Greatest Film Plot Twists
Film Spoilers and
Surprise Endings


Greatest Movie Plot Twists, Spoilers and Surprise Endings
Title Screen
Film Title/Year and Plot Twist-Spoiler-Surprise Ending Description

Haunted (1995, UK)

The Three Mariell Siblings Were Ghosts - They Had Perished in a House Fire Five Years Before the Main Events of the Film; The Nanny Had Killed Them After Their Mother Committed Suicide by Drowning - After Learning About the Siblings' Incest; David Was Led to Safety (From the Ghosts Who Wanted Him to Join Them in the Spirit World) By the Ghost of His Dead Sister

This R-rated, poorly-received haunted house mystery drama (similar to Henry James' The Turn of the Screw) was directed by Lewis Gilbert from an adaptation of James Herbert's novel of the same name. Its tagline was unconvincing:

"You will Believe..."

The film's twist about a ghostly presence came years before two other more prominent films with similar endings: The Sixth Sense (1999) and The Others (2001). Executive-produced by Francis Ford Coppola, it was only released on DVD following star Kate Beckinsale's later prominence, in films such as Pearl Harbor (2001).

The film opened with an earlier traumatic incident for the film's main character:

  • David Ash (Aidan Quinn), a skeptical and cynical American, serving as a paranormal psychology professor at Camberly University in England

Years earlier in Sussex, England in 1905, he had pushed his twin sister Juliet Ash (Victoria Shalet) during innocent horseplay when he was an 11 year-old child. She was knocked unconscious when her head hit a rock, rolled over into a body of water, and sank to the bottom. It was ruled an accidental drowning. When her body was displayed in a coffin in the family living room, one night David was summoned to the edge of her casket, and her eyes suddenly opened after he kissed her forehead - and he screamed!.

Now, in the present year of 1928, David was still guilt-ridden about Juliet's death. Because of his fame as a popular book author about psychic phenomenon, David - who vehemently didn't believe in ghosts and thought seances were suspect - was called upon to investigate the supposed 'haunting' of the upper-class Webb's family country estate (Edbrook Manor) in England by tormented spirits.

The Sussex estate was inhabited by elderly maid Nanny Tess Webb (Anna Massey), a mentally-troubled frail old woman who had been the Nanny for the three Mariell siblings, now adults and living there:

  • Christina Mariell (Kate Beckinsale), a lovely, free-spirited, flirtatious "It" girl
  • Robert (Anthony Andrews), artistic and aristocratic, Christina's older controlling brother
  • Simon (Alex Lowe), Christina's wild, prankster younger brother

In the midst of trying to debunk ideas of the supernatural (he was against spiritualists and mediums), David began to believe that the elderly Nanny was suffering from madness, wild imaginations and senile hallucinations, when she declared: "There are spirits in this house." When he first arrived, he met Christina at the train station (emerging from plumes of steam) who stated that the siblings had actually invited him - and then warned:

"Nanny is convinced that mother comes back here every night."

David soon observed the pseudo-incestuous behavior between Christina and both of her brothers. She often appeared nakedly indifferent (posing nude for her brother's painting, skinny-dipping by diving off a dock, etc.).

[Note: Beckinsale had a body double.]

Robert described Christina's nude portrait that he was painting: "At its best, it captures the soul of both painter and subject. Makes them both immortal." A romance blossomed between David and Christina and he was eventually able to bed down Christina himself.

During his stay, there were ghostly sightings of Christina's dead mother, and David also had troubling visions of his own: flashbacks to his sister's drowning and appearances of her, a fire in the estate's hallway, and the sighting of a mysterious spiraling column of dust leading him to the dock.

In the film's twist ending, it was discovered that the house was frozen in time. The three Mariell siblings were all ghosts, actually bored reprobates, who were tormenting the maid (their childhood nanny). As confirmation, David was led by the ghostly vision of sister Juliet to the graveyard where he viewed the tombstones of the three Mariells, who died in 1923 in a house fire (set by Nanny). The Nanny had set the fire that had killed them in one of the locked bedrooms, after their distressed mother had committed suicide (by drowning), upon learning of the siblings' incest.

After killing the Nanny (the ghosts didn't need her anymore), the three attempted to have David kill himself and join them (Christina urged: "Die for me, David"), by tricking him into jumping from a window to his death after they set the mansion ablaze.

He was able to escape from the haunted, burning mansion when saved and led away to safety by the ghost of his dead sister Juliet. As she took his hand, the fiery inferno around them abruptly stopped and she guided him away from the burned-out ruins. He gratefully thanked her: "I'll never forgive myself for what happened to you." She replied that he was forgiven and absolved: "It wasn't your fault, David. It was an accident." He thought: "We would have been so close." She assured: "And we always will be. Goodbye, David." After hugging, she walked off and slowly vanished - into the afterlife?

But upon his return home as he stepped off the train at a station, he was greeted by his assistant Kate (Geraldine Somerville), who hugged him and ironically asked: "David, welcome home. Did you scare all the ghosts away?" He chuckled: "Most of them."

Behind them as they walked away, emerging from the fog and steam, was the figure of Christina - still following and stalking after him.

Juliet Ash Falling and Hitting Forehead on Rock

Juliet's Drowning

Juliet in Casket

Christina Mariell (Kate Beckinsale)

Painting of Christina

Free-Spirited Christina

Ghostly Sightings


Professor David Ash (Aidan Quinn) in Fiery Home

Saved by Ghost of Dead Sister

Christina Stalking Him?

Heaven's Gate (1980)

Bridges and Ella Watson Were Shot and Killed by Frank Canton

Writer/director Michael Cimino's controversial epic western, a box-office bomb, was loosely a story of the Johnson County War in 1890s Wyoming. After a murderous two-day bloody showdown between the armed European immigrant farmers and the mercenaries hired by an association of wealthy land barons-cattlemen to protect their stock, it appeared the violence was over.

