Saturday, January 24, 2015

DEATH ON THE NILE 1978

On the occasion of having completed a collection of Agatha Christie mystery novels gifted to me by my partner this Christmas (in hardback yet!), I’ve taken the opportunity to revisit 1978’s Death on the Nile, the second film in the unofficial Poirot Trilogy from British producers John Brabourne and Richard Goodwin (Murder on the Orient Express -1974, Death on the Nile -1978, Evil Under the Sun - 1982).
Released in the fall of 1978 at the height of American Tut-Mania born of the 1976 - 1979 tour of The Treasures of Tutankhamun museum exhibit, Death on the Nile was a less stylish, not quite all-star follow-up to the wildly successful Murder on the Orient Express, and marked the first appearance of Peter Ustinov as Hercule Poirot. It seems Albert Finney declined the opportunity to reprise his Oscar-nominated performance from that first film after considering the rigors of applying and wearing the extensive Poirot makeup and prosthetics in the triple-degree heat of the Egyptian desert. Lacking, for my taste anyway, the star quality Finney brought to the role which made him more an equal participant in the proceedings, Ustinov nevertheless brings a character actor’s zest to his interpretation of Poirot, making the character uniquely his own. Ustinov would go on to play Christie’s Belgian sleuth in two more feature films (Evil Under the Sun and the awful-beyond-imagining Appointment With Death) and three contemporized TV-movies.
Peter Ustinov as Hercule Poirot
Bette Davis as Mrs. Marie Van Schuyler
David Niven as Colonel Race 
Mia Farrow as Jacqueline De Bellefort
Simon MacCorkindale as Simon Doyle
Lois Chiles as Linnet Ridgeway
Jack Warden as Dr. Bessner
Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Salome Otterbourne
George Kennedy as Andrew Pennington
Maggie Smith as Miss Bowers
Jon Finch as Mr. Ferguson
Olivia Hussey as Rosalie Otterbourne
Jane Birkin as Louise Bourget

As a huge fan of Murder on the Orient Express but having missed the opportunity to catch it on the big screen, I made sure to see Death on the Nile the day it opened. I recall the audience as being sparse but appreciative, and I remember enjoying the film a great deal; albeit more for its cast and surprising twists of plot (it’s quite a puzzler of a mystery and hands-down the bloodiest film in the series) than anything particularly noteworthy about its execution.

Murder on the Orient Express was a glamorous, cinema-inspired recreation of an era, purposefully romanticized, and steeped in nostalgia. Death on the Nile, under the journeyman, traffic-cop guidance of large-scale-logistics director, John Guillermin (The Towering Inferno, King Kong), is, on the other hand, a murder mystery well-told, but one devoid of either mood or atmosphere. The claustrophobic tension of a luxury passenger train is traded for the more scenic vistas offered by a majestic paddle steamer cruising down the Nile, and while Anthony Powell’s dazzling, Academy Award-winning costume designs do most of the heavy-lifting in the glamour department; the visual splendor of the British countryside and sunny, travelogue-worthy scenes of Egyptian landmarks offsetting the otherwise straightforward, TV-movie-style cinematography highlighting the lavish, stagy sets.
  
Putting the best spin on it possible, Death on the Nile’s competent but indifferent direction and utter lack of visual distinction immediately put to rest any inclination on my part to compare this film to its (to my taste) far superior predecessor. Divested of any expectation to duplicate that film’s elegant, diffused-light visual style or compete with its first-class pedigree cast, I was able to better appreciate Death on the Nile on its own modest, nonetheless worthwhile, merits.
Intelligently and wittily adapted by playwright Anthony Schaffer (Sleuth) from Christie’s 1937 novel (which began life as a stage play alternately titled, Moon on the Nile and Murder on the Nile), Death on the Nile finds Poirot (Ustinov) vacationing in Egypt aboard a river vessel jam-packed with potential victims and suspects. Poirot’s distinguished friend, Colonel Race (Niven) is aboard investigating a mysterious passenger; an imperious dowager and her mannish nurse (Davis and Smith); a dipsomaniacal romance novelist and her soft-spoken daughter (Lansbury and Hussey); a pompous Austrian physician (Warden); a peevish Socialist (Finch); a calculating American lawyer (Kennedy); a rancorous French maid (Birkin); a too-rich, too-beautiful, too-happy couple on their honeymoon, (Chiles and MacCorkindale); and a woman scorned (Farrow).

