Friday, August 17, 2012

Movie: Evil Under the Sun

Evil Under the Sun
From a story by Agatha Christie

If you like your mystery cinema on a grand scale then you won't want to miss Evil Under the Sun. It starred Peter Ustinov as Agatha Christie's famed detective Hercule Poirot, as did Death on the Nile (1978), which I reviewed here, and Appointment With Death (1988). Ustinov also played the same role in a trio of TV movies which were made in the Eighties.

I've never heard anyone use the term "epic mystery," but it wouldn't be out of line to use it to describe this movie and Death on the Nile, in which it seems that nearly every component, from performances to setting to cinematography to score, is somehow larger than life. Plus there's the usual cast of notable actors on hand to fill the other roles, including Maggie Smith, Roddy McDowall, James Mason, and Diana Rigg.

As for the plot, about all I'll really say it is that it worked for me. I haven't read the book yet so I can't make any comparisons, but at the core of things are a few murders and a missing gemstone, which M. Poirot is working to locate. Which task takes him to a (presumably) Mediterranean island resort where most of the action plays out.

Perhaps a more persnickety reviewer than I could have found something not to like about this one, but aside from the fact that many of the performances bordered on being downright over the top, I couldn't find much to quibble about.


  1. I've always cherished this movie as one of my top-five favourite puzzle mystery films. The only thing really wrong with it, from my point of view, is the casting of Ustinov, whom I never felt was right to play Poirot. A talented actor, to be sure, but there are a few comic moments of the film that seem wedged in because he insisted on them. To my mind, Hercule Poirot would not appear in a "bathing costume" under any circumstances, or do any of the other things which in this film cause him to lose his dignity. The rest of the cast is universally excellent, and the script approaches brilliance -- so many quotable lines!! "She could always kick her legs higher in the air than the rest of us -- and wider…"

  2. Good call Bill - the four Christie adaptations produced by the team of Brabourne and Goodwin (MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS, DEATH ON THE NILE, THE MIRROR CRACK'D and finally EVIL UNDER THE SUN) definitely follow that epic / disaster movie genres convention with beautiful locations with scenic (and usually exotic or 'foreign') panoramas wherever you look, great cinematography, large orchestral scores and casts packed full of stars.

    EVIL UNDER THE SUN at the time felt like a slight disappointment - it was made in a lower key, with a lower budget, with less spectacular location work (Majorca not really as exciting as Egypt lets face it) but over the years it has seemed better and better to me, with its witty and bitchy dialogue and the great Cole Porter score really helping it to stand out. Oddly enough the first and most popular, ORIENT EXPRESS, is the one I now like least as it is the least humorous and in fact I find it too sombre and even downright sinister at times.