However, there were still two more surprising deaths - both shocking ambush murders at Ella Watson's cabin:

  • John L. Bridges (Jeff Bridges), the local entrepreneur who had built the roller skating rink known as "Heaven's Gate"
  • Ella Watson (Isabelle Huppert), a Johnson County bordello madam wearing a striking white dress

The killers were led by black-garbed and evil Frank Canton (Sam Waterston), the head of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association (with support from the cattle barons). Sheriff Jim Averill's (Kris Kristofferson) lost love Ella died in his arms, after he retaliated by killing Canton and his men.

In the film's added, almost wordless, despairing coda or epilogue scene, Sheriff Averill - now appearing miserable and unemotional about ten years later, was quietly lost and adrift in his recollections. He was a rich yacht captain off Newport, Rhode Island in 1903 with his wife (his waltz partner in the film's opening scene set at Harvard University in 1870, and the woman in the framed picture he kept with him).

Death of Ella Watson in Sheriff Averill's Arms

Epilogue: Sheriff Averill With Waltz Partner

Hide and Seek (2005)

Emily's Imaginary Friend "Charlie" Was Her Own Father David's Split Personality; David Had Murdered His Unfaithful Wife (But Made It Look Like Suicide); Emily's Therapist Katherine Shot and Killed "Charlie" to End His Rampage; Emily Also Had a Split Personality

This creepy thriller by director John Polson was soundly criticized for its illogical and contrived conclusion and for its shifting points of view.

It opened with the suicidal death of loving mother Alison Callaway (Amy Irving) after playing a game of 'hide and seek' at bedtime with her daughter. She slit her wrists while in a bathtub surrounded ceremonially by candles in her NYC apartment, at exactly 2:06 am. She seemed to be in a troubled marriage to mild-mannered husband-psychologist Dr. David Callaway (Robert De Niro), and said that things were "beyond therapy" before her death. After her death, David spoke to family friend Katherine (Famke Janssen), Emily's therapist, and was regretful about Alison's suicide: "I should've seen it coming. All the signs were there."

To "start over," David decided to move with his traumatized and depressed young 11 year-old daughter Emily (Dakota Fanning) to the small and secluded resort town of Woodland Estates in upstate NY, about an hour's drive away. Soon after, Emily kept talking about her tormented association with an imaginary, invisible friend named "Charlie" - who she first met in a cave in the woods near the house.

There were lots of red herrings about the identity of "Charlie" who liked to play the game of Hide and Seek, hated David, and was jealous of Emily's company. Who was Charlie? Was it ---

  • Steven and Laura (Robert John Burke and Melissa Leo), husband/wife next-door neighbors who were still grieving the loss of their own daughter (about the same age as Emily) from cancer
  • Mr. Haskins (David Chandler), the strange real estate agent who delivered keys in the middle of the night
  • Sheriff Hafferty (Dylan Baker), a leering and nosy police official

There were a few lurid reminders of the suicide - i.e., the cat was found drowned in a similar bathtub setting at 2:06 am for which "Charlie" was responsible, with crayon writings on the wall.

The plot twist came toward the film's end - David had suffered trauma and pain after his wife's death and developed a split personality. David was the docile side, while "Charlie" was the aggressive and jealous side. As "Charlie," David killed his wife after he had viewed her in a compromising, unfaithful coupling on an upper stairwell at a New Years' Eve party (a recurring nightmare for David). He suffocated her while she slept next to him, and then planted her in the bathtub to make it look like a suicide.

There were a few obvious clues to David's menacing schizoid personality:

  1. When Emily told David about what "Charlie" had said regarding Alison, David pressed Emily to tell him "Charlie's" assertion: "He said he would have satisfied her"
  2. David's endless writings in a large journal were all done while wearing headphones - all fantasies in his head (the journal he was writing was ultimately blank and he hadn't even unpacked his headphones, in his office filled with lots of unpacked boxes)
  3. David's killing of the butterfly in the cave when Emily followed after it when they first arrived at their house; "Charlie" first emerged for Emily - the killing left a smudge print on his palm
  4. Emily's continuing game of "Hide and Seek" was with an unseen game-playing partner named "Charlie" - who burst from hiding in Emily's bedroom closet and murdered Elizabeth
Elizabeth's Murder - "Charlie" Was the Killer
(Can You See Now?) - A Question for David

By the conclusion, David - actually "Charlie" - had thoroughly victimized his daughter. He also committed a few murders:

  • "Charlie" killed young and attractive divorcee Elizabeth Young (Elisabeth Shue) - the aunt/babysitter for a girl about Emily's age named Amy (Molly Grant Kallins), her sister's child. "Charlie" emerged from Emily's closet and pushed Elizabeth out of Emily's second-story bedroom window. He then placed her body in a bathtub. Blood was scrawled on the curtain reading: "Can you see now?" Afterwards, he made it look like she was involved in a car accident. [The words "Can you see now?" were Emily's continual question that revealed she knew her father was crazy.]
  • When the town's Sheriff came to the house, "Charlie" murdered him by brutally bashing in his head.

Then, he spoke to Emily, wondering: "I can't help but sense a certain tension between us. What's the matter? Don't you want to play anymore? Don't you want to have fun? Hmm? You want your daddy back? Is that it? You like him more than me, don't you?" She responded that she knew the truth about his murderous second personality: "You killed Mommy." He covered his face - revealing his bloody knife, and began counting for another game of 'hide and seek': "One, one thousand, Two, one thousand..."

When Katherine arrived soon after, "Charlie" viciously pushed her down the basement stairs. She acquired the Sheriff's gun and began stalking him, and trying to locate Emily. Meanwhile, "Charlie" had begun his game of 'hide-and-seek' with Emily, who at first fled to the upstairs, and then outside to a cave in the woods (where she had first met "Charlie"). Katherine, Emily, and "Charlie" all came together in the cave. "Charlie" (pretending to be David) began confessing to Katherine:

"You were right. I never should've brought her up here. It was a mistake. I mean, Emily's not the person who's not well. It's me. And you said it: 'Trauma causes pain,' and you were right."

After Katherine was assaulted, Emily begged "Charlie" not to hurt her friend ("Don't hurt her...She's my friend...Please, Charlie"). "Charlie" replied: "I thought I was your friend." As Katherine aimed and cocked the gun and spoke: "Hide and seek," she shot him twice and put an end to his rampage.