As is to be expected, not a single soul aboard the good ship Karnak is there merely by chance, and all the character's lives connect and intersect in the most intriguing, mysterious ways. The fun to be had in Death on the Nile is seeing these diverse personalities clash, the entertainment is found trying to stay one step ahead as the details of the masterfully intricate mystery at the center of the story come to be revealed.
Bette Davis  looks to be channeling a future Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey, while Maggie Smith is putting out a serious Tilda Swinton vibe

WHAT I LOVE ABOUT THIS FILM
Death on the Nile is one of those movies that plays much better today than when it was released.
When Murder on the Orient Express opened in 1974, its all-star cast and artful recreation of a bygone era rode the crest of the 70s nostalgia craze and the public mania for star-studded disaster films. But by the time Death on the Nile was made, the cultural climate had changed significantly. Thanks to TV’s The Love Boat and several dozen unbearable disaster films (Airport 77, The Swarm, Avalanche) all-star casts no longer meant glamorous...they became synonymous with cheesy. And while not officially a sequel to Murder on the Orient Express (although conceived as one) Death on the Nile was perceived as one in the minds of the public, and thus fell victim to the overall cultural disenchantment with the glut of uninspired sequels Hollywood churned out in hopes of duplicating the success of 1974s The Godfather Part II (Jaws 2, The French Connection IIThe Exorcist: The Heretic. etc.).
People seeing Death on the Nile today see the classic stars of All About Eve, My Man Godfrey, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Rosemary’s Baby, The Manchurian Candidate, Romeo and Juliet, and The Great Gatsby, all appearing in the same film. But back in 1978, the film's biggest stars, Bette Davis and David Niven, were appearing on TV or in low-rent Disney movies, Peter Ustinov was best known as "That old dude in Logan's Run," Mia Farrow had not yet hitched her wagon to Woody Allen, Angela Lansbury was better known on Broadway, and George Kennedy was like the James Franco of the disaster genre (he seemed to be in all of them).
Time has been kind however, and the biggest treat now is being able to enjoy all these great stars - many of them no longer with us - in a handsomely-mounted old-fashioned film, looking so outrageously young, entertaining us with the kind of marvelous, once-in-a-lifetime talent it was once so easy for us to take for granted.
Swag
If you ain't got elegance you can never, ever carry it off
PERFORMANCES
Just to lodge two main performance complaints from the getgo: 1) Lois Chiles is drop-dead gorgeous, but I've never understood how she landed so many plum roles in high-profile films. When it comes to flat line readings, she really gives Michelle Phillips (Valentino) a run for her money. 2) Simon MacCorkindale's performance would have improved tenfold had he just been given a scene or two shirtless or pants-less. It's a proven fact (See: Evil Under the Sun / Nicholas Clay).
Dressed to Kill
I love ensemble films, but its almost impossible to write about individual performances without appearing to intentionally slight those not mentioned. I like the cast assembled for Death on the Nile, the weaker actors benefiting from roles requiring them to play a single note; the stronger ones running with the opportunity and creating memorable, ofttimes hilarious, characterizations. Anyone studying acting should keep their eye on David Niven, his silent reactions - whether exasperation at having to play audience to one of Poirot's frequent self-aggrandizing speeches, or delighting in seeing his friend taken down a peg - are more eloquent than most of the film's dialog.

