Emily Boynton (Piper Laurie), stepmother to the three Boynton children, and mother to Ginevra (Amber Bezer), blackmails the family lawyer, Jefferson Cope (David Soul), into destroying the second will of her late husband, which would have freed the childern from her dominating influence. She takes herself and the children on vacation to Europe and the Holy Land. In Jerusalem, Hercule Poirot (Sir Peter Ustinov) meets up with a woman friend, Dr. Sarah King (Jenny Seagrove), who falls in love with Raymond Boynton (John Terleskey) to Emily's disapproval. Lady Westholme (Lauren Bacall), her secretary, and Cope are following them too. The children learn about the second will, and Emily succeeds in rubbing the rest the wrong way, causing much hatred towards her. At a dig, everybody wonders about the camp, and Emily is found dead, poisoned. Poirot investigates.Written by
Lee Horton <Leeh@tcp.co.uk>
Appointment with Death was the last theatrical release of that series of Hercule Poirot mysteries. I'm sure Peter Ustinov probably could have done others. I wouldn't be surprised if in fact the BBC Poirot series starring David Suchet which we in America saw for many years may have killed the more expensive budgeted big screen Poirot that Ustinov did so well.
This particular mystery finds Hercule Poirot on holiday and in the company both on ship and later in British mandated Palestine in the mid Thirties of an American family headed by a tyrannical stepmother played by Piper Laurie. She has one grown daughter and three stepchildren one of whom is married. All live with her and the terms of her late husband's will give her complete control of the family fortune. The power of the purse keeps the whole family under her thumb. Laurie's come a long way since she was a matron in a women's prison.
Another woman along on the trip who's come along way is a character based on Lady Nancy Astor, an American born woman who married a title and now has a seat in Parliament played by Lauren Bacall. She's traveling with a companion played by Hailey Mills. Also along on the trip is David Soul, Laurie's family attorney and Jenny Seagrove as a young doctor.
On an excursion out in the desert Laurie turns up dead and the mystery is afoot. Of course Poirot through careful questioning and a gathering of the suspects eventually finds out who the real murderer is.
The film has of course an impressive cast which also includes John Gielgud as the local police inspector in Jerusalem. A young Arab boy also dies during the film, killed because he witnessed the murder and can identify the culprit. That particular act robs us of any sympathy we might have had for the perpetrator.
Appointment with Death also benefits from good photography, shot on location in both Israel and Italy with interiors done in London. All the Peter Ustinov Poirot films are of excellent quality and are a great introduction to the work Agatha Christie.
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