Wednesday, November 17, 2010

trying to solve a 30 year mystery

There was a 1973 movie called THE LAST OF SHEILA. It was a murder mystery written by, of all people, Stephen Sondheim and Tony Perkins. More surprising, Tony was not in the movie and Stephen didn’t do the music. Producers really need to check out writers’ resumes.


Anyway, it was an intricate whodunit very well received. I didn’t see it. I was too busy that year watching SWITCHBLADE SISTERS, THEATER OF BLOOD, and Oscar favorite HELL UP IN HARLEM.


A bunch of years later I saw that Channel 2 was going to play it at 11:30 that Saturday night. I had just purchased a VCR so set the timer. This was in the early days of VCR. They weighed as much as a Kia, tapes were ¾ inch not ½ inch, they only recorded at one speed, and maximum length of tape was two hours.


But that was no problem. The movie was scheduled from 11:30 – 1:30. So I taped it and the next night my wife and I watched the movie and enjoyed it very much.


Until the end.


Stations dump a lot of extra commercials in the middle of the night. Who cares if a show runs a little long?


Us!!!


Right at the part where they’re just about to reveal the killer – and the tape ends. AAAAAA!!


The next few days we frantically called around to friends asking if they saw the movie and remembered who did it? Nobody did. Like I said, it was a very complicated screenplay. Thank you Stevie and Norman Bates. We finally gave up.


Several years later we were on vacation at a resort on St. Thomas. It was a rather rustic resort. Little huts, no phones, no TV’s, not even Wifi. You walked around at night with flashlights. Your evening entertainment was finding your hut after leaving the dining hall. I bet every morning the sun would come up and three couples who had given up were sleeping on the beach.


So one day we saw they were having movie night and the featured film was THE LAST OF SHEILA. We were ecstatic. Finally we were going to learn the murderer.


So we’re the first two people in the Activity Room. Another four sauntered in and the film began. Only one problem.


The film was dubbed into Spanish.


Neither of us spoke Spanish. Nor did any of the other couples. So they left. We stayed and tried to decipher what was going on. Not a chance.


And then about five years ago I was in New York at a play reading and there was Stephen Sondheim. He sat right next to my daughter Annie. During intermission I asked her to ask him who killed Sheila. She of course was mortified and refused. Curses! Thwarted again!


So my point: People ask me why I bother to maintain a blog, updating it every day, since it pays me nothing. Well, here’s one reason –


Who the fuck killed Sheila???!!!


Thank you.

43 comments:

Eric Berlin said...

The movie is streamable through Netflix.

http://www.netflix.com/WiSearch?v1=The%20Last%20of%20Sheila&oq=last%20of%20shei

The Screenwriting Screenwriter said...

And the ending is discussed here:

http://sex-in-a-sub.blogspot.com/2010/01/last-of-sheila-verdict.html

RockGolf said...

Am I misremembering this? Wasn't Sheila actually alive at the end?

Samantha said...

And here http://www.google.com/gwt/x?client=safari&wsc=yq&wsi=ea81f39b5556bea7&source=m&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.moviepooper.com/6/2588lastofsheila.html&ei=bfDjTJWCJ4XoxQXXttHnAQ

H Caray said...

Isn't it obvious?

The butler did it.

SharoneRosen said...

Sheila was the yacht. Somewhere in the stacks, I have a video tape of it. I haven't watched it in years, so, I don't remember who done it! I'll drag it out and watch the end again... just for you Ken.

It was a great script... if only I remembered...

Rinaldo said...

You know, I hear there are these things called VHS tapes you can rent, and now there are DVDs... I bet you could find out if you try....

Anonymous said...

I did it.
Anonymously yours,
Bruno H.

Tom Quigley said...

Ken said:

"Who the fuck killed Sheila???!!!"

Probably the same person who killed
Burt Reynolds' career...

Anonymous said...

Richard Benjiman.

Ryan Roe said...

Maggie Simpson?

iain said...

It was Col Mustard, with a candlestick, on the Lido Deck.

wv: "pepbo" - Manny, Moe & Jack's slacker little brother

Terry said...

Wasn't this a MASH episode? The camp shares a book only to find that the last page is gone and everybody offers up theories as to who the killer was? You didn't write that one by chance, did you, Ken?

lucifervandross said...

Well i may just have to watch this movie now.

Thanks Ken, your personal misery of not being able to watch this movie was fun to read.

Tim L. said...

Video (I'm assuming she was a radio star)

rhys said...

The screenwriter of course. It's always the screenwriter.

chuckcd said...

Ken, you can pick up a VHS of this movie at Amazon for $3.99 plus shipping.

David said...

Great minds: when I read Ken's post, the first thing I thought of was "The Rooster Crowed at Midnight"! Great stuff, even if Ken didn't pen it -- I believe that one came from now-prolific L.A. Times letter writer Burt Prelutsky.

Mike Duffy said...

Plot summary here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Last_of_Sheila

Jim said...

OK, so now you've solved the end of this one then maybe you can explain to me what happens at the end of Skidoo?

Matt said...

Avery Updike!

No, it couldn't have been Avery Updike. He was locked in the linen closet with Jessica when Sheila was beaned with the gargoyle.

Sebastian said...

By the transitive property you just told us that you had your daughter to find out how the movie ends.

:-D

RCP said...

Funny indeed! Wish I could help you out, Ken, but I haven't seen TLOS since it was released - can't remember what happened or who did what. I was also 12 at the time so no doubt was oblivious to the finer plot points.

The Jnow said...

Did you try Netflix yet? It's on "Instant".

Jeffrey Leonard said...