As a fan of camp and bitchy dialog, I find every scene with Bette Davis and Maggie Smith to be pure gold. Their pairing is really inspired. Jack Warden is the master of comical bluster, George Kennedy cleaned up isn't half bad, and I like seeing Mia Farrow and Lois Chiles, who played best friends in 1974s The Great Gatsby, reunited and playing a sly tweak on that relationship. It helps that Farrow is much more compelling as a woman on the edge than she was as Gatsby's dream girl.
The radiant Olivia Hussey (last seen sliding around on bookcases in Lost Horizon) and the late Jon Finch. Finch, looking thinner here than he did in Macbeth, was diagnosed with diabetes in 1974. 
Even after having read three Hercule Poirot novels, my mental image of the detective is not so defined as to find any fault with Ustinov's portrayal. Although I personally prefer Finney, Ustinov's more sensitive take on the detective (he has a marvelously heartbreaking exchange with Farrow near the end) is quite good.
Although I read somewhere that the actress feels she went a little over the top in the theatricality of her performance, I absolutely adore Angela Lansbury in this. Light years away from Murder She Wrote's Jessica Fletcher, or her Miss Marple in 1980's lamentable The Mirror Crack'd (but with a hint of Sweeney Todd's Mrs. Lovett) Lansbury's tipsy romance novelist:  "Snow on the Sphinx's Face", "Passion Under the Persimmon Tree" - is the comic highlight of the film for me.

THE STUFF OF FANTASY
Death on the Nile's only Oscar win is also its only Academy nod. Anthony Powell won Best Costume Design for his eye-popping period creations; costumes which indelibly establish the identities of each member of the sizable cast with style, wit, and considerable theatrical panache. Although I'm surprised to learn his astonishing designs for Evil Under the Sun failed to get a nomination, as a six-time nominee and three-time winner (Travels With My Aunt, Tess, Death on the Nile), I don't suppose Powell is losing any sleep over it.

THE STUFF OF DREAMS
I get too much of a kick out of the surprise and suspense of movie whodunits to ever wish I’d read Agatha Christie earlier, but I must say that reading Death on the Nile after the fact had the pleasant effect of filling in some of the narrative blanks and backstory impossible to include in a film.
What I liked so much about the film version of Murder on the Orient Express is that in addition to a crackling murder mystery, it offered by way of subtext a poignant illustration of the manner in which a single act of violence can have a rippling effect resulting in the harm done to one ultimately wounding a great many others. The film version of Death on the Nile I’ve always felt suffered from being too much of a tale told expediently. It’s a great mystery with interesting characters and many surprises, but I never felt it had anything larger to express. Certainly nothing to justify that aforementioned choke in Poirot’s throat at the end of the film.
Poirot and Colonel Race call the attention of the ship's manager (I.S. Johar) to a matter not at all pleasant
Happily, the novel (which, short of a few excised characters, was faithfully adapted for the screen) expounds upon the larger thematic threads connecting the characters and their actions. Themes relating to the secrets kept, risks taken, and fatal sacrifices made in the name of protecting those we're afraid are incapable of taking care of themselves.
And while I feel fairly safe in stating that little to none of this actually factors in John Guillermin's film adaptation, keeping it in the back of my mind as I rewatched Death on the Nile did wonders for my reappraisal of it.


BONUS MATERIAL
Because so many fans of Death on the Nile feel so shortchanged by Simon MacCorkindale remaining fully-dressed throughout, by way of compensation I offer this screencap of Mr. Mac from the 1987 straight-to-video film: Shades of Love: Sincerely, Violet. A least that director knew (gay) man cannot live by Sphinx alone.
Simon Says: Eat your heart out

Copyright © Ken Anderson

35 comments:

  1. Great write up Ken. Once again, a favourite from my childhood when I voraciously read Christie. I really enjoyed this film back then for the likes of Ustinov, Niven, Bette Davis and Maggie Smith etc but of course as I got older I came to appreciate Louis Chiles, Olivia Hussey and Jane Birkin just as much ;)

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    1. hi Mark
      Whenever I write about Lois Chiles I actually think about you. You're the first person I ever knew who was young enough to have a (understandable) boyhood crush on her. She isn't a terrible actress, in fact, she's a good deal more effective onscreen than my personal fave, Raquel Welch; but when I hear her speak, always think of the days of studio contract players and how they would have thrown her into a voice class and had her speaking in that weird mid-Atlantic accent Texas-born Joan Crawford affected throughout her career.
      Also, it wasn't until many years later that I came to better appreciate Jane Birkin. And Olivia Hussey just looks beautiful in this.

