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

Thursday, October 8, 2009


DEAD MAN'S FOLLY (1986 telefilm). Director: Clive Donner.

"Hattie is a completely self-absorbed person. She wouldn't think of sending cough drops to Camille."

Hercule Poirot (Peter Ustinov) is invited by mystery writer Ariadne Oliver (Jean Stapleton) to a fete with a murder game at the estate of Sir George Stubbs (Tim Pigott-Smith) and his dumb, decorative wife Hattie (Nicolette Sheridan), plus a variety of suspicious guests and staff. When the "victim" of the murder game is actually murdered, Inspector Bland (Kenneth Cranham) is called in -- but of course he's no match for Poirot when it comes to solving homicides. Cherubic Ustinov is not as perfect for the role as is David Suchet, but he's still quite good and very entertaining as the Belgian detective. About to get into a boat, he tells Arthur Hastings (Jonathan Cecil) to "Get in first -- Tell me if it's dangerous!" Jean Stapleton is also fine as Oliver, who is turned into an American author ("Ariadne Oliver" was actually an in-joke by Christie meant to be very British Agatha Christie herself). Constance Cummings scores as Mrs. Folliat, who used to own the estate and now lives in (a pretty luxurious) guest cottage. The rest of the large cast is more than competent. This adaptation of one of Christie's best mysteries is at times much too comic in tone, but it is absorbing and generally well-made. In the novel Christie withheld the solution practically until the last paragraph; there was no scene with Poirot gathering together all the suspects, which this telefilm includes for dramatic purposes. Good score by John Addison.

Verdict: The book is better but this is creditable. ***.

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