The film was famous for having multiple epilogues - the theatrical one ended with Emily living with Katherine. One of her drawings was of herself with two heads, implying that she was also schizophrenic.

'Suicidal' Death of Alison Callaway (Amy Irving)

Daughter Emily (Dakota Fanning)

Katherine (Famke Janssen)

David's Unfaithful Wife


Murder of Sheriff Rafferty (Dylan Baker)

David = Murderous "Charlie"

Katherine With Gun - Stalking, Shooting and Killing "Charlie" in the Cave

Emily: "Don't hurt her...She's my friend...Please, Charlie"

Emily's Drawing of Herself (With Two Heads) While Holding Katherine's Hand - Emily Also Had a Split Personality

High Tension (2003, Fr.) (aka Haute Tension, or Switchblade Romance)

The Killer Existed Only in Lesbian Marie's Delusional and Psychotic Mind, Due to Her Secret and Obsessive Love for Alexia; In the Final Scene, Marie Was Institutionalized; the Story Was Told In Flashback From Her Point of View

Director Alexandre Aja's low-budget, breakout NC-17 rated, homoerotic and gritty horror film (partially dubbed in English for its North American release in 2005) contained the same twist found in the popular Fight Club (1999) - a very unreliable, violent narrator with a split personality.

In the story, two female law college student friends, during a break, went to Alexia's farm home in the French countryside:

  • Alexia (or "Alex") (Maiwenn Le Besco), a heterosexual farm-girl
  • Marie (Cecile De France), a wild-spirited, blonde, short-haired lesbian

A brutish van driver (Philippe Nahon) on their first night invaded the home, ferociously killed all of Alexia's family members (father, mother, and brother), and kidnapped a bound-up Alexia. After witnessing the murders from various hiding places, Marie hid in the back of the nameless killer's blood-stained, rusty van to pursue him with a butcher knife and help rescue her friend.

The film's highly improbable conclusion revealed the gimmicky, reality-shifting, absurdly-surprising "gotcha" twist. The male killer was in Marie's psychotic, schizophrenic imagination - she was actually the killer.

This fact was hinted throughout the early sequences of the film, including:

  • Marie's introductory dream credits sequence (a dream when she was sleeping in the back seat of the car, in which she described how she was a slasher who chased herself through the forest): "It wasn't a guy. It was me. That was the weirdest part. It was me running after me."
  • A strange necrophilia-tinged shot of the killer in the van having sex with a decapitated head in his lap that he discarded out the window as he drove off
  • The intercut scene of the killer's arrival while Marie masturbated in her bedroom to the song Runaway Girl by U-Roy with lyrics: "She's just another girl, that's what you are. You are just another girl." She was touching herself under her pants - turned on after she had spied on love interest Alexia through an upstairs window as she took a shower

Undoubtedly, Marie felt homicidal rage for being repeatedly sexually spurned by Alexia.

Another clue to Marie's split personality was the shot of a doll's face split in two by a large crack. An obscure clue was provided with the Latin saying on the back of Marie's tight T-shirt which read: Audaces Solum (literally "Boldly Alone" or "Very Lonely").

In the conclusion, the male killer with a chain saw was transformed into Marie after he told Alexia:

"You really know how to drive a woman crazy, don't ya, ya goddamn bitch!...Do you love me?"

As the bloodied Marie kissed Alexia, she repeatedly told her: "Nobody will come between us ever again, Alex. Never again. I won't let anyone come between us anymore" - explaining her murderous actions to kill her own family so that she could obsessively be with her.

In the last scene, Marie was in a mental institution (the same images were present in the film's opening when Marie asked if she was being recorded with a video camera: "Are they recording?"). This made the entire film her own nightmarish flashback. Alex looked at Marie through a one-way mirror as Marie sensed her presence and gestured with open arms toward her.

Opening Dream

Sex With Discarded Severed Head by Killer

Alexia Showering


Doll's Split Face

Alex vs. Marie (Killer)

Last Scene

A History of Violence (2005)

Heroic Diner Owner Tom Stall Was Actually Philadelphia Hitman "Joey Cusack"; Tom's Son Jack Shot and Killed Mobster Fogarty Sent to Confront Him; Tom Journeyed to Philadelphia To Settle Score with Older Brother Richie, Killing Him and Other Thugs; Tom Was Somberly Greeted By Family On His Return Home

Canadian director David Cronenberg's crime-thriller told about a happily-married couple (and family) in the small Indiana town of Millbrook:

  • Edie Stall (Maria Bello), a successful lawyer
  • Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen), her mild-mannered diner manager/husband

An attempted robbery in the diner at closing time was foiled by a quick-acting, self-defensive Tom who used a dazzling, ferocious and lethal array of fighting and shooting skills to destroy two "ruthless" drifter criminals, Leland and Billie (Stephen McHattie and Greg Bryk) - Tom even startled himself. [The two had bloodily massacred motel staff members in the opening scene.]

Stabbed in the right foot during the assault, Tom was lauded as a "local hero" and "man of few words" - but his past soon came back to haunt him after increased media attention. Irish organized crime mobster Carl Fogarty (Ed Harris) appeared in town in a black sedan with thugs to settle the score, knowing Tom as "Joey Cusack" - a brutal killer from Philadelphia who had left him scarred on his face (from barbed wire) and blind in his left eye. Tom's/Joey's stalking by Fogarty was not easily "over and done with."

When followed into the mall, Edie argued with Fogarty: "My husband does not know you. He wouldn't know you, somebody like you." The vengeful mobster shot back: "He knows me intimately." Tom had claimed early in the film to his young six-year old daughter Sarah (Heidi Hayes) that "there's no such thing as monsters," although he was now facing his own past 'monsters'. He had been living a lie for many years.

During Fogarty's attempted swap of kidnapped adolescent son Jack (Ashton Holmes) for Tom at the farm-home, Tom dispatched with Fogarty's two men but was shot in the shoulder - after which son Jack killed Fogarty with a shotgun to protect his father.

