Death on the Nile
- Peter Ustinov as Hercule Poirot
- Simon MacCorkindale as Simon Doyle
- Mia Farrow as Jacqueline De Bellefort
- Lois Chiles as Linnet Ridgeway Doyle
- Bette Davis as Mrs. Van Schuyler
- Maggie Smith as Miss Bowers
- Angela Lansbury as Salome Otterbourne
- David Niven as Colonel Johnny Race
- Jane Birkin as Louise Bourget
- Olivia Hussey as Rosalie Otterbourne
- George Kennedy as Andrew Pennington
- Jon Finch as James Ferguson
- Jack Warden as Dr. Bessner
Although it may not meet the lofty standards set by Murder on the Orient Express, Death on the Nile proves to be a star-studded and stunningly filmed mystery from the novel by Agatha Christie. Featuring Peter Ustinov in the first of his many outings as the eccentric Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot, Death on the Nile is not to be missed for Christie fans and murder mystery hounds alike.
The setting is the glamorous 30’s. Linnet Ridgeway is the spoilt heiress who has everything she could ask for. Her best friend Jacqueline on the other hand is broke and in need of money. Her fiancée Simon is proposed a job working at Linnet’s English estate, it is here that he immediately falls for the beautiful Linnet. We later learn that he broke of his engagement to Jacqueline and married Linnet. This has incurred the wrath of Jacqueline who has stalked the couple on their honeymoon. The newlyweds eventually take a cruise down the Nile, not realising that the wounded Jacqueline is onboard. Also onboard is the famed Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot, who is enjoying a vacation along with his good friend, Colonel Johnny Race. The rest of the people onboard the ship down the Nile are an eclectic bunch consisting of;Mrs Van Schuyler, a crusty old widow with a habit of stealing; her resentful nurse and companion Miss Bowers; Salome Otterbourne, a flamboyant writer of romantic novels; her unhappy but devoted daughter,Rosalie; Linnet’s melancholy lady in waiting, Louise; Linnet’s American lawyer Andrew Pennington, who is embezzling money from her; Jim Ferguson, a so-called citizen of the world who despises the rich and the odious Dr.Bessner.
Jacqueline’s persecution of the couple comes to a head one night in the saloon of the boat. She angrily confronts Simon and produces a pistol from her bag, before shooting Simon in the leg. This commotion is stopped when Simon is taken to Dr. Bessner for treatment and Jacqueline is given a short of morphine from Miss Bowers, in order to calm her manic state of mind. The next morning, Linnet is found dead in her cabin, her cause of death a gunshot wound to the head. It is then up to the intelligent Poirot to distinguish who out of the many guests would kill the heiress. It turns out that everyone on the boat either had a motive or grudge against her, but who actually went through with bumping her off? Prepare for a sumptuous and twisting web of secrets, deceit and revenge as the scrupulous Poirot tries to get to the heart of the increasingly difficult investigation.
The first thing that strikes you the most about Death on the Nile is the attention to detail. The authentic costumes deservedly won an Oscar and the set decoration is richly adorned to a high visual standard. The film also makes stunning use of many landmarks in Egypt, such as the temples of Abu Simbel and Karnak. The score is excellently composed, and captures the beauty of the Nile and then eventually the suspense and secrecy as Poirot attempts to find the murderer. Perhaps the biggest draw of the film is the cast, loaded with star power. As with most Christie adaptations, we have many eccentric characters, some more interesting than others in various cases. In his first performance as Poirot, Peter Ustinov combines eccentric mannerisms with a humour and intellect that make him a great interpretation of the iconic character. His scenes with David Niven, who is ideally cast as the archetypal British gentleman, have a fun edge to them but a serious understanding as they each work their way through the murky case in hand. Simon MacCorkindale makes an impression as the simple man whose relationships with two women seem to have caused fatal consequences. Mia Farrow embodies anger, jealousy and dejection as the vengeful Jacqueline, who won’t let go of the man she has always loved. In the small but pivotal part of the wealthy Linnet, the beautiful Lois Chiles creates a character who is both an arrogant, home-wrecking bitch and a persecuted woman. It is because of her actions that the whole story is set in motion and culminates in her death.
The great Bette Davis is a hoot as the scolding old widow, she is matched by Maggie Smith as her put upon nurse. The two actresses have a great energy in their scenes, bickering and exchanging bitchy lines with great zeal. There is also a delightfully eccentric performance from Angela Lansbury, as the scandal loving author who embarrasses herself a lot, especially in front of her daughter. In a brief part, Jane Birkin exudes a sad and tired quality as Linnet’s lady in waiting, who secretly wants a dowry in order for her to marry. As well as these stars, there are others but their roles are not fleshed out well enough to make them really interesting. Olivia Hussey works as best she can with her part, but isn’t given enough material to make her character memorable. George Kennedy and Jon Finch both suffer from the fact that their supposed motives for killing Linnet are not that convincing. And Jack Warden, who does have his funny moments, is most certainly underused. These are the only quibbles that I have with the film, as for the most part it is an exciting and gripping mystery with talent and locations surrounding it.
Although slightly slow in parts, Death on the Nile is still great fun as you try to work out who it was who killed Linnet. Mystery lovers this the film for you and for fans of starry casts, look no further than this excellent adaptation of Agatha Christie’s novel.
Also on another note, I’ve just realised this is my 100th post. I can’t beleive I have written this many.