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FOURTH CHRISTIE MYSTERY: EVIL UNDER THE SUN

Part of the Opening Credit Paintings YEAR: 1982
We'll take on the Agatha Christie cinematic four-pack in reverse, which began in 1974 and ended in 1982 (at least on the big screen), and the films are MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS, DEATH ON THE NILE, THE MIRROR CRACK'D and starting out with the last and, going back in time when, as a kid of around twelve or thirteen, standing outside a the local double feature theater, seeing the poster for EVIL UNDER THE SUN was an eye-opener. Half-remembering an image of a (not knowing actor names) stout man standing partially in the water with a wine glass in his hand. It was sunny and tropical and this was the first time witnessing an unlikely leading man compared to an Eastwood or Stallone and, well, years have past and while a forty-something's memory often ends up serving nothing but time, and that poster cannot be found online and perhaps never existed, Agatha Christie's French (Belgium, actually) sleuth is a personal favorite, with a spark of the accidental clumsiness of Peter Falk's COLUMBO and always around when a murder takes place...

Diana Rigg's character probably fearing Emily Hone will soon surpass her
EVIL UNDER THE SUN is the third case with Hercule Poirot, and by far the best, second to Peter Ustinov's first time in the more adventurous and less contained DEATH ON THE NILE... and he was a replacement that really worked...

While Albert Finney is one of the all-time great actors, in MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS he seems to be doing an imitation of an imitation with a performance hindered by a cake of makeup and a phony (looking, anyway) mustache. Peter Ustinov is the best theatrical Perot because he doesn't seem to be acting at all. His quirkiness fits like a glove, and he's intense and affably endearing: Set in an island paradise, EVIL is a sort of Busman's Holiday for the Frenchman, and the actors surrounding are a perfectly odd lot including Maggie Smith, Roddy McDowell, Sylvia Miles, slowburn and meticulous teenage newcomer Emily Hone and the legendary James Mason. Like in NILE, there's a good looking younger couple, and the man, played by Nicholas Clay, is not only prettier than his girlfriend, but Diana Rigg, as the pivotal Arlena — a stage actress who may or may not agree to star in a production, is... well... it's very tricky writing a review of a Mystery film since just about anything can be a spoiler...

A patriotic cannon blasts daily at high noon SCORE: ****
What sets EVIL UNDER THE SUN apart from its two predecessors is the tight, lean script wherein the characters are never stagy thanks to the gorgeous backdrop that's anything but in the background — to use a cliche term when describing geography, the surrounding is "like a character in itself," especially shots from the hotel down into the sunlit grounds leading out into the blue-green ocean. Other visual highlights include a patriotic cannon firing a loud shot at 12 noon daily, not only bringing together the eclectic band of possible suspects, each with an ironclad alibi, but it allows the unlikeliest of heroes a platform to splendidly happen-upon everything that "James Bond director" Guy Hamilton places within eyeshot and earshot for both Poirot and his audience. Making a second viewing not only recommended, but completely necessary.
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