I just saw the news that the legendary Diana Rigg has passed away aged 82. For me she was always a class act, whether working in theatre, television or film. A striking beauty with an unmistakable voice, she exuded intelligence and glamour in all she did. I will deeply miss her but remember her immense talent.
1980's, Agatha Christie, Colin Blakely, Denis Quilley, Diana Rigg, Emily Hone, Evil Under the Sun, Guy Hamilton, James Mason, Jane Birkin, Maggie Smith, Murder Mystery, Nicholas Clay, Peter Ustinov, Roddy McDowall, Sylvia Miles
Evil Under the Sun
- Peter Ustinov as Hercule Poirot
- Jane Birkin as Christine Redfern
- Nicholas Clay as Patrick Redfern
- Maggie Smith as Daphne Castle
- Roddy McDowall as Rex Brewster
- James Mason as Odell Gardener
- Sylvia Miles as Myra Gardener
- Denis Quilley as Kenneth Marshall
- Colin Blakely as Sir Horace Blatt
- Diana Rigg as Arlena Marshall
- Emily Hone as Linda Marshall
Based on the 1941 book by Agatha Christie, Evil Under the Sun may not be up there with Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile as a spectacular rendering of a classic murder mystery, but it does have its charms along the way thanks to a game cast.
The world-renowned Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot is contacted by one Sir Horace Blatt, an industrialist in need of his expertise. He concludes that a diamond in the man’s possession is in fact a fake, Blatt believes that his one time mistress Arlena has the real one that could be worth a huge fortune. Poirot agrees to look into the case and travels to an exclusive island resort in the Adriatic, owned by the acerbic Daphne Castle. Arlena is staying at the resort along with her new husband Kenneth and stepdaughter Linda, who she constantly belittles and berates. Also present is Patrick Redfern, a dashing young man with a roving eye, his meek and mousy wife Christine, bickering theatre managers Odell and Myra Gardener, gossip hound Rex Brewster and eventually Sir Horace Blatt himself. Arlena is a stage actress who has a habit of rubbing people up the wrong way with her bitchy behaviour and diva antics. Although married to Kenneth, she rather publicly begins an affair with the handsome Patrick. Everyone at the resort has some bone to pick with the obnoxious Arlena in one way or another. It is no surprise then to the very observant Poirot that the much hated diva eventually turns up strangled to death on one of the island’s beaches. With an array of suspects who by their own admissions had every reason to kill her, Poirot must deduce who the murderer is among them in order to solve the crime.
If Murder on the Orient Express was the classy and stately affair, and Death on the Nile was the exotic murder mystery, that makes Evil Under the Sun the lighter souffle of the bunch. Whereas the other two Poirot movies succeeded with intrigue, this one sadly falls a little flat in the thrilling mystery department. That isn’t to say it’s bad in any way, just not as memorable as the ones that came before it. Guy Hamilton has a decent go at directing this and the picture does benefit from a certain humorous edge, but after a while it becomes a bit repetitive. The island location is beautifully rendered and bathed in sun-kissed glory. The costume design is absolutely outrageous, with colours here, there and everywhere. The Cole Porter influenced score adds that dash of excitement, but other ventures in the musical department overdo the tropical setting.
What doesn’t falter in Evil Under the Sun is most of the talented cast assembled for it. Peter Ustinov, returning to the role, brings wise and eccentric charm to the part of Poirot. He is clearly having fun with the part, but brings an amount of gravity to it so it doesn’t slip into ridiculousness. Jane Birkin exudes scared vulnerability and weak-willed manners as the wronged wife Christine, who watches as her husband openly has an affair with the bitchy Arlena. Nicholas Clay is excellently virile as the muscled Adonis, most of the time seen in the most revealing pair of speedos known to man, whose dalliance with Arlena may have led to her death. Maggie Smith is an utter delight as the cynical hotel owner Daphne, whose sarcastic barbs and witty tongue make her a joy to watch. Roddy McDowall is a hoot as the gossip hungry journalist trying to unearth scandal, while James Mason and Sylvia Miles are wonderful as the constantly arguing couple. Denis Quilley, while slightly underused on occasion, is good enough as Arlena’s put-upon husband. Meanwhile, Colin Blakely injects garrulous humour to the part of Sir Horace Blatt. As the diva who eventually turns up dead, Diana Rigg has an utter blast portraying the glamorous but shallow and cutting bitch. Emily Hone is suitably angry and increasingly resentful as her stepdaughter.