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    1. Yeah, I was wondering the same thing... William Powell and Carole Lombard were long gone before DOTN was filmed.

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    2. David Niven starred as Godfrey in the 1957 remake.

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  3. Hello Ken, I'm thrilled that you have reviewed "Death on the Nile" as it is a favourite film of mine. I know you think "Murder on the Orient Express" is a much better film but I have to say that I prefer "Nile" as I enjoy the airier and sunnier setting, love the cast and think that they seem to have great fun with their characters - more than the otherwise elegant but austere "Orient". (I know we disagree on this.)

    Did you know that Cybill Shepherd turned down the Linett part? She didn't want to play a corpse! I'm divided as to who, Cybill or Lois (starlets with more beauty than talent), would have given the more wooden performance or looked best in 1930's clothing…

    I read in a book about Jane Birkin that the director had treated the cast (with ladies like Bette and Angela present) like cattle, often swearing at them like a sailor to get them to move to another part of the boat in order to set up a new shot.

    This film is so entertaining that I don't mind knowing who murdered who. I find the music to be superb. I even think that the elderly Bette Davis was beautiful in this film.

    Thank you for your excellent review, Ken! I did not know that all star casts were considered cheesy by the late seventies. Your explanation makes perfect sense, what with all the low quality disaster film that emerged. I also agree that Simon MacCorkindale wore far too much clothing in the film!

    Thanks, Wille

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    1. Hi Wille
      Yes, we do part company on what is our "favorite" Poirot, but both are really quite splendid, so its a draw.
      I did not know that Cybill Shepherd was offered the Linnet part, but if her performance in very similar "The Lady Vanishes" (1979) is any indication of what she would have given us, I'd take Lois Chiles any day. Shepherd is really quite trying in it.
      I love that you have all this info about the film...I don't think much of John Guillerman as a director...some people are actor directors, others are just good at managing huge crews and complicated shots. I can well imagine him being a cattle herding type.
      I like the look they devised for Bette Davis in this film. I think she looks spectacular, and it's the last film I liked her in until "The Whales of August."
      And lastly, Simon MacCorkindale is so handsome, and almost in a male starlet role. They really missed an opportunity there for a little beefcake.
      Thank you again, Wille, for contributing so much interesting "making of" info on this film. It seems to be well-thought-of by many.

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  4. Nice write-up on a film I can watch anytime it is on, and it usually is over holiday periods (here in the UK). Maggie and Bette are a delight here, and Angela is deliciously over the top. Its about the only film too where I like Mia Farrow and she looks great here, and yes Lois and Simon (gone far too young, like Nicholas Clay) are a perfectly dreamy couple. Ustinov, Niven and the others are marvellous too. Shame to see Jon Finch with little to do here, Olivia Hussey got cast in lots of these type of movie too, as did Jane Birkin. Its all as good as EVIL UNDER THE SUN !

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    1. Why thank you very much, Michael! It IS a very watchable film, isn't it?
      I have heard others say that this is one of film for folks who don't necessarily like Mia Farrow. She's not as fey as she can sometimes be, and she looks spectacular.
      And yes, in films like this there are always the good actors who are given little to do. Hussey and Finch for sure, but I'm glad Evil Under the Sun afforded Birkin a showier role.
      I love how Chiles and MacCorkindale look in the tango sequence...just perfection, and that amazing dress, of course. A miracle of engineering!

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  5. I love that still of David Niven and Peter Ustinov! Great caption, too! How did those "Old Hollywood" stars make it look so easy?

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    1. Ha! Too true. On award shows today, I look at some of the male stars lurching about like confused lumberjacks in tuxedos, and then you see someone like Niven wearing one and you go, "Oh, so THAT'S what it's supposed to look like!"

