Evil Under the Sun Reviews
Entertaining, but just passable Agatha Christie mystery with Peter Ustinov reprising his role as the Belgium sleuth Hercule Poirot.
Everyone is a suspect at the beach front resort when a stage star is strangled. Not bad, but a definite comedown from both "Murder on the Orient Express" and "Death on the Nile."
What time is it, Linda?
Five to Twelve.
Starring: Peter Ustinov, Diana Rigg, Jane Birkin, Maggie Smith, Roddy McDowall, and James Mason
Director: Guy Hamilton
When master detective Hercule Poirot (Ustinov) is hired by an insurance company to trace the path of a phony diamond, the assignment comes with an all-expense-paid trip to an exclusive resort island--just one of those hardships a detective must endure! Soon, however, Proirot finds himself in the midst of a murder myster that he must solve if he is protect his reputation: Famed actress Arlena Marshall (Rigg) is murdered right under his nose, and, while just about everyone on the island had a motive to kill her, everyone also has water-tight alibis.
"Evil Under the Sun" is another one of those great, all-star Agatha Christie mysteries from the 70s and 80s. I understand from a friend who's read the original book that this is a pretty loose adaptation, but she said that she felt the movie is actually superior to the book.
From Ustinov as Poirot, through McDowall as a effeminate theater critic, the cast gives excellent performances and everyone lives up to their star status, even those in fairly small parts, like James Mason. Diana Rigg and Maggie Smith were particuarly fun to watch, as they go through catty routines with one another. The film also takes full advantage of the gorgeous Mediterranean setting, offering some particularly beautiful shots as the characters move about the island. Another strong point is that the filmmakers actually paid attention to the time period in which the film is set; no 1970s-style hairdos and other silly slip-ups that were common in movies of this type.
One thing that is both a plus and a minus in "Evil Under the Sun" is the soundtrack music. It's all Cole Porter music that's been orchestrated for the film, and sometimes it works--the "Anything Goes" cue for when the hotel guests are frolicking, for example--but other times the orchestration is just too bombastic and intrusive to serve the film properly. At too many times--with a scene where James Mason's character is lurking in some bushes--the music calls attention to itself instead of supporting and enhancing what's unfolding in the film.
"Evil in the Sun" is a fine mystery movie--a great entry in the "cozy" genre--and it's made even better by the fact it plays fair with the audience. (I identified the killer even before all the evidence was presented, based on a scene the character shared with Proirot... and, to me, that makes for the best kind of mystery. I love being able to play along!)
In this case the setting is a small Mediterranean island which would be a spectacular backdrop except the film is kind of washed out, so it is merely nice-looking. Per the usual Christie buildup a group of mostly snobbish upper class types are brought together with interlocking motives, and all have sufficient motive to do the deed. In the meantime a bit of character development takes place and the plot moves on. Once the deed is done Hercule is commissioned to unravel the mystery, going about acquiring this factoid or that tidbit. In the end all are gathered to listen to his narrative on exactly how and whodunit.
It works that way exactly here except I could tell whodunit without Hercule pointing it out. I don't know if that's a screenwriter or Christie mistake, but it was there if you pay attention to who's preparing an alibi. Nonetheless I wasn't 100% sure and it remained fun to watch the brain of Hercule apply itself to the task.
This was good but another Christie book-into-movie, Death on the Nile, remains my favorite whodunit. It doesn't seem to matter that these are not exactly new releases since they're set in the 30's anyway.
The RT info for this flick comes up with other whodunits, including Who Framed Roger Rabbit?! Come to think of it, I never really categorized ...Roger Rabbit as a whodunit but it is!
There's a grainy trailer and making of on the DVD as well as a film bio for most of the actors. The film itself is nonamorphic and less grainy, still looking every bit its 20+ years. The DVD is about a 7.2/10 only because it did have a reasonably good making of for an older movie.
- 'Evil Under the Sun' is a 1982 murder mystery based on the famous novel by Agatha Christie. After the big success of 'Death on the Nile', Peter Ustinov makes his second appearance as Hercule Poirot, the Belgian detective, and we get to see reappearing cast members Jane Birkin (wife of French singer Serge Gainsbourg) and Maggie Smith (Harry Potter saga). Another brilliant, but nowadays very old fashion 'Whodunit' with an ingenious plot set at a marvelous island and a unexpected revelation in the end. Can you solve this case?
Trying to find how millionaire Horace Blatt ended up with a fake diamond, the famous Hercule Poirot (Ustinov) goes on investigation to an exclusive island resort. He is welcomed by Daphne Castle (Smith) who owns the hotel and gets introduced to the wealthy guests: glamorous and recently wed Hollywood actress Arlena Stuart Mashall along with her husband Kenneth and stepdaughter Linda, the quirky writer Rex Brewster and New York producers Odell and Myra Gardener. Seemly slight out of place are the handsome young Patrick Redfern and his mousy wife Christine (Birkin).
When Arlena is found dead on the beach, Poirot examines her body and concludes that she has been strangled by one of the people on the Island. While everyone had a good motive to get rid of the awful woman, nobody seems to have had the occasion to do it...
VERDICT: "High-Quality Stuff" - [Positive Reaction] This is a rating to a movie I view as very entertaining and well made, and definitely worth paying the full price at a theatre to see or own on DVD. It is not perfect, but it is definitely excellent. (Films that are rated 3.5 or 4 stars)