Death On The Nile (1978)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 11/30/17
Cast: Peter Ustinov, David Niven, Lois Chiles, Jane Birkin, Mia Farrow, Bette Davis, Maggie Smith, George Kennedy, Simon MacCorkindale, Angela Lansbury, Olivia Hussey

Another Agatha Christie mystery in the vein of "Murder On The Orient Express" (1974), where expert detective Hercule Poirot (Peter Ustinov) just happens to be on a river cruise where a murder takes place, and everyone on the boat miraculously has a justifiable reason for doing it. There's the corrupt lawyer (George Kennedy), the jealous friend (Mia Farrow), the desperate maid (Jane Birkin), the shamed doctor, the scandalous author (Angela Lansbury) and her daughter (Olivia Hussey), the envious aristocrat (Bette Davis) and her servant (Maggie Smith), and the anarchist. How all of these people ended up on the same cruise is an even greater mystery than the murder itself.

Peter Ustinov's Poirot is a bit dry and uninteresting, and not nearly as entertaining as Albert Finney's earlier interpretation. Lois Chiles, Jane Birkin, and Olivia Hussey are stunningly gorgeous, although Ms. Chiles seems awkwardly out of time and place within the picture. It's a beautifully shot production with an elegant boat, a glamorous cast, and breathtaking Egyptian locales. The pacing is deliberately slow and the humor and ethnic stereotypes haven't aged particularly well, but the story is consistently engaging and entertaining. It's also surprisingly bloody, and Poirot spends more time eavesdropping on private conversations than he does with actual sleuthing. His behavior makes him come across as a bit of a stalker.