Ken...since you are blaming everything else on him, I bet the killer was............Woody Allen!

Breadbaker said...

The classic of this particular genre is, of course, The Mousetrap. I won't spoil this for you, but I will relate a story. My wife and I first became friends when I was playing Richard the Lionhearted in a production of The Lion in Winter and she was the stage manager. The guy who directed it was terrible and ultimately half the cast quit and the show was cancelled. Later that year, when we were just started to date, we attended a production of The Mousetrap and the director was a cast member. It has a convoluted plot but the moment he made his first entrance we turned to one another and immediately said, in unison, "he did it." And he did. 36 years later we're still together.

Brian Phillips said...

I would have said Jessica Alba, but she veered from the script SOOO much...

Tim W. said...

Terry,

I remember that MASH episode. I can't remember who they phone, possibly the author or someone related to him to find out the answer, only to discover that it couldn't have been that person.

It does sound a little familiar. So Ken, was it art imitating life on that one? Or the other way around? When did that episode air, anyway?

Mark Caldwell said...

A 30 year version of the classic Hancock's Half Hour: The Missing Page :-)

Plan B said...

I watched this on Netflix a few months back and it was surprisingly good - until the creepy hand puppets at the end. A young Ian McShane makes the movie.

Greg Ehrbar said...

In Steve Martin's "The Man with Two Brains," we only saw the murderer through the eyes of his victims, who greeted him with a warm smile of cherished familiarity ("Oh! It's you!") before being killed.

SPOILER ALERT The killer turns out to be Merv Griffin (if the movie were made today, it would probably be Betty White).

Anyway, Merv used to do full-show "salutes" to upcoming movies. Usually they were landmarks like "Won Ton Ton, the Dog That Saved Hollywood" or "The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again." One of Merv's show was a salute to "The Last of Sheila."

I think I know who killed Sheila.

"Oooooooooooooh....."

D. McEwan said...

You should have called me. I saw it the week it opened. (and THEATRE OF BLOOD is one of my all-time favorite movies.)

The BIG CLUE to whodunit is the movie's TITLE!

Throughout the movie we repeatedly see a photo of the suspects standing below the name Sheila on the yacht bow. Each suspect is standing below a letter. The killer was standing under the "A", the LAST LETTER of "Sheila". So "The Last of Sheila" meant that the killer was the one assigned to the last letter of Sheila.

SPOILER ALERT!!!

It was Lee Grant whodunit.

Cantara Christopher said...

I remember The Last of Sheila vividly but won't spoil the ending for you, especially as the scuttlebutt for a couple of years now is that this film's going to be remade. (But think Roger Ackroyd.) Instead I'd like to boost a 1982 TV movie in the same vein that's not as stylish but plotwise just as good, entitled Rehearsal for Murder. Robert Preston, Lynn Redgrave. Check it out.

BigTed said...

Was there a character named Sweeney? I'm guessing it was him.

D. McEwan said...

Cantara, I'd forgotten about Rehearsal for Murder after all these years, but you are right. That was a highly-enjoyable TV movie, given all those great talents all playing bitter theatrical hams. A real hoot.

DwWashburn said...

Tommy Roe

Anonymous said...

He couldn't have written the Mash episode after this. VHS didn't exist yet.

Mike Doran said...

That whole "last page missing" business has always bugged me.
Anyone who's ever actually read a whodunit novel knows that (with very rare exceptions - no more than one or two books that I can think of) the killer is named at the end of the next-to-last chapter. The last chapter contains the detailed explanation of how the murder was committed, and the last page usually is a jokey send-off for the detective.

Now, an old-style whodunit movie would hold the ID for the last scene ("Very clever, Mr. Chan ...); if the episode had used that gambit, I might have bought it.

For that matter, I thought that the episode in which Winchester reads I, The Jury to Klinger could have been improved thusly:
Charles gets caught up in Spillane's prose and turns into the world's snootiest tough guy.
Stiers could have run away with that one, no?

tb said...

I watched a great old Frank Sinatra movie recently; it's WW II, and Frank keeps threatening Tony Curtis "I'm gonna kill you", but I missed the end! Did he spare Tony or not?

Oh-oh-oh-oh, I feel all funny inside said...

I don't know who killed Sheila. But thanks to Tommy Roe, I can tell you that you'll know her if you see her.
Blue eyes and a ponytail, her cheeks are rosy, she looks a little nosy. Man, this little girl is fine.

Toby O'B said...

James Mason had the best line. Upon seeing the body of the murder victim, he said, "Apparently there is a God...."

If there is a remake, I'd go see it, so long as they didn't veer off the original too much. (That's the thing I hated about the remake of "Sleuth".

I remember seeing a website once that let you play "recast this movie". I had some ideas for a remake of "Last Of Sheila".

LOL - we should play it, only I don't think enough of us have seen the original, looking through the comments.....

word verification: "forri" Here's to you, Mr. Ackerman....

TKK said...

I thought it was Richard Benjamin that did it?

Anyway, if you missed the ending, you also missed Bette Midler singing "Ya gotta have friends" over the closing credits. I remember that better than the ending.

Matt Patton said...

The mention of REHEARSAL FOR MURDER reminds me of another very clever crime story put together by the same writers, Richard Levinson and William Link called GUILTY CONSCIENCE. It starred Anthony Hopkins, Blythe Danner, and Swoosie Kurtz. Hopkins played a swinish prosecutor plotting to murder his rich wife (Danner). He was splendidly reptilian, and he gave essentially the same performance (although cranked up to 11 this time) when he played Lecter in SILENCE OF THE LAMBS.