After painfully admitting his violent killer past to Edie as another person named Joey Cusack and suffering strained family relations with his distraught wife, Tom journeyed to Philadelphia to visit his older brother Richie Cusack (William Hurt), the head of a city crime syndicate, at his Escalade estate. During a tense confrontation, Richie was envious that his brother John was "living the American dream" and claimed that disfigured Fogarty and others had taken their anger out on him:

"You cost me a lot of time and money...I had to clean up your mess...You got no idea how much s--t I had to pull to get back in with those guys...I'm still behind the eight-ball because of you."

When Richie refused Joey's peace gesture ("I'm here to make peace. Tell me what I gotta do to make things right"), he told Joey point-blank: "You could die, Joey." Richie had ordered his four hitmen to assassinate Joey by garrotting, but he swiftly killed the four thugs and then confronted his brother one final time before fatally shooting him in the head:

Richie: "Jesus, Joey."
Joey: "Jesus, Richie."

The film ended without further dialogue in a dining room table scene of the Stall nuclear family as Tom returned home. The two Stall kids understatedly welcomed their father: Sarah brought a place setting for her dad and Jack moved the main dish platter closer to his father. Edie, still feeling like she was living in a nightmare, and Tom shared a painful glance at each other.

Opening Scene: Motel Massacre

Stall Family

Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen) aka Joey Cusack

Carl Fogarty (Ed Harris)

Son Jack Killing Fogarty With Shotgun

Richie Cusack (William Hurt)

Joey vs. Richie

Concluding Stall Dining Room Table Scene

Hot Fuzz (2007, UK)

The Sleepy Town of Sandford in the UK, Britain's "Village of the Year," Was Controlled by the Sinister Neighborhood Watch Alliance (NWA), Headed by Supermarket Owner Simon Skinner and Police Inspector Frank Butterman. The Two Had Conspired (As Hooded Slashers) to Murder "Problem" Individuals Who Were Planning to Change the Town - To Develop It With a Large Shopping Center and Bypass Road

An R-rated, contemporary action police comedy from co-writer/director Edgar Wright, the over-the-top Hollywood-style cop film paired a London officer with a young oafish constable in a sleepy English village. The fish-out-of-water tale deliberately parodied many of the conventions of cop films, such as Dirty Harry, Bullitt, Lethal Weapon, Die Hard, Bad Boys II, Point Break and others, and its tagline stressed the point:

"They're bad boys. They're die hards. They're lethal weapons. They are..."

The main character in the inspired send-up was:

  • Nicholas Angel (co-writer Simon Pegg), a London Metropolitan Police Service Constable

He was so efficient, exceptional and competent at his job as a London cop, with a superlative 400% above-average arrest record, that he was incurring jealous wrath from his co-workers. He was made a Sergeant and reluctantly transferred to the bucolic English countryside, to the laid-back rural Gloucestershire town of Sandford ("the safest village in the country"). The ultimate decision had been ordered by Chief Inspector Kenneth (Bill Nighy): "You've been making us all look bad." Angel was told that the town had been honored with the title: "Village of the Year" - for its clean and safe image.

In the sleepy town on his first night, the professional policeman arrested a number of underaged boys for drinking at the local pub. He also arrested a drunk driver - a sluggish, dim-witted and chubby Danny Butterman (Nick Frost). After he had taken the inebriated individuals to the station for arrest, the next morning at police headquarters, he was surprised to learn that Danny Butterman would soon be his law-enforcement partner. Danny's father was the kindly, but scheming and widowed Police Inspector Frank Butterman (Jim Broadbent), who urged Angel to overlook indiscretions in the town for "the greater good."

Angel also met the other members of the inept police force, and the civilian liaison of Sandford's Neighbourhood Watch Alliance (NWA), including bearded Professor Tom Weaver (Edward Woodward). Weaver exclaimed that the town's 'lawless' elements (including a figure known as The Living Statue) needed to be squashed: "If we don't come down hard on these clowns, we are gonna be up to our balls in jugglers!"

To his astonishment, Angel was paired up with Danny, an obsessed aficionado of action-buddy-cop DVD videos. Danny wanted to experience typical action seen in Lethal Weapon, Die Hard, Bad Boys II, Supercop and Point Break ("gun fights, car chases, proper action and s--t...a no-holds barred, adrenaline-fueled thrill ride"), although job-obsessed Angel just wanted to follow the letter of the law.

Soon enough, Angel met a few of the town's leaders - members of the NWA (all the members of the town had 'occupation-related' names), including:

  • Simon Skinner (Timothy Dalton), the slick and obnoxious local Somerfield supermarket manager

The town was similar to the one in The Stepford Wives, with residents constantly providing surveillance via walkie-talkies and closed-circuit video cameras. The uptight, pompous residents of the idyllic village were immediately skeptical of the out-of-towner Angel (they called the "top cop" - "Top Cock") and ridiculed him. With nothing much to do, Angel dealt with an escaped white swan, shoplifting, speeders, illegal hedgerow clippings, unlicensed firearms, and he deactivated a naval sea mine.

After a few weeks on the job, hard-nosed cop Angel began to suspect a foul-play murder conspiracy after a series of horrific fatal "accidents" committed by a black-hooded and cloaked slasher. It began with a car crash that beheaded its two occupants. Angel believed that the sinister NWA (and its hooded individuals) was eliminating those it considered a "problem" - those residents who might change the town with plans to develop a large shopping center ("a retail park"), and a proposed Sandford Bypass road. For "the greater good," the conspiracy was fueled by the desire to keep the honor of the town's "Best Village" award. Seemingly, Police Inspector Butterman had appointed himself as "judge, jury, and executioner."

In particular, Angel suspected Simon Skinner as the lead assassin, and then he was attacked in his hotel room by Michael "Lurch" Armstrong (Rory McCann), the trolley boy at Skinner's supermarket - sent by Skinner as the hooded killer to murder him. Angel confronted the entire hooded group of town leaders seated in a circle at the town's castle, and as he was pursued by them, he discovered multiple corpses - evidence of the murders of problematic townsfolk. Then, he fled the town to save his life.

