Death on the river Nile, for instance, where many plausible clues are dropped for attentive members of the audience) is nothing if not supremely intricate and as much of a guesser as I am, the film has me riveted every time I watch it. With the possible exception of Welch, who may be guilty of being somewhat deadpan as the glam queen, almost every other actor comfortably nails his role. Great timing.Despite the relatively dry DVD (nothing special in the "special features") I highly, highly recommend this fabulous feast of film. Buy it, for you will watch it more than once for sure."
SHEILA is the most intelligent film I've ever seen!
DonMac | 11/27/1998
(5 out of 5 stars)
"THE LAST OF SHEILA is a perfect movie for anyone who feels like thinking -- but be warned: to follow the plot, you'll have to pay close attention! You may even find yourself watching scenes several times, to make sure you understand the story. The script is witty and intelligent, and the plot is impossibly clever. When you're finished watching it the first time, you'll want to watch it again right away! Every frame contains a "clue" to the mystery, which you'll appreciate more once you know the solution. Don't be misled -- this isn't a "heavy" movie (the ending will remind you not to take it too seriously!). You'll have a lot of fun. Of course, the characters are necessarily cold, so you won't get too attached -- although you'll love Dyan Cannon! James Coburn is positively chilling, and Raquel Welch adds some unintentional humor with her awkward perfomance -- I watched her scenes over and over, just to laugh! However, her acting -- and the hilariously dated clothes and attitudes of the 70s -- are the only weak spots in a terrific film. THE LAST OF SHEILA deserves more attention from movie fans. Just watching will make you feel intelligent -- and it's a must-see for any Sondheim admirer!"
Any number can play. Any number can die.
cookieman108 | Inside the jar... | 10/18/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"A murder mystery written by composer Stephen Sondheim (Sweeney Todd) and actor Anthony `She might have fooled me, but she didn't fool my mother' Perkins (it seems both men share an insatiable love of puzzles and games)? And a good one to boot? Whodda thunk it? Yes, it's true...what? You've never heard of it? Neither did I...until now...
The Last of Sheila (1973), directed extremely well by Hollywood veteran Herbert Ross (Play it Again, Sam, The Goodbye Girl, Footloose), stars a formidable cast including the late, great James Coburn, Richard Benjamin, Dyan Cannon, James Mason, Raquel Welch, Joan Hackett (Will Penny, One Trick Pony), and Ian McShane (Roots).
As the film opens, we witness the death of a woman as she storms from a late party, and, unable to get into her car, decides to hoof it...only to get run down by the side of the road. The woman's name was Sheila, and she was wife to high-powered Hollywood muckety muck Clinton Green (Colburn). A year has past, and now we see Clinton, who has a preponderance for games, on a yacht typing invitations for a weeklong get together he's planning, a seemingly sinister game ultimately revolving around the identity of the person who killed his wife. The invitees were all at the party that fateful night, and include Christine (Cannon), a promiscuous loudmouth Hollywood agent, Tom (Benjamin) and Lee (Hackett), a floundering screenwriter and his trust fund baby wife, Philip (Mason), a washed director, and Alice (Welch) and Anthony (McShane), a once popular actress now treading water relegated to opening shopping malls and such, and her hot-headed leechy husband/manager. All accept the invite, as they have pretty obvious interests in pitching, promoting, or working for Clinton, the well to do Hollywood producer. The game involves a dirty little secret from each of the guests' past, and is of a scavenger hunt of sorts. Things begin well enough, but soon the game takes a deadly turn as one of the participates meets an untimely end, and everyone's a suspect (well, except for the deceased). The rest are left to try and sort out the clues, and discover who among them is a killer.
