DVD Review HTF REVIEW: The Last Of Sheila

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Herb Kane, Apr 9, 2004.

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  1. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Screenwriter

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    [​IMG]

    The Last Of Sheila





    Studio: Warner Brothers
    Year: 1973
    Rated: PG
    Film Length: 119 Minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Enhanced Widescreen
    Audio: DD Mono
    Color/B&W: Color
    Languages: English
    Subtitles: English, French & Spanish
    MSRP: $19.98
    Package: Snap Case





    The Feature:
    The Last Of Sheila is an exemplary murder mystery, a genre that seemed to be so popular during the 1970’s. The film was written by famed Broadway lyricist Stephen Sondheim and the late Anthony Perkins who was no stranger to thrillers himself (probably most famous for his Norman Bates’ performance in Hitchcock’s 1960 classic, Psycho), and was inspired apparently by their passion of real life scavenger hunts and board games.

    Clinton Green (played by James Coburn) is a wealthy movie mogul who’s wife Sheila (Yvonne Romain) was killed a year earlier in an accident by a hit and run driver. The eccentric and enigmatic Clinton, who is keen on games and puzzles, decides to invite a group of his so-called closest friends to join him for an elaborate game he has planned to honor his wife Sheila, on the anniversary of her death. Among the group is also an individual whom he believes is responsible for his wife’s death.

    The game is to take place aboard his yacht on the Mediterranean in the south of France. Unbeknownst to them, the moment they arrive, the game begins. Wanting to have fun with the group, Clinton is far too clever to simply unmask the killer, instead devises a plan to assign every guest a card which indicates a sordid secret about each and every guest. Each night a series of clues is planted in the local port and the team must solve the identity of the “secret of the day”. Once they figure out who belongs to each secret card, revealing the killer should be easy. Unfortunately, things don’t go quite as planned and someone suddenly becomes a murder victim. Now, there is yet another crime to solve.

    As usual, Coburn is terrific, and he's also backed up with some solid performances by the all star supporting cast. Among his guests, a failed screenwriter, Tom (played by Richard Benjamin) and his alcoholic wife Lee, (played by Joan Hackett), the loud and boisterous agent, Christine (Dyan Cannon), the aloof starlet (played Raquel Welch) and her obnoxious husband, Anthony (Ian McShane) and “has-been” director, Philip (played by the great James Mason).

    What struck me about the movie was how tight the writing is. While there are clues all over the place (many of which are blatantly obvious, only after you watch the film), you are literally on the edge of your seat till the end of the film. Everything you need is right in front of you, all you have to do is pay attention. There are no devices used to try and conceal any of the identities nor is there ever a need to suspend one’s disbelief, yet the film is still very effective. A very solid little film.



    Video:
    Almost the entire film was shot in the south of France on the Mediterranean and most of the scenery is breathtaking. The film has aged reasonably well but it reeks of the 70’s, complete with 9” collars, bell bottoms, sideburns that are as long as the Pacific coast and red velvet wallpaper (God, I don’t miss the 70’s…).

    Blacks are extremely deep and whites are very clean and very stark. There is a nice sense of dimensionality to the film that can be seen throughout many of the coastal scenes. There is only a hint of fine grain and the transfer is extremely clean with hardly any dust, dirt or blemishes of any kind.

    The overall appearance of the film is slightly soft but there are some great close-ups that show off an incredibly defined image. Many of the objects in the foreground were slightly soft while most of the close-ups on objects or people looked quite nice and slightly sharper.

    Colors were always very vibrant and nicely saturated and skin tones always looked natural and real. There were occasional instances of light speckle which were usually only noticeable during some of the evening scenes, but it was never overly bothersome. Thankfully, there was very little evidence of any artifacting and only a couple instances of very minor edge enhancement which could be seen around a few of the hard objects during the sunny outdoor scenes.

    All in all, this video portion looks great with only a few minor glitches, a very nice job!



    Audio:
    The track supplied is the original Mono soundtrack which does a pretty nice job of handling this basically dialogue driven film. Dialogue was always clear and extremely bold. There is very little, if any music or scoring to speak of.

    The track is rather thin so there isn’t much to discuss in terms of any dynamic range, but then again there isn’t much to discuss in terms of music or action sequences that would afford the dynamics to help out.

    Everything sounded clean and hiss free but I did notice a rumble-like sound during some of the scenes. It’s hard to say if the “noise” was captured during the recording of the outdoor boating scenes or if it was transfer related. Either way, it was negligible at best and hardly noticeable.

    A solid job.



    Special Features:
    The disc sports only two special features starting with:
    [*] A Commentary which features Richard Benjamin, Dyan Cannon and Raquel Welch. Clearly, Benjamin is the informal leader here and is the one to express most of the worthwhile tidbits and history relating to the film. Welch seems a little standoffish and Cannon spends much of the time commenting on how gorgeous everybody is. I’ve read that many of those involved in this film didn’t get along too well and judging by Welch’s involvement or lack thereof, I’m not surprised. There’s a fair amount of dead time throughout and I’m not sure the payoff in the end is worthwhile, though we do learn most of the fashions were done by Joel Schumacher… OK, now I’m being facetious!
    [*] The Theatrical Trailer is also included which is in reasonably good condition.



    Final Thoughts:
    As I watched this film, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the old "The NBC Mystery Movies Of The Week” which began as a rotating group of series mysteries which aired during the early 1970’s and featured many of the great mystery shows such as Columbo, Banacek, Madigan, McCloud and McMillan & Wife. That’s by no means a criticism of the film, quite the contrary, in fact it’s complimentary.

    If you’re a fan of such mysteries and enjoy well written whodunit films, WB has done an admirable job of putting this disc together which should leave fans very satisfied.




    Release Date: April 20th, 2004
     
  2. Roger Rollins

    Roger Rollins Supporting Actor

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    Another wonderfully written review for which thanks are due to Herb!

    I do hope you will give us a review of Warner's other Stephen Sondheim opus that is being released the same day as SHEILA, his masterpiece SWEENEY TODD. I can't wait to purchase it, and am looking forward to another great Herb Kane review of it in advance of purchase!
     
  3. Martin_T

    Martin_T Stunt Coordinator

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    Nice review Herb!

    I saw this on on TV many years ago, and never ran across it on video. Really glad now that I did not find it, since it sounds like the DVD transfer is very good.

    Really looking forward to watching this when it arrives on DVD in a couple of weeks.
     
  4. Randy_M

    Randy_M Supporting Actor

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    I've been waiting for this one since I got my first DVD player in the 90's.

    Saw this in the theater on its first run and have loved it ever since. It's the last movie I bought on VHS after I already had my DVD player, because I figured it would never come out on disc. There are now very few of my favorite titles that have yet to be issued, The Flim Flam Man being the only one of the era that comes immediately to mind.

    Cheers
     
  5. Randy_M

    Randy_M Supporting Actor

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    Just finished listening to the commentary, which I found warm and delightful. It was obvious to me that Raquel was recorded separately, thus her detachment.

    Richard, Dyan and Raquel, if you are reading this, thank you for making one of my all time favorites even better!
     

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