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  6. I adore this movie, though I do think it has its share of flaws (one being the reenactment of a crime over and over and over again. It reminds me of that reel of shots once put together by the producers of "Dallas" in which each star took his or her turn wielding the gun after having "shot" JR.) I echo an earlier comment that Bette looks so radiant and beautiful here. Her "greeting" from some of the local urchins along the riverbank is a comic highlight for me!! My favorite part of this post was the shot of three costumes, which I've never seen before. So elegant. I also echo the previous comment about the music. I absolutely adore the theme played during the credits. It's wonderful! Lastly, Ken, I couldn't agree more about Simon... show the man shirtless at least, people!!! Nicholas Clay gave "Evil Under the Sun" a staggering jolt of beefcake! A slice of it would have been welcome here.

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    1. Hi Poseidon
      Yes, I kind of know what you mean with the reenactments. In "Orient Express," the imagined reenactments were more stylized and eerie than the straightforward initial presentation, adding some visual variety. (That "Dallas" thing sounds amusing.)
      It's nice to hear that so many think Bette Davis was so well-served by the makeup and costume people in this film. She looks better than she has in a film in ages. (and I like that riverbank greeting, too!)
      I have to listen to pop in the DVD to get another listen to the soundtrack. In my mind it always reminded me of the opening music to "The Poseidon Adventure" - and if YOU Mr. Poseidon doesn't think so, it bears a re-listen!
      Lastly, it proves what a dullard of a director John Gullerman is not to have given gays and women a little male eye candy with MacCorkindale to balance out all that female loveliness on display for the straight men and lesbians.

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    2. Ah, but even if the music was like "The Poseidon Adventure," I'd love it! Ha! But I think it just has a terrific plodding characteristic, as if it's heading upstream, and there's a nice build in it. It sets an elegant, appropriate tone for the movie to follow. You referred in another response about Guillermin being more of a corraler than an actor's director... He directed "Skyjacked" and "The Towering Inferno" and even though I love them both, remarkable acting is not anything one dwells on long for either one! LOL (He also helmed the '76 "King Kong!") Perhaps he was very efficient, which the moneymen in H-Town appreciated. I meant to mention it in my first reply, but forgot: You burned through those Christie books really quickly!!!!!!!!!

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  7. Hi Ken! Echoing what Wille says above, we know how much you love Murder on the Orient Express, but in my opinion the Anthony Shaffer scripts (Death on the Nile and Evil Under the Sun) are so much cleverer and more entertaining than Orient Express, which is a bit lugubrious and a hair too "atmospheric" for my taste. (Sometimes director Sidney Lumet's films are masterpieces, and others, like Orient Express, fail miserably for me...) And I'll take the plummy Mr. Ustinov and all his scene-stealing business over the mannered Albert Finney any day...I am the movies to have fun!!

    I understand what you're saying about Miss Lois Chiles...true, she was no Eleanora Duse, but I always think her remarkable beauty and bitchy, aloof, cool persona enhance all the movies she's in...and she was in many! My favorites are her supporting roles as Redford's girl that got away in The Way We Were and as Genevieve Bujold's BFF and unfortunate victim in Coma.
    (But I do see what you mean about Chiles being SO ubiquitous for the whole decade...she certainly must have known how to "win friends and influence people..." LOL)

    I agree with yours and Poseidon's assessment that this would be a PERFECT movie for me if only we had one scene with MacCorkindale in the full or partial buff! I think all escapist films need a little male and female skin...just enough to add a little spice to the main course.

    I adore all the amazingly curated pics in your post as well...Anthony Powell's costumes are indeed lush, colorful and evocative...an important part of the storytelling....

    Thanks for the fun, Ken--you rock!

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    1. Hi Chris
      one of the more eye-opening thing in reading these comments is how well-liked this particular Poirot film is. Having only had my own thoughts to ruminate on for so long, it's quite refreshing to read about how cheering this film is for so many.
      I just hope no one chimes in about "Appointment With Death"...I almost couldn't make it through that one.
      Believe it or not, I only saw "The Way We Were" for the first time last year. Chiles is so stunning in it I'm surprised Streisand even let her on the set. Susan Blakley is also in that film, and whenever I see her, I always think that she and Chiles could have been up for the same roles...model types...just a producer preferring a blonde or a brunette.
      By the way, I'm also finding it amusing that so many of us guys online think that this film could have earned another star had MacCorkindale not remained so buttoned-up throughout. Just shows a lack of imagination on the director's part, I'd say (or Mr MacCork eschwing objectification), but after all, his part was that of a male desired to distraction by two women, we need to see what made Jackie jump the track!
      Thanks, Chris, I'm glad you enjoyed the post!

