Countdown to Mystery: The Last of Shelia

September 28th, 2020
Category: Uncategorized

One strategy for writing an effective mystery: plot backward. Determine the ending, build from there.

I’ve heard that’s the strategy employed by actor Anthony Perkins (Murder in the Orient Express, Psycho) and Broadway composer Stephen Sondheim (A Little Night Music, West Side Story) in writing their only produced screenplay – the intricately plotted who-done-it The Last of Shelia (1973).

The film has a set-up similar to that of Anthony Shaffer’s Sleuth, in which mystery writer Andrew Wyke  (Laurence Olivier) invites stylist Milo Tindle (Michael Cain) to a game-filled mansion in South West England. Similarly, In Shelia, we have film producer Clinton Green (James Coburn) inviting a screenwriter (Richard Benjamin) to his game-filled yacht in the south of France. But he doesn’t come alone. Like Murder on the Orient Express, Shelia features an ensemble cast of eccentric characters – each of whom has something to hide.

Moreover, as with Deathtrap, the ensuing mystery becomes self-referential, with characters discussing a film project titled … [more at The 21st-Century Scop].

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