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An heiress is murdered while honeymooning on a Nile cruise. Fortunately, the
famous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot is holidaying on the same paddle
steamer, and begins an investigation. However, it would seem that all of the
other passengers on board have clear motives for committing the
This was the second of Agatha Christie's novels featuring Hercule Poirot to be filmed, after the success of 'Murder On The Orient Express' a few years earlier. The great Peter Ustinov, who so recently passed away, took on the role this time, and injected it with his own droll humour. Indeed the whole film seems rather tongue in cheek, with the all star cast having fun with their roles. Bette Davis, Maggie Smith and Jack Warden all enjoyably ham it up, but Angela Lansbury manages to outdo them all with a delightfully over the top performance as the perpetually drunk author of erotic novels. David Niven, ever the archetypal British gent, proves a good foil as Poirot's partner in the investigation.
Where the film really scores is in the locations and photography. Egypt proves a stately backdrop to proceedings and veteran Cinematographer Jack Cardiff makes the most of it. The 1930's setting also gives an air of genteel opulence to the surroundings. While the film couldn't claim to be a classic tension filled mystery, it is a pleasant, laid back and enjoyable entertainment, that's clever enough to keep you guessing until the end.
Murder aboard a Nile steamer in the 1930s is deftly handled here thanks to a
good script and some excellent performances.
There can be no question about it--if you're a mystery fan of the sort of crime novels Agatha Christie wrote during her prolific writing career--this is for you. The script fashioned from one of her best works gives a number of interesting actors roles they can chew the scenery with--and most of them do. I can't praise Angela Lansbury enough for her deft and daffy portrayal of a tipsy authoress--so good, she deserved at least an Oscar nomination. The only real flaw is the film's tendency to move at a rather slow pace before things get more intense.
Other acting kudos among the suspects aboard a Nile steamer belong to Bette Davis as an elderly dowager with a penchant for stealing jewelry; her servant, Maggie Smith, with whom she exchanges some priceless barbs; Simon MacCorkindale and Lois Chiles as lovers; Mia Farrow as a vengeful ex-sweetheart; and of course Peter Ustinov as Poirot. David Niven has the least colorful role and can do little with it as he endeavors to help Poirot solve the mystery. The plot has all the ingenious twists we come to expect of Christie and is a very clever one--if slightly improbable when you stop to think about it--depending heavily on luck and coincidence.
But it's all delivered as entertainment and wrapped up in a package designed to stir the senses with an excellent musical score, some fine scenery and Oscar-winning costumes. It's a relief that the writer decided to keep the period of the novel in the 1930s rather than update it as has been done with other Christie stories--notably, MURDER IS EASY ('82) which was updated to include computer technology as part of the plotline. The period flavor here is an added pleasure.
Flavorful, and highly amusing whenever Bette Davis and Maggie Smith have a go at some wisecracks, with an ending that will surprise you if you fail to catch some of the clues. Superior entertainment.
This movie was the first and best of Peter Ustinov's performances as Hercule Poirot. Though physically not very accurate to Agatha Christie's description of the little Belgian detective, for this one movie everything worked and the discrepancy was not a problem. The film is well-paced, with all the plot turns and clues coming with perfect timing, not too fast to be confusing, but not too slow to strain the rather flimsy fabric of the story. The whole cast is very good, especially Bette Davis as a malevolent old spider of a woman, gleefully tormenting her long-suffering companion, Maggie Smith. The scene where she smiles indulgently at a group of Egyptian children waving at her on the river bank, only to sink into mortified disgust as they turn around and moon her, is a highlight of the movie. The climax of the film is quite surprising, and unlike many mysteries, does not cheat the viewer by withholding vital information until the last moment. We feel the pleasure of being honestly fooled throughout, and the conclusion is thoroughly satisfying.
The book, from which this film was adapted, is probably one of Agatha
Christie's best. The plot centres on Linnet Doyle, a woman who stole
her best friend's fiancé. The scorned Jackie pursues the couple
wherever they go, and when she follows them onto a Nile cruise, it
seems that Jackie is not the only one who has a motive for murder. Of
course, the ever dependable Poirot is on hand to solve the incredibly
cleverly planned crime.
This film contains some fantastic scenes set in the heart of Egypt, along with an all star cast. The most brilliant performance of all comes from Angela Lansbury, who plays Mrs. Otterbourne, a drunken old writer who apparently used Linnet in one of her overly erotic books and is consequently being taken to court where she may loose everything. Lansbury captures the humorous side but also the unfortunate aspect of the character and it is this immense acting ability that should have won her an Oscar.
The chemistry between the main characters is marvellous and at the end, when the final solution to the affair is presented, the audience is shocked when they learn who did it, appreciating fully the extent of Christie's genius. This is a fantastic film, which builds up tension fantastically, and is perhaps one of the greatest films ever made, and is always underrated.