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  8. If I remember rightly (and my memory of reading those Rona Barrett's Hollywood magazine articles is rather fuzzy), Lois Chiles was dating Bob Evans during the mid-to-late seventies--Bob being on the rebound from losing Ali McGraw to Steve McQueen. One hates to be cynical (tee-hee), but that might help explain Lois's ubiquity in the all-star movies of the era.

    Coincidently, I just watched the David Souchet Death on the Nile last night, which, while in some aspects more faithful to the book than this adaptation, I found less true to the tone of the book than this movie. For example, the TV adaptation showed Jackie and Simon in bed together and Lynette snorting cocaine! I don't recall that in the Christie original! Also, I think Mia Farrow does a marvelous job of embodying Jackie's spirit--especially as she embraces that "bad star" that is her destiny.

    As for the cheesiness of those all-star casts, I go back time and again to a quote from the late, great Roger Ebert: "The main thing wrong with a movie that is ten years old is that it isn't thirty years old. After [it] stops being dated and starts being history, we can tell if the movie itself is timeless." And while I agree that The Towering Inferno will never knock Citizen Kane off its pedestal, there's definitely room for a reappraisal of some of those all-star extravaganzas.

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    1. Hi Deb
      Yay! Someone finally came out and said it!
      Chris hinted with his comment that Lois Chiles knew how to " "win friends and influence people," and I was tempted to bring up the Robert Evans angle, but since you did, I don't have to feel like the gossip monger I am at heart.
      You're right of course about your memory. In Robert Evans' memoirs he goes into great detail about how Chiles "comforted" him when Ali flew the coop for McQueen and how aggressively she campaigned for the part of Daisy in "Gatsby" and felt she had to settle for Jordan.

      Over the years I think she has earned a genuine fan base of folks who see her as an underappreciated talent, but I think the Evans factor is the answer to so many high profile films so early in her career.
      I've never seen the Souchet "Death on the Nile" but by your description it sounds likea film i should only attempt after agreeing to leave all comparisons to the book and film at the door. I tried watching the Souchet version of "Orient Express" recently, but it was an exercise in futility...I've got a mental block and couldn't stop making comparisons with my fave (which is no way to see a new film).

      And I think you are right on the button about the effect time has on films. I especially love the line "stops being dated and becomes history." So many revered "prestige" films of the past are almost unwatchable now, but for reasons of sentiment or not having been given a fair shake on original release, it's nice to know that reappraisal in in the cards for a lot of worthy films from the past.

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    2. Thank you Deb and Ken. That explains quite a lot. All those parts in big movies to the beautiful but chilly Chiles! After her Bond-Movie - nothing. The 80's weren't kind to her. Perhaps she and Evans had broken up by then.

      If Ali MacGraw had played her cards right she could have starred in a big screen Agatha Christie film!
      -Wille

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    3. Ali McGraw was also in the run to play Daisy in "The Great Gatsby"--a role that ultimately went to Mia Farrow. When the McGraw-Evans marriage went south, so did (in large part) Ali's career.

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  9. Hi Ken,

    While I like this film it's my least favorite of the three all star Christie's. Orient Express and Evil Under the Sun are about equal in my heart for varying reasons but I think the cast ensembles in those two are stronger than this. I like Finney and Ustinov about equally as Poirot as well, their portrayals are vastly different but both are secure in their interpretations. That speaks strongest for Ustinov since he wisely never tries to ape Finney in any way.

