Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5
United Kingdom, 1982. EMI Films, Titan Productions, Mersham Productions Ltd.. Screenplay by Anthony Shaffer, based on the novel by Agatha Christie. Cinematography by Christopher Challis. Produced by John Brabourne, Richard Goodwin. Music by John Lanchbery. Production Design by Elliot Scott. Costume Design by Anthony Powell. Film Editing by Richard Marden.
Hercule Poirot follows his exciting adventure in the heat of the Egyptian sun with another whodunit set on sunny shores, this time traveling to the French Riviera and then the Adriatic Sea to uncover the mystery of a counterfeit jewel. The precious gem belonged to a self-made millionaire industrialist (Colin Blakely) who gave it to his mistress before she took off with another man, returning his gift with a phony rock in place of the real thing. The lady in question, a former showgirl turned social climber played by a deliciously abrasive Diana Rigg, is now vacationing on an exclusive island resort off the coast of Albania with her besotted millionaire husband (Denis Quilley) and miserable stepdaughter (Emily Hone), where Poirot (once again Peter Ustinov) follows her to look into the robbery. Not long after his arrival, Rigg is found strangled to death on the beach and the suspicion falls, as it always does, on a cast of characters who all possess motive to pull off the crime. Among them are a sun-shy wallflower played by Jane Birkin, whose robustly handsome husband Nicholas Clay has been shamelessly flirting with Rigg, a married couple (James Mason, Sylvia Miles) who need Rigg to appear in their next production and save their careers, a scandal-sheet writer (Roddy McDowall) who has written a racy book about Rigg that he needs her approval to publish, and the resort’s proprietor (a bright and bubbly Maggie Smith) who is also an old performing rival of the murder victim. Ustinov tries to enjoy the gorgeous views and sandy beaches as he weaves in and out of conversations with these increasingly guarded suspects, all of them decked out in an array of splashy, hilariously anachronistic fashions by three-time Oscar-winner Anthony Powell, before finally reaching the moment of truth in the final act where the culprit is revealed. This one doesn’t have the polish of Death On The Nile, the best of the four Poirot features made in this era, but the cast are a pleasure to behold doing such great work, and the setting is an indulgence for the senses.