Based on the Dame Agatha Christie novel, our favorite Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot (Sir Peter Ustinov), is on a cruise up the Nile. He is surrounded by an interesting assortment of characters, including a wealthy heiress and her husband, on their honeymoon. It appears that everyone hates the heiress.Written by
Sumptuous version of classic Christie mystery...absorbing entertainment...
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.
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