    Of course this has the fantastic team of Bette Davis and Maggie Smith zinging each other at every opportunity. I chuckled at your observation that Bette was channeling present day Maggie, so true! Then there's Angela Lansbury playing to the back row across the street from whatever theatre she's appearing in in her mind and quite delightfully but beyond them none of the other actors are as engaging as the other films.

    Lois Chiles is beautiful but I agree her line readings are hopeless, off and on through the years I've seen her to better advantage mostly later in her career. For instance she was quite good in her small newscaster role in Broadcast News, true some of the role suited her less than impassioned delivery but she had scenes outside the newsroom which she was more animated than usual.

    The costumes are eye-popping but I think Evil Under the Sun's Art Deco outfits are more dazzling. I'm likewise surprised they weren't nominated but the ones in Nile are certainly sharp. Love the tri-panel of them in your post.

    Finally I'm in agreement with the others who feel that the director didn't know his audience like Evil Under the Sun's Guy Hamilton did by having Nicolas Clay parade around in that speedo for a significant portion of the film. Not having former Manimal Simon MacCorkindale at least shirtless in the film was a serious directorial flaw.

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    1. Hi Joel
      "Then there's Angela Lansbury playing to the back row across the street from whatever theatre she's appearing in in her mind" ...what a great quote! She really is wonderfully over-the-top, and such a departure from her very low-key Marple in "The Mirror Crack'd".
      Yes, were i to rank the three Poirot film, this one would have to be at the bottom, but as I say, it does seem to appear to look better with time.
      I agree with you about "oomph" of the cast. Everyone here is very capable, but in the other two films, it feels like everybody is delivering a star turn. Here, the supporting cast is very obvious in the performances.
      I kind of forgot Chiles in "Broadcast News" and yes, by then she seemed to have a more relaxed screen presence. I also seem to have a good memory of her in "Creepshow."
      That Powell's costumes for "Evil Under the Sun" weren't nominated is slightly criminal. I'm too lazy right now to do the research, but maybe that was a tough year, but EVERYONE seems to think those costumes are pure silly genius.
      And thanks for logging in another thumbs up vote for the missed opportunity for Simon to give us fellows something to look at while Bette Davis eyed Lois Chiles' pearls.

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  10. Can I make a confession? I love reading the comments sometimes more than I do your posts! So dishy. Just like Rona Barret's old movie magazine I loved as a kid. Funny that DiscoDollyDeb mentions those too. Love this movie. It happens to be my favorite of the all-star Christie movies. The triumvirate of Davis-Smith-Lansbury makes it for me hard to dislodge DEATH ON THE NILE from the number one position. Farrow is exceptional in this too. Roddy McDowall (Bless his soul!) may have been in EVIL UNDER THE SUN but even my devotion for him can't send it to #1 among the Christie all-star glamour flicks. I never thought of the term "all-star" to be synonymous with cheesy. I was always craving these kinds of casts! Can't add anything else to the far more knowledgeable than I and very entertaining comments already posted. And I'll stop or I'll bore you with my usual teenage nostalgia about how all my friends loved these movies and all the old time actors we knew so well from our binging on "The Million Dollar Movie", "The 4:30 Movie" and all the rest of those East Coast movie programs running on TV during the 1970s.

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    1. Hi John
      I'm with you on how enjoyable, gossipy, personal, and well-informed everyone's comments are. One of the most consistent comments I hear about the blog is the pleasure of reading what readers have contributed.
      The comments are I think an invaluable part of every post, and I am pleased and flattered that those who comment always bring so much to the table. I learn new things and people share their personal relationship with films. Best of all, the posts allow everyone to have their differences of opinion and there is none of that usual internet bickering.
      It's very cool that this is actually your #1 favorite of the Poirot films! Equally fun to know is that classic movies and older movie stars were a part of you childhood and that you have nostalgic memories of the experience.

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  11. Hey Ken, Just watched "Death on the Nile" last night. Never sought it out because it got so-so reviews when released. But I thought it was a ton of fun!

    Right on about Bette and Maggie pre-channeling Downton Abbey dowager Maggie and Tilda Swinton in a tux!

    Angela Lansbury reminded me of Marie Dressler after a makeover as the vamping, mugging, drinking romance author...Liza Minnelli for the remake?

