|year: 1978 cast: Peter Ustinov, Mia Farrow, David Niven, Lois Chiles rating: ****|
Director John Guillermin wields the right amount of finesse to show each character as not only possible suspects but folks you’d never trust in a contained setting. In this case a Ferry rolling down the Nile with a millionaire countess who’s just run off with her sister’s handsome boyfriend. Here’s a warning for anyone about to commit the perfect murder: make sure a world-renowned sleuth isn’t in your midst.
Peter Ustinov is Hercule Poirot, the German… or make that Belgium... mastermind who, unassuming in looks and mannerisms, always seems to know what’s going on: even though the characters, and the audience, remain in the dark.
Flashbacks to what the characters “could have” done during the murder establishes the passengers as worthy culprits. A miscast Mia Farrow, as the unglued sister, tries too hard while victim Lois Chiles and hubby Simon MacCorkindale fare better amongst the veteran actors including David Niven as Poirot’s right hand man, adding little to the proceedings but it’s nice having him and others including Bette Davis, George Kennedy, Jon Finch, Maggie Smith and Jack Warden around as the clues roll in.
The story doesn’t end once we know the truth: a good half hour after the guilty party’s revealed we learn even more from the brilliant, tubby, underestimated Agatha Christie icon.