In Patrick Hamilton’s whodunit—the answer of which is obvious to all in the opening seconds—the remainder of the drama revolves around whether or not the two murderers will ever face justice.
With the body safely stowed away in a wooden chest, conveniently located in the drawing room, turns out the “coffin” will soon serve as the buffet table for a disparate farewell party (ironies everywhere). The guest list includes the victim’s father, yet another chord in this dramatic realization of Danse Macabre.
Unfortunately, the tsunami of booze that over-quaffs the thirsts of the villains and their unmasker soon drown the drama and make many 21st century audiences long for the curtain (rope of a different colour).
In director Jani Lauzon’s hands, the pivotal opening sequence is needlessly too dark, too long and the apparent homosexual relationship between the culprits pushed too far away to the back burner. And the philosophical super sleuth is left to his own hobbling devices to try and bring the playwright’s pillory of society into sharp focus. “Let’s have another spot!”
Surprisingly, the on-stage piano moment was far too muted to be anywhere close to believable. Nonetheless, the “Sturm und Drang” (heavy lightning and rain) moments were rendered with aplomb.
I’d rather savour Hitchcock’s far-different treatment (Arthur Laurents—along with Ben Hecht—screenplay) than wade tough this version that never really gets off the page. JWR