Determined to launch an all-out assault upon the town's leaders, Angel returned to face a serious gun-battle skirmish with its armed citizens (with Danny's support) in the streets, and then inside the supermarket, after which:

  • Skinner and Inspector Butterman fled to the model village, where Skinner slipped and his mouth was impaled (through his chin) on the sharp spire of a miniature cathedral
  • Fleeing Inspector Butterman crashed his car into a tree when attacked by the hissing swan in the back-seat
  • Danny heroically took a bullet in the abdomen when he saved Angel from Mr. Weaver's blunderbuss gunshot
  • Weaver fell on the confiscated naval mine - which exploded, destroying much of the Sandford police station

The film ended simply, one year later, with the two having decided to remain, to continue policing the town of crimes (Angel: "I kinda like it here"). Danny had been promoted to Sergeant and Angel was the Chief Inspector of the Sandford Police Service.

Partners Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) and Danny Butterman (Nick Frost)

Simon Skinner
(Timothy Dalton)

Danny Butterman (Nick Frost)

Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg)

Simon Skinner (Timothy Dalton) - the Hooded Assassin?

and Michael ("Lurch")

Police Inspector Frank Butterman (Jim Broadbent)

The Final Assault

The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939)

John Stapleton Was Unmasked by Sherlock Holmes As the Killer; The Legendary Hound Was Stapleton's Large, Half-Starved Vicious Dog; Stapleton Fled and Was Presumed to Die in the Moors

This classic film adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle's novel of the same name featured the world famous detective Sherlock Holmes. This 1939 film was the first of 14 films with the duo of Sherlock Holmes (Basil Rathbone) and Dr. Watson (Nigel Bruce) as a detective pairing. [Note: It was the first of two 20th Century Fox films, of the 14 films, featuring Rathbone and Bruce in the lead roles.]

Sherlock Holmes (Basil Rathbone)
Dr. Watson (Nigel Bruce)

The tale has been seen in many versions, including:

  • The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959), with Peter Cushing
  • The Hound of the Baskervilles (1972), (TV), with Stewart Granger
  • The Hound of the Baskervilles (1978), a comedy spoof
  • The Hound of the Baskervilles (1988), (TV), with Jeremy Brett
  • The Hound of the Baskervilles (2000), (TV), with Matt Frewer

It opened in 1889 with a downbeat message:

"1889: In all England there is no district more dismal than that vast expanse of primitive wasteland, the moors of Dartmoor in Devonshire."

Following the preface was the death of Sir Charles Baskerville (Ian MacLaren), apparently of a heart attack, just after a baying hound was heard. The victim was running through the moors, then clutched his chest, and fell dead to the ground.

There was a long-standing legendary curse that Baskerville family members were being murdered by a demonic dog, stretching back to Sir Hugo Baskerville (Ralph Forbes), who was killed in 1650 (seen in flashback): "His body literally torn to shreds."

Ultimately, the culprit behind the latest deadly attempts on Baskervilles was local naturalist John Stapleton (Morton Lowry), who was a distant relative (long lost cousin) of the Baskervilles. He would have gained control of Baskerville Hall and its fortune at Dartmoor if the last apparent Baskerville inheritor, Sir Henry Baskerville (Richard Greene) - the successor to the family title who had just arrived - was to die. [Note: Sir Henry was the nephew of earlier victim Sir Charles Baskerville.] The legend of the giant phantasmagoric and demonic hound was used as a cover for the murder.

Stapleton attempted to kill Sir Henry by unleashing his half-starved, fearsome mastiff dog (a Great Dane) from an underground lair. The hound pursued Sir Henry on the desolate moors (the Great Grimpen Mire). Stapleton had stolen one of Sir Henry's boots - and used the scent from Sir Henry's footwear to cause the dog to target him. Luckily, Holmes and Watson were in the vicinity, and shot and wounded the dog before it could maul Sir Henry to death.

Stapleton was unmasked as the criminal by Holmes in a dramatic gathering of all the principals back at the estate. It was revealed that Stapleton (after the failed attempt of his hound to kill Sir Henry) was further attempting to poison the injured Sir Henry with a tonic drink. Holmes explained the monetary motives for Stapleton's deadly impulses:

The person who wanted to snuff out your life, Sir Henry, was the same one who plotted to kill your uncle. He wanted to get you both out of the way so that he could lay claim to this place, to the whole Baskerville estate. In tracing back his lineage, he discovered not only that he was the next of kin, but also learned that old legend about the hound. So he brought the hound to life by the simple expedient of buying the most savage dog that he could find and hiding it here on the moor until he needed it. If he had succeeded tonight, the blame would have fallen on the legendary monster, and no possible suspicion would have been attached to him. A most ingenious device. And I'm quite sure that he would have had no difficulty in proving his claim to Baskerville Hall and all that goes with it.

After his guilt was revealed by Holmes and he was threatened with arrest for murder, Stapleton drew a gun and fled to escape, and presumably was either apprehended by Holmes' posted constables, or drowned in the moors (Grimpen Mire). As Holmes departed, he reminded Watson: "Oh, Watson -- the needle!" - a reference to his cocaine addiction or need for a morphine shot (that unbelievably passed the censors)!

The Legend of a Hideous Hound Killing Baskervilles, Dating Back to 1650

Opening Scene: Flight (and Death) of Sir Charles Baskerville (Ian MacLaren) from "Gigantic Hound"

Young Heir Sir Henry Baskerville

Holmes and Watson Shooting at the Hound on Foggy Moors to Save Sir Henry Baskerville

Sir Henry Baskerville (Richard Greene) Badly Mauled

John Stapleton (Morton Lowry)

Stapleton Attempting to Poison Sir Henry

Guilty Stapleton Drawing a Gun and Fleeing

House of Games (1987)

Psychiatrist Margaret Was Conned -- Until She Killed Con-Man Mike and Resumed the Conning Herself

David Mamet's directorial debut film was this twisting, elaborate crime thriller. Its tagline was:

Nothing is as it seems.

