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Countdown to Mystery: Deathtrap

September 26th, 2020

In our previous installment, I mentioned the meta-aspects of Anthony Shaffer’s Sleuth – a cat-and-mouse thriller about a writer who turns his estate into an interactive mystery in an effort to ensnare the man who’s been sleeping with his wife.

Today’s recommendation is Deathtrap (1982), and this time the story centers on playwright Sidney Bruhl (Michael Cain of Sleuth) whose latest play has just bombed on Broadway.

As one critic opines early in the film: “Sidney Bruhl’s new whodunit Murder Most Fair opened tonight at the Music Box. But there’s no point in you folks going there, ‘Cause I’m gonna tell you who done it. Sidney Bruhl done it. And what’s inexcusable is he done it in public.” Yikes!

Certain his career is over, Bruhl returns home where he receives a package from young playwright Clifford Anderson (Christopher Reeve).

Inside the package, Bruhl finds the script of Anderson’s unproduced play Deathtrap – a work of genius that Bruhl is convinced could be a smash. If only he himself had written it!

The plot, full of more twists and turns than I could ever summarize here, hinges on a scheme to invite Anderson to the Bruhl home, kill him, and pass off the brilliant new play as the work Sidney Bruhl.

Written by Ira Lavin (Rosemary’s Baby, The Stepford Wives), the stage version of Deathtrap opened in 1978 and went on to become Broadway’s longest-running comedy-thriller. Released four years later, the film version, may lack the wit and depth of Shaffer’s Sleuth, but it makes up for those shortcomings with a clever array of twists, turns, and double crosses – more than enough of them to keep us entertained while we continue our countdown to Prime Stage Theatre’s release of A Knavish Piece of Mystery.

Unlike Sleuth, Deathtrap is readily available on most major streaming platforms, including Prime and Vudu – where you can rent it in HD for $2.99. And, for those of you who prefer physical media, it’s also available on Blu-Ray, DVD, and VHS (for the true 80’s experience).

Check out the trailer below … and stop back here tomorrow for another recommendation as we count down to October 1, when Prime Online will kick off Prime Stage Theatre’s season of virtual performances with the release of A Knavish Piece of Mystery.

Five days and counting!