So all in all, Evil Under the Sun isn’t the best adaptation of an Agatha Christie novel to hit the screen. But it has its positives that make it good entertainment for a matinee screening.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
Peter R. Hunt
- George Lazenby as James Bond
- Diana Rigg as Tracy di Vicenzo
- Telly Savalas as Blofeld
- Gabriele Ferzetti as Draco
- Ilse Steppat as Irma Bunt
- Bernard Lee as M
- Desmond Llewelyn as Q
- Lois Maxwell as Moneypenny
After Sean Connery began to grow tired of the role of 007, he left the series after You Only Live Twice and producers cast George Lazenby in the role. A male model with no training as an actor, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service would be his only venture as Bond. Initially sniffed at upon release, the film has grown over time and there is much to praise in it.
The movie begins with Bond in Portugal. He witnesses a young, beautiful woman walk into the sea in a suicide attempt. The young woman is Teresa ‘Tracy’ di Vicenzo, a countess. Before anything else can happen, Bond is ambushed and Tracy runs off. Entranced by her, Bond is later taken to Draco, the leader of a crime syndicate and Tracy’s father. The charming Draco thinks that Bond would be an ideal husband for his wayward daughter, yet Bond isn’t convinced at first. It turns out that Draco has information on the nefarious Blofeld because of his criminal connections. Agreeing to woo Tracy in exchange for the information, Bond actually begins to fall in love for the first time with this woman. Although M is reluctant to send Bond on the mission to discover what Blofeld’s next plan is, he lets him go eventually after Bond threatens to resign from service. Travelling to the Swiss Alps, Bond encounters Blofeld in a health spa designed to cure allergies of a group of gorgeous girls from around the globe. The cures are a front for his evil plan; he has brainwashed the unwitting women to sterilize the world’s food supply, thus bringing the world to its knees unless his request for amnesty is accepted. Battling to save the world, Bond is aided by the influential Draco and also Tracy, with whom he is now totally in love with. He must face off against Blofeld as well as his loyal henchwoman Irma Bunt if he is to thwart the mastermind’s scheme. Love, excitement, tragedy and thrills collide in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service to create a tense Bond adventure with a human heart.
Although many of the Bond movies are about excitement and thwarting evil plans in outrageous style, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service strips this formula back a little by having Bond fall in love. The script effortlessly twins the excitement and thrilling adventure with this underlying love story that makes this a Bond movie with a difference. Some people may not like that the film has a more serious tone than its predecessors, but I like the change in the formula and the shaking up of the conventions we expect from a Bond movie. Best known as the editor on many of the previous instalments, Peter R. Hunt capably directs the film and gives it a heart-stopping suspense that doesn’t let up but also gives us a chance to delve deeper into the heart of Bond. Many of his innovative editing techniques are present here, especially in the fight scenes. The stunning location of the Swiss Alps is breathtaking and makes for many effective scenes of Bond being menaced by the enemy pursuing him on skis. John Barry provides an evocative yet thrilling music score to underpin the romance between Bond and Tracy and the dangers they both face. The highlight of the music is Louis Armstrong’s “We Have All the Time in the World”, a stunning ballad of strings and powerful vocals that acts as the moving love song for the couple.
He may not be as effective as Sean Connery was in the role of 007, but George Lazenby has his moments and is definitely physically capable in the action scenes. Diana Rigg is wonderful as Tracy, the woman who finally captures Bond’s womanizing heart. Rigg makes Tracy such an interesting and multi-dimensional character; she can be bold and reckless, but vivacious and strong in equal measure. This is why Tracy ranks as one of my favourite Bond girls as you can see why Bond would be so entranced by her character. Telly Savalas makes for an interesting Blofeld, this time around he isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty and personally fight with Bond so he can resume his grand plan of worldwide devastation. Gabriele Ferzetti makes for a likable and charming ally in Draco, whilst Ilse Steppat is perfectly stern and unsmiling as Blofeld’s right hand helper in evil. Bernard Lee is still crusty as ever as M, and we do get a glimpse of his house in this movie and his exchange with 007 is filled with wit and banter. Q is marvellously played by Desmond Llewelyn and Moneypenny is her flirty usual self when it comes to Bond’s affairs.
Thrilling but also quite dramatic, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is an interesting addition to the franchise that isn’t afraid to shake things up a little.