The plotline was about two individuals who soon became embroiled together in a confidence game racket:

  • Dr. Margaret Ford (Lindsay Crouse), a psychiatrist and successful best-selling author, although personally unfulfilled
  • Mike (Joe Mantegna), a self-admitted con-man guide

Through Billy Hahn (Steven Goldstein), one of her suicidal patients, Dr. Ford learned about his debt problems owed to Mike, a gangster and criminal. After meeting Mike, she was lured into a series of con-games and scams, first in a bar/pool hall called House of Games. He began to teach her tricks of his trade (including "tells" or give-away body language), and she became enchanted and wanted to learn more for a future best-selling book she would write.

It was soon revealed, however, that she was the ultimate target in a complex, multi-layered con game, involving $80,000.

In the unnerving, unexpected twist ending of this hoax film, the used and betrayed Margaret resorted to viciously murdering Mike in cold-blood with multiple gunshots in a deserted airport baggage terminal. [Note: She was using the gun of her suicidal patient from the opening scene.] As he edged his way to an exit door after taking one bullet in the leg, she ordered that he beg for his life: "I want you to beg me." He claimed she was only bluffing:

"You're all bluff. What - are you gonna kill me and then go to jail? Give up all that good s--t that you have? Your best seller? That doctor stuff? All that stuff you're trying so hard to protect? You're gonna give that up?"

Her response was: "It's not my pistol. I was never here," before firing a second time. She was deadly serious: "Beg for your life, or I'm going to kill you," as he slid wounded to the floor. She added: "I can't help it. I'm out of control....Beg me for your life." He ranted and raved at her with foul language, as she slowly approached with her gun drawn:

Hey, F--K you! This is what you always wanted, you crooked BITCH! You THIEF! You always need to get caught, cuz you KNOW you're bad. I never hurt anybody. I never shot anybody. You sought this out. This is what you always wanted. I knew it the FIRST time you came in. You're WORTHLESS, you know it? You're a WHORE! You came back like a DOG to its own VOMIT! You sick BITCH! I'm not gonna GIVE you S--T!

She remorselessly peppered him with another gunshot (her third) when he refused. He finally requested:

Thank you, sir. May I have another?

Three more gunshots echoed as she killed him in cold-blood. In the end, she became the new con-artist.

In the final scene, she was in a restaurant with a friend -- she autographed a book and stole a gold cigarette lighter from a purse. Her grimly smug smile of self-satisfaction afterwards as she lit her cigarette with it revealed that she had fallen into the addictive lure of being a con artist herself.

Dr. Margaret Ford (Lindsay Crouse)

The Murder of Mike (Joe Mantegna)

Becoming the New Con

House of Wax (1953)

Professor Jarrod Miraculously Survived the NY Wax Museum Fire, and Afterwards Used Murdered Corpses to Make Wax Figures For a New Museum, Until He Was Unmasked by Sue Allen, and Aptly Died In a Bubbling Vat of Wax

This classic horror film by director Andre de Toth was originally shown in 3-D (it was the first 3D film from a major studio (Warner Brothers)). It was a more expensive remake of their earlier Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933), with Vincent Price establishing himself forever after as the quintessential horror villain:

  • Professor Henry Jarrod (Vincent Price), a deranged wax figure sculptor-curator of an early 20th century NY wax museum

He struggled with his business partner Matthew Burke (Roy Roberts) over their differing viewpoints on prized wax masterpiece displays in the museum. Burke deliberately set the museum on fire (to successfully claim insurance money of $25,000), and as the building burned around them, they fought each other. Burke fled, but it appeared that Jarrod died as the fiery structure collapsed on him (but no corpse was found).

Months later, a cloaked, disfigured figure was committing murders in NY, including:

  • Matthew Burke (strangled, although his death was made to look like a suicidal rope hanging in the office building's elevator shaft)
  • Cathy Gray (Carolyn Jones), Burke's now ex-fiancee (drugged, then strangled by a cord)

After Cathy's friend Sue Allen (Phyllis Kirk) discovered Cathy's corpse in her rooming house bedroom, she was pursued by the menacing cloaked killer through the fog-shrouded streets.

Jarrod survived the fiery blaze and appeared about 18 months later (although he claimed: "Jarrod is dead. I am a reincarnation"). His face appeared normal, but he had scarred and useless hands, and he was wheelchair-bound.

He was rebuilding a new House of Wax museum, with assistance from deaf-mute sculptor Igor (Charles Bronson) and student-artist Leon Averill (Nedrick Young), that showcased a "Chamber of Horrors" - commemorating famous and fresh "crimes of violence" through wax figures (to give the people what they wanted: "sensation, horror, shock").

In the plot twist, it was revealed that the vengeful Jarrod (in the disguise of the cloaked, face-disfigured killer and later wearing a facial mask to hide his melted face) had been committing the many murders. He then stole their corpses from the New York City Morgue and coated them with molten wax to produce very life-like statues for his waxworks exhibits ("Each subject must be taken from life"). Cathy's body was used as a "model" for the figure of Joan of Arc. Sue was amazed by the likeness: "Why should it be so much like Cathy?"

In the surprise ending, and in one of the film's most startling scenes, Jarrod caught Sue after hours in the wax museum. She had suspected all along that the Joan of Arc figure was too real to be just a model - she accused him:

"It is Cathy. It's Cathy's body under the wax! I knew it! I knew it all the time!"

Jarrod (who had faked being crippled) then admitted his hideous and insane plan - to take corpses from the morgue for his wax displays. And she was to be his next "leading lady" for immortality - Marie Antoinette:

Everything I ever loved has been taken away from me. Not you, my Marie Antoinette, for I will give you eternal life.

Heroine Sue unmasked Jarrod when she beat at his face with her fists - cracking his face mask and revealing his hideously-burned and disfigured visage underneath. She had discovered Jarrod's murderous designs for her - but then fainted. Meanwhile, under intense police detective questioning and pressure, Leon admitted his master's crazy plans ("The whole place is a morgue!"), and the officers rushed to save Sue.

Jarrod had taken Sue to his cellar laboratory, where she was strapped and naked under a boiling vat of wax, and was prepared to be his next exhibit.