This is a wonderful little `whodunit' within a `whodunit', full of twists and turns, where little is as it seems. Ross keeps it tight, and the film moves along at a brisk pace. The plot is very complex and intricate, forcing the viewer to pay attention throughout lest he/she miss a critical element. One of the things I really liked was clues present themselves, but, at the time they're presented, they seem completely innocuous and hardly worth a second thought. The mystery is very intelligent as the story rarely speaks down to the viewer, assuming a level of intelligence of its' audience few films expect. The characters were decently developed, which is kind of surprising since there's quite a few of them. James Colburn's character literally and figuratively brings it all together, as the abrasive (he often refers to his guests as `washed up has beens', which may be true, but who likes to hear it?) scheming, trickster having a jolly good time watching his `victims' twist in the wind trying to unravel his elaborate and devious puzzles. One part I found completely disconcerting was Colburn in drag...a more horrifying visage I have yet to see, as Colburn has to be one of the ugliest women I've ever seen, and I fear it shall remain burned in my mind for quite some time, as no amount of alcohol shall wash it away...I though Cannon did very well, as the pushy, cheap and easy, loud mouthed talent agent who has little qualms about wearing her intentions on her sleeve, lacking the basic subtly most have as it would probably work against her in her profession. Benjamin also did well, playing the smart and intuitive screenwriter, now forced mainly to do rewrites, piecing together the clues much as you'd expect someone reasonably talented who deals with scripts, plots, and character development for a living. Mason did well, but he just seemed tired throughout, with brief glimpses of inspiration, but then I wonder if his character was written that way, as the world weary director now forced to direct dog food commercials to make a living. Welch's role seemed a bit light, as did McShane's. Both seemed to make the most of what they had, but ultimately, they were overshadowed by the other talent in the film. Another aspect worth mentioning is the location shots. Each night the yacht stops in a port and the gamers )for lack of a better term) are shuttle to a location with clues meant to lead them to where they'll find the solution for that night's puzzle...the European locales are used very well, and I really liked the incorporating of the old abbey, as it made for a great backdrop. The weakest element of the film, a superficial one at that, was the costuming...I know, I know...the 70's were an awkward period for fashion, but it's really noticeable here...and guess who was in charge of costume design? None other than Joel Schumacher...the man who pretty much single handedly destroyed the Batman film series with his completely awful direction in Batman Forever (1995) and Batman & Robin (1997), but, again, that's an entirely superficial element, and shouldn't dive you away from this clever and meticulous film worthy of multiple viewings as the plot is very complex and one may not pick everything up in one sitting.
The picture here looks pretty good, and the audio is clear which is good as there's a lot of talkie, especially when the mystery is picked apart. Special features include a trailer and a pretty stinky commentary by Benjamin and Cannon. Welch also provided a commentary, and the two tracks were lopsidedly spliced together. Two rotten commentaries cut together make for one hugely hideous mess that should be avoided altogether.
Finally - the DVD of this wonderful brainteaser of a film
DonMac | Lynn, MA United States | 10/02/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Last of Sheila is a love or hate for most folks. I fall into the love category. A GREAT cast beautifully embodies the twisted, neurotic hollywood-types in this whodoneit or even whodonewhat for that matter. The screenplay is full of incredibly witty, sharp dialogue and it layers puzzle upon puzzle until the very end. Then - one last joke at Hollywood's expense before the final credits. Coburn, Benjamin, Cannon and Mason are particularly excellent here. Some flashback twists might get confusing, but keep watching - it pays off beautifully. Oh, and Bette Midler's closing credits number is just the perfect iceing on this multi-layered, very dark chocolate cake. Just excellent!"
An Evening with Dyan, Richard, and Raquel.
Michael C. Smith | San Francisco, CA United States | 06/11/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The first wonderful thing about "The Last of Sheila" directed by Herb Ross is that it's a who-done-it of the first order. The writing by Tony Perkins and Stephen Sondheim is masterful and packed with insider Hollywood dish. The cast is second to none and all working at the top of their form. There are a few particular standout performances. James Mason gives us his restrained all in the pivotal roll of Phillip. He adds in the process this film to his long and distinguished list of credits. Raquel Welsh brings out for our appreciation the famous Raqui figure but also in this, her follow up to her first great roll in "Kansas City Bomber", she shows a little more of her range than most expected or allowed her at the time. Joan Hackett as Lee is touching and brilliant in one of the best rolls of her too short career. The incendiary Dyan Cannon inhabits Christine and with her raucous laugh steals the show from everyone with her thinly veiled "Sue Mengers" Agent to the stars turn. "Somebody get me a glass of water and two Lesbians!" She is pure joy to watch. The second wonderful thing about "The Last Of Sheila" is that they took the time to ask Richard Benjamin, Dyan Cannon and Raquel Welsh to do the directors commentary. This is one of the best commentaries I have heard. It's as if Dyan, Raquel and Richard have just dropped by for a few hours, a few drinks and a walk down memory lane. They reveal in their insightful recollections what fun it was to make "The Last Of Sheila" and in the process show their intelligence, wit and wisdom about the art and business of filmmaking. At one point delighted in the sparkling humor they are both igniting in each other Dyan suggests they do a T.V. show together. Richard suggests the title of "Please Watch Us". Not a bad title, and I would be there with bells on. Raquel shows a deep understanding and humor of her early career and gives some real insight into her developments as and actress. "I would play her stronger now. Not so timid." She says of her roll as Alice. It really is all quite cozy and fun. Hats off to these three wonderful talents for lending so much to the enjoyment of this film. "The Last of Sheila" is a classic film that I hope will find a new fan base due to this sparkling new DVD presentation."