I was starting to write a post about an old but nicely done 70s movie of the week (Ed Asner, Cloris Leachman and Lloyd Bridges all doing good work but -- God help me -- it's Robert Reed who knocks it out of the park in his big scene). I was specifically interested in the odd way the writer handled the big reveal, having characters start to speculate about it in the middle of the film.
I started to contrast it with a Henry Fonda film that ends with a with a masterfully executed blindside twist but I realized that simply by saying ____ has a great surprise ending I could spoil the film. You might not guess the ending but knowing something was coming could keep you from buying into the story. When the rug was pulled out you'd already have one foot off of it.
Likewise, an Ira Levin novel I was also going to use as an example derives much of it effectiveness from the skillful way the writer slips something very big past you without putting you on your guard, If I tell you Levin pulls a fantastic narrative trick in ____, there's a much better chance that he won't pull it off.
The idea that simply telling someone that there's a spoiler can be a spoiler reminded me of a class of puzzles where before you can solve the puzzle you have to know if you have enough information to solve the puzzle. These are discussed at length by Raymond Smullyan in What Is the Name of This Book. I'll try to dig up my copy and update the post with some examples.
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