This is where I recreated my Joan of Arc. It's an interesting process. If you have patience with me, my dear, I'll show you how it's done...That look of horror spoils your lovely face. What if it should show, even through the wax?...The end will come quickly, my love. There's a pain beyond pain, an agony so intense, it shocks the mind into instant oblivion. We'll find immortality together, for they'll remember me through you.

Sue - Jarrod's New "Marie Antoinette"
Jarrod: "The end will come quickly, my love."

During a struggle with authorities who arrived at the scene just in time, Jarrod wound up falling into his own burning cauldron of tallow (at over 450 degrees F.) - his apt and richly-deserved fate.

Matthew Burke (Roy Roberts)

Professor Henry Jarrod (Vincent Price)

Wax Museum Fire

Jarrod Dying in Blaze?

Cloaked, Disfigured Killer

Professor Jarrod With Igor (Charles Bronson)

Sue: "It's Cathy's body under the wax!"

The Unmasking of Professor Jarrod

Jarrod's Death in His Own Cauldron of Wax

House on Haunted Hill (1959)

Frederick Loren's Fourth Wife Annabelle Was Scheming with Guest Dr. Trent to Kill Her Husband Frederick for His Fortune; He Turned the Tables on The Couple, and Both Schemers Ended Up in a Vat of Acid

The original horror film with this title was director/producer William Castle's campy and gimmicky House on Haunted Hill (1959) - forty years earlier than its glossy and elaborate remake, House on Haunted Hill (1999).

Filled with B-movie shocks and plot twists, the setup was the hosting of a mysterious party by eccentric millionaire Frederick Loren (Vincent Price) for 5 guests and for his fourth wife Annabelle Loren (Carol Ohmart).

He had rented the house from drunken wastrel Watson Pritchard (Elisha Cook Jr.), one of the guests and the mansion's owner, who believed that there had been seven inexplicable, brutal murders in the reputedly-haunted house - including beheadings and amputations. In fact, the house did seem spooked, with a falling chandelier, bleeding ceilings, moving walls and secret passageways, a severed head in a suitcase, and 'ghosts.'

The other four party guests, who were in desperate need of money, were:

  • Lance Schroeder (Richard Long), a test pilot
  • Ruth Bridges (Julie Mitchum), a newspaper gossip columnist, with gambling debts
  • Dr. David Trent (Alan Marshal), a physician
  • Nora Manning (Carolyn Craig), a secretary

Any of them who survived the 12-hour night in the locked house (after midnight) would receive $10,000.

The suicide (by hanging) of Annabelle in the stairwell was faked. She was actually allied with Dr. Trent - the two lovers were both scheming to kill Loren for his fortune. The vengeful Loren had other plans - he faked that he was shot dead in the cellar by one of the guests who was driven to hysteria, young Nora Manning. Dr. Trent went to the wine cellar to dump Frederick's body into an acid vat hidden beneath a large trap-door in the floor.

During a 'lights-out' struggle between the two, it sounded like Loren's body was dumped into the vat. [However, it was later revealed that Frederick revived - the gun that shot him had blanks in it - and he had pushed Trent's body into the vat of acid.]

Shortly later, Annabelle arrived to search for Trent. From a side room, Loren scared the wits out of Annabelle with an "Emergo" skeleton (she believed it was her vengeful husband Loren's skeleton) that rose and emerged dancing from the vat. The conniving wife was pursued and taunted by the skeleton, using Loren's voice:

"At last, you've got it all. Everything I have, even my life. But you're not going to live to enjoy it. Come with me, murderess. Come with me."

She screamed as the skeleton touched her shoulder, backed up in fright, and tumbled into the vat behind her. Loren emerged from the shadows, manipulating the puppet-like skeleton on wires and strings.

He offered silky-voiced eulogies for the two deceased:

"Goodnight, doctor. Goodnight, Annabelle. The crime you two planned was indeed perfect. Only the victim is alive and the murderers are not. It's a pity you didn't know when you started your game of murder that I was playing too."

Loren admitted to his guests that the two had died trying to kill him: "I'm ready for justice to decide whether I'm innocent or guilty."

Frederick Loren
(Vincent Price)

The "Emergo" Skeleton Scare for Wife Annabelle Loren (Carol Ohmart)

Loren Manipulating the Puppet-Skeleton

The House on 92nd Street (1945)

German Spy Leader "Mr. Christopher" Was Cross-Dressing Female Spy Elsa Gebhardt

Director Henry Hathaway's semi-documentary styled, propagandistic 'film noir' was based on a real-life case of espionage-smashing (of a Nazi spy ring) in the early 1940s. It was one of the earliest semi-documentary crime thrillers. In the film's opening, it included the following message:

This story is adapted from cases in the espionage files of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Produced with the FBI's complete cooperation. It could not be made public until the first atomic bomb was dropped on Japan. The scenes were photographed in the localities of the incidents depicted -- Washington, New York, and their vicinities; wherever possible, in the actual place the original incident occurred. With the exception of the leading playes, all FBI personnel in the picture are members of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The opening, over 10 minute narration was delivered by an impressive sounding male voice - with an unabashed positive advertisement for the FBI's mission and work during World War II:

Vigilant, tireless, implacable. The most silent service of the United States in peace or war is the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The bureau went to war with Germany long before hostilities began. No word or picture could then make public the crucial war service of the FBI. But now it can be told.

In 1939, with thousands of known and suspected enemy agents invading the Americas, the FBI started building up its force of special agents and employees from 2,000 to a war peak of 15,000. Before being sent into the field, each new agent had to learn all the modern techniques of crime detection, such as the use of a specially-treated X-ray mirror, through which an FBI man can see without being seen. The Federal Bureau of Investigation had to be the world's most efficient, intelligence and counter-espionage service. For war is thought, and thought is information. And he who knows most strikes hardest.

By examining the intercepted mail of unsuspecting Nazi agents, the FBI uncovered many secret channels of communication. Between the lines of an innocent-appearing letter, invisibly encoded in an obsolete German shorthand, were important instructions for one group of spies. The bureau's infinitely painstaking system of sifting and recording every scrap of potential information paid handsome dividends. The FBI was adding new names to its long list of Germans known to be dangerous. And each day as fresh, investigative reports came in from the field, FBI officials saw more clearly the pattern of German espionage in the United States.

