White Puzzle in the Movie “Sleuth” (1972)

The Japanese brand Beverly started producing not long ago some puzzles with no pattern at all. Just a solid black or a solid white puzzle. They first commercialized small 100 pieces puzzles of this type. Then they got bolder and published 150, 300, and 1000 pieces versions.

Finally, they came up with a 2000 pieces version. If the level of difficulty can be measured as difficult, very difficult, and extremely difficult, this puzzle defies classification and it is defined as Torture. In fact, there is a warning in the box: For masochists only. Users refer to it as white torture, white hellpure hell, or pure white hell. There are some people that have completed the 1000 pieces version, but not many brave enough to attempt the 2000 pieces version. I wonder whether it is more difficult than the 5000 version by Ravensburger of The Night Watch.

One day, talking about puzzles and movies, @aschenbach13 pointed out that there was an old movie where such puzzle appeared: Sleuth, directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz in 1972. That means that they came up with the idea of a white puzzle 40 years before the Japanese manufacturer.

White Puzzle in the movie Sleuth (1972)

Sleuth (1972)

A white puzzle and other games

Andrew Wyke (Laurence Olivier) is a successful writer of crime fiction and an enthusiast of elaborate games and automata. He invites his wife’s lover Milo Tindle (Michael Caine), a hairdresser of Italian heritage, to his home to discuss the situation. From the maze that appears at the beginning to the tragic ending, the plot advances through games, deceit, appearances and, finally, crime. As the last words of the script state: “it was just a bloody game”.

I recommend watching the movie, of course. However, the interesting thing for us is the presence of a solid white jigsaw puzzle in the set. Since the protagonist is an enthusiast of games, it made sense to include a jigsaw puzzle. The director points it out with a close up in the initial stages of the film and several times later. It is very likely that they manufactured the puzzle specifically for the movie, since such puzzle was not probably available back in 1972. The puzzle seems to have 620 pieces (31 x 20), which is a very unusual count for a commercial puzzle.

I have created a short video with several clips where the puzzle appears. In one of them, Milo destroys violently the puzzle, and all the work that Andrew had put on it. It is a scene particularly painful for puzzle fans. However, after several days, a detective visits the house and the puzzle is fully assembled now lying on a table. That is quite unrealistic, though, since it would be really impressive (and almost impossible) to complete such puzzle in just a few days, even for the protagonist.

More movies with puzzles?

In 2007 Kenneth Branagh directed a remake of Sleuth. Michael Caine played the role of Andrew Wyke this time, while Jude Law played Milo Tindle. However, no games or jigsaw puzzles appeared in the remake, when they were very significant in the original movie. The result is much less interesting.

In the movie Mile 22, currently in theaters, the protagonist is also working on a solid white jigsaw puzzle. The intention is to portray him as a highly intelligent individual, but the puzzle itself doesn’t have any connection with the plot. Whether assembling jigsaw puzzles and intelligence are correlated or not, I will leave it perhaps for a future post.

Back to list

Related Posts

5 thoughts on “White Puzzle in the Movie “Sleuth” (1972)

  1. Cathy says:

    Interesting movie, must watch it in full. Oddly enough, I saw an entirely white jigsaw puzzle for sale recently and thought you must be mad to do it. But there again, I buy jigsaws for the pictures. That’s part of the enjoyment, to see the picture unfolding as each piece adds more substance to the whole.

    1. I agree with you, but I also understand the challenge. Someone posted a photograph of the puzzle complete and most of the comments went on the line of “Why would you do that to yourself?”, 😉

  2. Francesco says:

    Hello Jorge, I want to contribute to the blog with my answer to your question “More movies with puzzles?”
    Starting from a vintage one: the famous Laurel & Hardy “Me and my pal – the wedding present”, to a film just released this year “Puzzle”, directed by Marc Turtletaub, with Kelly MacDonald, David Denman and Irrfan Khan.
    Bye bye to everyone from ITALY!

    1. Thank you for the information! And let’s not forget Citizen Kane, of course. I think it might be a good idea to collect some of those movies and perhaps write a few lines about them. Thank you, Francesco!

  3. Cemba99 says:

    Remember the Sleuth white puzzle scene well. Remember also that it is rare to do just “one take” in a movie – were several semi-completed puzzles in the waiting? One thing I thought of though to speed things along on the all-white puzzle reassembly. Have someone complete the puzzle (just has to be done once) and flip it over. Devise a numerical method where each piece can be identified by row and column – for example pieces across the top row could be labelled 1-1 to 1-31 (row 1, column 1 to row 1, column 31), next row would be 2-1 to 2-31, and so forth. Write the identifier on the back of the piece and reassembly should be easy upside down. Flip it over and voila!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.