    Each of the ladies had a stunning moment in their Powell costumes. Lois Chiles, leaden as she was, is a stunner to watch. The silver gown while doing the tango, Chiles was pure gold, head to toe. Olivia Hussey, who had little to do really, looked lovely in her peach velvet gown. Davis looked very handsome in her lace numbers and Maggie looked dashing in her various suits!

    And yeah, Simon Mac shoulda showed a little more beefcake...but I didn't realize how attractive Jon Finch was, very striking, understated facial features.

    I'm no genius when it comes to whodunits, but I was surprised more than once, and entertained the whole time!

    Cheers,
    Rico

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    1. Hi Rick
      Like you, I was very entertained and surprised by this film. I'm glad that I only recently got around to reading Christie's mysteries, it was always so much fun entering into these films with no foreknowledge.

      The costumes really are the co-stars, and Lois Chiles' dress in that scene is quite breathtaking. Also, I think this is probably the prettiest I've seen Olivia Hussey, who is quite gorgeous anyway.

      I laughed at the Minnelli reference, because there are moments in Lansbury's performance that recall Liza on the Home Shopping Network.
      So glad you sought out this post to comment on after finally getting around to seeing this film. Always nice to hear from you, Rick!

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  12. Hi again Ken,
    I'm reminded of a hilarious part from an early episode of "Murder She Wrote" where Jessica Fletcher pretends to be over-the-top drunk to flush out the episode's killer. Did I mention the entire episode took place on a cruise ship? XD (There was also a later ep, "Death 'N Denial", which has a character named Sally Otterburn.) Also, since you mentioned it too, the opening to "The Mirror Crack'd" is pretty much shot-for-shot remade in MSW's pilot. Needless to say, they referenced Ange's prior filmography pretty often XP

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    1. Wow! I love when people notice stuff like that. That sort of incestuous borrowing of inspiration and ideas that rests on the belief that most people wont notice.
      My partner is a big "Murder She Wrote" fan, but I'm not sure I've ever seen a complete episode.
      I love the idea that certain ideas were "borrowed" from Lansbury's films, and very sharp of you to have caught them. You make me want to check those two episodes out!
      Thanks!

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  13. Angela Langsbury, merveilleuse...Simon MacCorkindale...un des plus beaux hommes au monde ! Et tout le casting, une merveille...

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  14. I have just had one gay story in my life, and the beloved guy was the Simon look alike^(as nic as Joe dalessandro) ...just with a bigger nose and bigger ears...Simon is the pinacle of a male beauty according to my standards...So, you can imagine than when it failed, I decided on the spot that any gay relationship was over... Simon...Quelle nostalgie de revoir cet homme merveilleux...

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  15. Bonjour!
    Si vous devez avoir une seule histoire gay , une histoire impliquant un sosie Simon est un très bon d'avoir ! C'est un grand souvenir . Merci beaucoup!

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  16. This was truly a delight to find & read! I've always loved this film & Lois Chiles, especially. I'm a published paper doll artist, and as a "pet" project am planning a set of paper dolls featuring the characters & stunning costumes from DOTN. Came across your blog while doing research, and I'm glad I did!

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    1. Hello pdgregg
      It's always heartening to read when someone just happening upon this blog finds enough of interest to warrant sticking around for a while. I thank you very much for your kind words!
      And a paper doll artist! How cool is that? I've often been flabbergasted at the craft and level of detail in contemporary paper doll design (especially film-related designs) so I hope perhaps when Your "Death on the Nile" project is completed, you might share a link with our readers here or allow me to post something in the Bonus Material section. Anthony Powell's costumes are one of the most fondly remembered aspects of this movie. Happy you stopped by and thanks for taking the time to comment!

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    2. Thanks for the kind words & warm welcome, Ken! When taking on a new paper doll project, (film & fashion are my main subjects), striving to achieve results that completely resemble the original is the main goal, and, these costumes, though intricate, are stunning. Of course, I will be happy to share any links or any other postings, once I've completed the set! Thanks, again!

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