Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

"Games" Difficult to Play

Cleveland Press October 27, 1967

"Games" is a chiller and if it seems faintly derivative and transparent at times it still has enough macabre elements about it to make it a weirdo of a movie.

The movie opens strangely, though innocently enough, in the mod Manhattan apartment of a wealthy young woman and her husband, Katharine Ross and James Caan, who fill their workless hours decorating their place with pop and op art and staging parties for their friends in an odd and elaborate game room. One pinball machine concerns traffic mayhem and if you win, you are declared dead.

Into this never-never land of the camp comes a cosmetic saleslady, Simone Signoret, who has a fainting spell and whose illness gives her an excuse to move in -- sample case, trunk and all.

SLIGHTLY amused and superior to the harmless games they play, she tells the intrigued couple of amusements where the stakes are higher, gives them a gift of a pair of dueling pistols which had belonged to her lovers.

She suggests powers of the occult, becomes the moving force behind more elaborate practical jokes. Is the pretty young wife dallying with the young man who delivers groceries? No. Only a joke on the husband.

After that what could be more plausible than a more elaborate joke on the young man, the husband arriving as the wife flirts, the shots from the blank-loaded gun?

And what could be more obvious than that the weapon might contain a real bullet?

The film takes a more exciting and suspenseful turn as the body wrapped in the bloody sheet must be hidden from their guest and then disposed of. And what are the sounds in the night as the wife remains alone? Is it the supernatural or a plot to drive her mad?

ONE TROUBLE with "Games" is that it spins out its brief story to such a length that the holes begin to show and the solution is too clearly telegraphed. The combination of elements of "Diabolique" and "Gaslight" are too obvious.

However, tricky filming and an abundance of imaginative effects keep the mood murky and tend to hide the flaws

Simone Signoret has been involved in so many devious cinematic doings that she carries with her an aura of sinister mystery.

Miss Ross is an intriguingly pretty and capable actress and Caan suits the role of husband. Estelle Winwood is seen too briefly as an eccentric neighbor.