The unexpected endings didn’t start with M. Night Shyamalan (currently in theaters with the haunting ‘The Visit’ ). Although it is true that the American filmmaker of Indian origin is a master at leaving us speechless during and, above all, at the end of the film, others before him have already demonstrated his ability to surprise the viewer with an unexpected blow. There are also contemporaries of the Philadelphia director who have masterfully applied his lessons.
‘Prosecution Witness’ (Billy Wilder, 1957)
Master Billy Wilder stunned us with this adaptation of the play of the same title by no less master Agatha Christie . Sir Wilfrid Robarts, a brilliant lawyer played by Charles Laughton , accepts the defense of Leonard Vole ( Tyrone Power ), accused of murdering an elderly widow who had fallen in love with him and named him heir to her fortune. Robarts has his main asset in Christine ( Elsa Lanchester ), Vole’s wife, who can provide an alibi for her husband. But the lawyer’s plans will be suddenly cut short.
‘The Mark’ (Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1972)
Based on the play of the same title by Anthony Schaffer, the film keeps us hooked to the seat until the end thanks to the huge acting duel between Michael Caine and Sir Laurence Olivier. Andrew Wyke (Olivier), a mystery writer who loves riddles and puzzles, is visited by Milo Tindle (Caine), who is in a relationship with his wife and whom he wants to marry. Wyke proposes to Tindle to simulate a robbery of jewels in his house so that the insurance pays and in this way the writer has money to pay a pension to his future ex-wife. However, things get complicated and the plan goes awry.
‘Dark Red’ (Dario Argento, 1975)
The genius of Italian horror concocted this police melodrama with an unhealthy and disturbing atmosphere that marked the culmination of his purely ‘ giallo’ stage (Italian subgenre that mixes ‘thriller’ with horror films). British actor D avid Hemmings is a young pianist who was playing music, with the help of a journalist, tries to find the murderer of a clairvoyant, whose crime he witnessed by chance.
‘The Music Box’ (Costa-Gavras, 1989)
The forgotten screenwriter Joe Eszterhas is responsible for this plot that, like ‘Basic Instinct’ , another of his misleading scripts, tries to confuse the viewer about the true identity of its protagonist. The prestigious Franco-Greek director Costa-Gavras was in charge of putting into images the story of a criminal lawyer ( Jessica Lange ) who must defend her father (Armin Mueller-Stahl ), a Hungarian immigrant accused of being an atrocious collaborator of the Nazis during World War II.
‘The Devils’ (HG Clouzot, 1957)
Clouzot was the main referent of French suspense cinema. Among his great works stand out ‘ The salary of fear’ and ‘Las diabólicas’, an intense film with one of the most shocking endings in the history of cinema (in fact, at the end of the film viewers are advised not to reveal their outcome). Christina is the owner of a school where she teaches Nicole, mistress of Michel Delassalle, cruel husband of the first. Fed up with Michel’s tyranny, both women decide to assassinate him.
‘Dressed to kill’ (Brian de Palma, 1980)
De Palma has a few films in which he was accused of brazenly copying Alfred Hitchcock. The filmmaker never hid his passion for the fat British man, whom he successfully honored in ‘Body Double’, with clear reminiscences of ‘Rear Window’ , and in this ‘Dressed to Kill’, a film that can be considered a particular remake of ‘ Psychosis’. Liz Blake (Nancy Allen) is a prostitute who witnesses the crime of Kate (Angie Dickinson), a sexually frustrated woman trying to seduce her psychiatrist, Doctor Elliott (Michael Caine). Liz and Peter (Keith Gordon), Kate’s son, will try to find the killer, who is among Elliott’s patients.
‘The Thing’ (John Carpenter, 1982)
Carpenter is the owner of some of the most interesting filmographies in fantasy and horror cinema. Father of the modern ‘slasher’ with the initiatory ‘Halloween night’, perhaps his most prestigious and revolutionary film in terms of FX (courtesy of makeup wizard Rob Bottin ) is ‘The Thing’. It is still a remake (‘The Enigma of Another World’, directed by Christian Nyby and Howard Hawks in 1951), but much superior to the original. An alien race capable of transforming into any living being sneaks into an American base in Antarctica. Everyone is suspicious of everyone, anyone can be the creature and there is only one way to find out. On the enigmatic end, that each one thinks.
‘Suddenly Last Summer’ (Joseph L. Mankiewicz)
As in ‘The mark’, Mankiewicz adapts a play, this time by playwright Tennessee Williams . Male prostitution, sex tourism, pederasty and cannibalism come together in an atypical feature film that received three Oscar nominations. Catherine Holly ( Elizabeth Taylor ), traumatized by the death of her cousin, is admitted to a mental hospital on the orders of her aunt, Violet Venable ( Katharine Hepburn ). There she is treated by Dr. Cukrowicz ( Montgomery Clift ), who will get her to expel her fears and confess how Violet’s son really died.
‘Angel Heart’ (Alan Parker, 1987)
A warm New Orleans surrounded by mystery and exoticism is the space in which this much-maligned film takes place, but over time it is being recognized as it deserves. Mickey Rourke is Harry Angel, a private detective who accepts the assignment of a mysterious character: Louis Cyphre (Robert De Niro). Angel must find a disfigured and amnesiac singer who owes Cyphre an outstanding debt. His investigation turns into a descent into hell with a discovery he won’t be able to bear.
‘Chill’ (Bill Paxton, 2001)
Estimated directorial debut for actor Bill Paxton (‘Titanic’). What begins as a routine film of redemption and religious fanaticism ends up becoming a virtuoso exercise in style with one of the most surprising plot twists in recent years.