Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

DEATH ON THE NILE

Bette Davis is interrogated by Peter Ustinov as David Niven looks on 
DEATH ON THE NILE (1978). Director: John Guillermin.

"It's been my experience that men are least attracted to women who treat them well."

Following the success of the first screen adaptation of Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express, it was decided to do another big-scale, star-studded, somewhat overblown adaptation of a Christie novel with Peter Ustinov taking over the role of the great Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. This has an interesting hook: Having stolen away her friend Jacqueline's (Mia Farrow) boyfriend, Simon (Simon MacCorkindale of Jaws 3-D), Linnet Ridgeway (Lois Chiles) finds herself and her new spouse being followed everywhere by Jackie while on their Egyptian honeymoon. Poirot, also on the same tour, warns Jacqueline that she may be heading for disaster, and indeed there's foul play afoot and more than one murder. In her modest and entertaining novel, Christie was wise enough not to make virtually everyone on board the ship a suspect, but screenwriter Anthony Shaffer makes the mistake of giving almost everyone a motive, as unlikely as that sounds. Death on the Nile is way too long, but it is handsomely produced, well-photographed by Jack Cardiff, and has a very nice score by Nino Rota. Ustinov is not the perfect Poirot, but he is acceptable. Among the very large cast, the stand-outs are Maggie Smith [Clash of the Titans], as Bette Davis' put-upon nurse-servant, and Angela Lansbury as the soused authoress, Salome Otterbourne. Everyone else is competent enough, but unremarkable. Bette Davis doesn't so much give a performance, but play "Grand Lady," one suspects as much for the cast and crew as for the audience. One could argue that Mia Farrow seems to give better performances in Woody Allen movies than in ones she makes with other directors. Christie later used a certain similar plot device in Evil Under the Sun. NOTE: A remake of this film is scheduled for 2019.

Verdict: Quite entertaining mystery is good to look at with a few fun performances and humor. ***.  

2 comments:

angelman66 said...

Hi Bill - I like this movie a lot--stylish, very comedic, and filled with some of my favorite stars. I think Mia is a hoot in this, actually, as the crazed spurned wife! And Ustinov is actually my personal favorite Poirot. Lansbury steals the film from everyone, though, in my opinion!
-Chris

William said...

And her death scene comes as a bit of a shock! I've been a Lansbury fan since she did "Mame" on Broadway -- a multi-talented gal for sure!