I have always loved Agatha Christie novels because she never cheats in her mysteries. We're given all of the information and if we're clever enough, we can unravel the mystery and all will be revealed. This is true with the film adaptation of Death on the Nile. I adore Mr. Ustinov's Poirot and Maggie Smith, Betty Davis, Angela Landsbury, Mia Farrow and David Niven are just fabulous. Just so that no one is surprised the murders are very grisly even by todays standard, but the scenery is breathtaking and the sets and costumes transported me to Egypt and I loved every minute of it. Watch and enjoy!
A wonderful cast of superb actors playing a wonderful cast of outrageous characters. Exotic locale. Lots of laughs. Great lines. ("If there are two things I hate it's heat and heathens.) Ustinov gives a somewhat harder spin to Christie's Poirot than Suchet but he's just as wonderful. Angela Lansbury should have had the Oscar for best supporting actress that year for her tipsy, dipsy authoress. Maggie Smith is her usual incredible self. The great and always fascinating Bette Davis. And the wonderfully synchophantic "manager" of the steamer. All this with exotic locations, superb camera work and well paced suspense. Not too often I vote a ten. On this one I did. Bravo!
Filthy rich Lois Chiles is killed on a ship traveling down the Nile River in
Egypt. Good thing that detective Hercule Poirot (Peter Ustinov) is aboard.
Unfortunately, everyone on board had a reason to kill her. Poirot tries to
figure out who did it while the bodies start to pile up....
Visually beautiful and totally fascinating adaptation of an Agatha Christie mystery. It was a deserved Oscar Winner for Costume Design--all the clothing was in period and looks truly beautiful. Also they shot on location in Egypt which helps. The cast went through hell though--it was very hot and the clothes they wore were heavy and uncomfortable. Bette Davis especially complained loudly about the clothes and tore into Olivia Hussey for playing loud music in her cabin--at 6:30 in the morning.
The cast, however, is very good in their roles. Ustinov is perfect as Poirot--much better than Albert Finney in "Murder on the Orient Express". Bette Davis does wonders with next to nothing in her role as a jewel thief. David Niven just tags along with Ustinov helping him solve the mystery. Mia Farrow is (sadly) miscast--she struggles in a very difficult role. Angela Landsbury (obviously enjoying herself) runs away with the movie as an alcoholic novelist. George Kennedy barely registers--he's very underwritten. Maggie Smith, playing Davis' maid, is a treat--the sparring insults between her and Davis are VERY funny. Jack Warden is OK faking a fairly convincing German accent as a doctor. Lois Chiles looks absolutely stunning...but is killed off. Olivia Hussey is sadly underused. Simon MacCorkindale is very good as Chiles' husband. And Jon Finch is very wooden as a revolutionary. Still, everything works.
I saw it back in a theatre in 1978 and loved it. Over 20 years later, I STILL love it. Much better than the overrated "Murder on the Orient Express". A definite 10 out of 10.
I love Peter Ustinov as Hercule Poirot. Forget all those other phonies
who've tried to fill his shoes! Including that ridiculous Murder on the
His sly, lovable demeanor rivals any of the great actors playing detectives- Peter Falk as Columbo, etc. He has a wonderful way of gaining the confidence and trust of each of his suspects, while probing them for information. You never really know who he suspects, and that's the fun of the mystery. He guides you through the maze like true detective.
I have seen each of his delicious portrayals as the great, Belgian detective several times, and they just get better with age.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This film is one of my all time favourites.
As an Agatha Christie fan I am carefully critical about adaptations of her works. The screenplay is as good as one of her better novels; it makes a seamless transition from book to screen, eliminating some subplots and more minor characters (e.g. the Allertons) in order to achieve a flowing and 'easy to understand' plot with no holes.
The choice of Peter Ustinov as Poirot was inspired. His Poirot is distinctly recognisable as that from the books but the talent and ability of Ustinov shines through. Albert Finney would not have been as good in this film.
The supporting cast is brilliant. Each gives a performance that makes you wish they were on screen for longer; Angela Lansbury as a drunken novelist, Mia Farrow as a cold calculating murderer, etc.. One of the best is the young Simon MacCorkindale, for whom this was his breakthrough film (he is currently Consultant Harry Harper in BBC One's Casualty, for UK readers), as the man torn between love and then led to murder. Also David Niven gives an especially strong performance as Colonel Race.
All in all; it is, in typical Christie fashion, a satire on the lives of the upper class that is buoyant with snippets of humour and romance as well as the inevitable murder (or rather four and a suicide). The score is very good too and the movie has a good old straight backed stiff upper lip feeling to it that makes it a pleasure to watch and makes one wish they could be there themselves.
Peter Ustinov is an absolute joy to behold in the role of Hercule Poirot. He played Poirot in three theatrical films: Death On the Nile, Evil Under the Sun, and Appointment With Death. He also played Poirot in three TV movies: Thirteen At Dinner, Murder in Three Acts, and Dead Man's Folly. It's always a delight to spend time with Ustinov's Poirot. He's so much fun! The three Poirot TV movies starring Ustinov are now available in a three DVD set. I've had a great time watching these with friends and family and all of Ustinov's Poirot movies are worth watching and re-watching. My deep affection for Ustinov's Poirot grows with each viewing. He's brilliant and each of his Poirot movies are fantastic fun.
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