The nucleus of the Nazi network in America was the German embassy in Washington, protected until a declaration of war by diplomatic immunity. Long before December 7th, 1941, from a vantage point nearby, G-men photographed the actions of hundreds of suspects. These are the actual films taken by the FBI. They gave director Hoover and his men a daily record and description of all embassy visitors. This continuous photographic surveillance provided a permanent record to be studied intensively whenever new developments took place.

The bureau soon discovered that the embassy was being used to disperse money for subversive activity in the United States. The bureau also knew that the embassy had a short-wave radio and was in direct communication with Germany. No one was watched more closely by the FBI than the arrogant, Baron Ulrich von Gienanth. Although accredited as an embassy official, he was actually chief of the German Gestapo in America. Equally important were pompous Vice Admiral Witthoeft-Emden and his suave assistant, Helmut Raeuber, experts in obtaining information about ships and cargoes. Dr. Hans Thompsen, the German chargé d'affaires tried to win American collaborators. So did his associate, General Karl Boeticher.

Parading before hidden FBI cameras were the embassy secretaries. These girls spent evenings in the company of American servicemen. They were having fun, but they were also diligently accumulating information for Germany. The FBI watched them discretely, knew all about them. By relentless surveillance of embassy officials and all those with whom they associated, the FBI learned that Germany was recruiting American Nazis for its espionage service. In 1939, Nazi fronts - like Fritz Kuhn and his German-American bund - were flourishing. The Germans said they were only social gatherings, but the FBI knew that these societies were part of a well-laid German plan, to build up a fifth column in the United States.

In 1939, on the campus of a Midwestern university not far from Columbus, Ohio, there was a brilliant young student. Born of German-American parents who were proud of his college record, he was preparing to become a diesel engineer. His name was William Dietrich. Just before graduation, Dietrich was approached by German representatives who offered him a free trip to Germany and a well-paying job on arrival. Dietrich reported the incident to the FBI. When the meaning of the German invitation was explained to him, Dietrich offered his services to the bureau.

With money generously supplied by the Germans, Dietrich bought passage at the German Tourist Bureau in New York City. The Germans felt that Dietrich was an extremely valuable man. So did the FBI. Ten days later, Dietrich was 3,500 miles from New York in Germany's great port city of Hamburg. On the Klopstockstrasse was a second-rate hotel - the Pension Klopstock which housed the German high command's notorious school for spies. Here would train hundreds of recruits for the Abwehr - Germany's supersecret espionage-and-sabotage service.

Like Dietrich, many of his classmates had been recruited in the United States. And back to the United States they would go when they were properly equipped.

Synthesis of the FBI's counter-espionage offensive in World War II is the Christopher Case which opened as great cases often do, by accident - a little accident at Bowling Green in New York City.

The dramatic, fact-based film was about the "Christopher Case." It told about a group of German Nazi spies in New York City attempting to transmit plans for 'Process 97' (the name for America's top-secret plans for the development of the A-bomb) to Hamburg. Reportedly, the German spy leading the Process 97 project was code-named "Mr. Christopher."

The Nazi spies were being infiltrated by the FBI through the coordinated efforts of agent George Briggs (Lloyd Nolan). Their main weapon was a recruited agent:

  • Bill Dietrich (William Eythe), a German-American engineering student and trained double-agent

After infiltrating into the spy ring, Dietrich made contact with German conspirator Colonel Hammersohn (Leo G. Carroll), and the pretty owner of the 92nd Street house headquarters - a dress designer named Elsa Gebhardt (Signe Hasso), who was a German agent posing as a couterier.

However, Dietrich had found himself unmasked as an FBI agent, and was injected and drugged by Gebhardt with a solution of scopolamine (in order to get information).

As the film was concluding, their headquarters on 92nd Street was surrounded by government agents, and the German spies were given two minutes to surrender. Gebhardt ordered all their papers burned in the fireplace, then said she needed to escape with espionage materials to be sent to Hamburg that evening. Gebhardt removed her blonde wig and makeup and changed into the clothes of a gentleman, just as the apartment was tear-gassed. It was revealed in the film's conclusion that the mysterious, unseen character of master-spy leader "Mr. Christopher" was actually female transvestite spy member Elsa Gebhardt.

She escaped from a window in the 92nd Street house and fled down a fire-escape, but then had to retreat back into the apartment. There, she was accidentally shot to death by one of her own men. Dietrich was rescued and the other spies were arrested. The final narration ended with patriotic music and the seal of the FBI under the words "The End.":

Thus ended the Christopher case. Elsa Gebhardt, alias Mr. Christopher, was no more successful than other foreign espionage agents. Process 97 - the atomic bomb, America's top war secret - remains a secret. After the United States went to war December 7th, 1941, 16,440 enemy agents, saboteurs and dangerous enemy aliens were arrested. Six have already been executed. Thousands were interned. Others were imprisoned for a sum total of 1,880 years. All of the thoroughly laid enemy plans for a fifth column were smashed before they could be put into operation. Not one single act of enemy- directed sabotage was perpetrated within the United States, nor was one major war secret stolen. The Federal Bureau of Investigation continues to be the unplacable foe of all enemies of the United States.

William Dietrich (William Eythe)

The Christopher Case

Colonel Hammersohn (Leo G. Carroll)

Elsa Gebhardt (Signe Hasso)

Dietrich Caught by Spies and Drugged

Elsa Removing Blonde Wig and Makeup and Dressing as Man

German Agent Mistakenly Shooting "Elsa"

The Dead "Mr. Christopher" = Cross-Dressing Female Spy Elsa Gebhardt

Greatest Movie Plot Twists, Spoilers and Surprise Endings

(alphabetical by film title)
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M1 | M2 | M3 | M4 | M5 | N | O | P1 | P2 | Q-R1 | R2 | S1 | S2 | S3 | S4 | S5 | S6 | T1 | T2 | T3 | U-V | W1 | W2 | W3 | X-Z

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