Plot: What’s it about?
Hercule Poirot (Peter Ustinov) has taken a relaxing cruise aboard a steamer, which cruises down the gorgeous Nile River at a slow pace. But his vacation won’t be as peaceful as he first thought, as he will once again be called on to solve a murder, but unless he does so before the ship lands, it could spell disaster for his case. A very wealthy heiress, Linnet Ridgeway (Lois Chiles) has been killed and while it might seem on the steamer that suspects would be lean, in truth it seems almost everyone had a reason to want her dead. Her maid was displeased because a promised dowry has been denied, Mrs. Van Schuyler (Bette Davis) wanted her jewelry enough to kill for it, writer Salome (Angela Lansbury) was being taken court by Ridgeway, and Salome’s daughter (Olivia Hussey) wanted to make sure her mother was taken care of in that issue. These are just a few of the many potential suspects aboard the S.S. Karnak. Can Poirot manage to weed out the guilty person before the ship docks, or will they be able to get away with murder?
I have spent a lot of time with the Agatha Christie based films released by Anchor Bay, so I was looking forward to spinning Death On The Nile, a personal favorite of mine. Of course, you could argue that it doesn’t live up to the book, but few of the Christie adaptations could and this one comes pretty close, in my opinion. The storyline is excellent and the cast is also terrific, but the lush visuals and Oscar winning costumes steal this one, at least in my eyes. In truth, I think the stunning visuals hide some of the film’s lesser points, but that doesn’t prevent me from loving this film in the end. The location work is amazing and what a view we’re given here, I could just sit back and soak the visuals in, that’s how beautiful this movie is. Add in a cast that includes Peter Ustinov, Jack Warden, Bette Davis, Mia Farrow, Maggie Smith, Angela Lansbury and other, and you know this will be an interesting character piece. I give this film a very recommendation and with a very nice disc here, a rental or purchase is more than justified.
The man in the middle of all his mystery is Peter Ustinov, in his first appearance as Christie’s genius detective, Hercule Poirot. I know a lot of people prefer Albert Finney in this role, but I have to admit that Ustinov brings a unique charm to the part, which adds a lot to the character. I do think Poirot is much different than the novelized version, but Ustinov is more than effective within the role, so no real complaints here. After Death On The Nile, he would resume the role of Poirot in several other feature films and television movies, so he must have had some handle on the part, right? I do think this is his best turn as the cunning sleuth however, so fans of the later works should certainly look into his performance here. Other films with Ustinov include Evil Under The Sun, Spartacus, Logan’s Run, Appointment With Death, Lorenzo’s Oil, and Stiff Upper Lips. The rest of the cast includes Jack Warden (Dirty Work, The Replacements), Jane Birkin (Kung Fu Master, The Last September), Lois Chiles (Curdled, Twister), Bette Davis (All About Eve, The Man Who Came To Dinner), George Kennedy (The Naked Gun, The Dirty Dozen), Angela Lansbury (The Lady Vanishes, Blue Hawaii), and Mia Farrow (Coming Soon, Supergirl).
Video: How does it look?
Death On The Nile is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Aside from some grain and slight print wear, this visual presentation is superb and does the flick justice. As I mentioned above, this is a beautiful film and thanks to this new transfer, the visuals can shine through and look better than ever. A dash of grain isn’t enough to stop this train from reaching the station, as colors look bold, flesh tones seem natural, and black levels are very well balanced. As I said, you can see some grain and the print is worn here and there, but on the whole, this is an above average visual transfer.
Audio: How does it sound?
I was pleased with the included mono track, but I did detect a little thinness with the dialogue at times. This was very infrequent and slight, not enough to knock the score, but I wanted to mention it in this review. In most instances, the vocals stream through in fine form and never look back, very crisp and consistent throughout. I love the musical score in Death On The Nile and while it isn’t as rich as I’d like, it comes through in decent enough form here. Given the limits of the mono format, I think this track is up to the task and delivers on the basics, which proves to be enough in this case.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc includes The Making of Death On The Nile, a behind the scenes featurette than runs a little over twenty minutes. I was impressed with the on the set footage shown here, but fans of interviews will be pleased also, as lots of folks speak about the film here. Not just the actors either in this case, as talent from all sides of production have been interviewed here, very cool indeed. In addition to that featurette, you can also view interviews with stars Peter Ustinov and Jane Birkin, but in a unique twist, the pieces are in Spanish. But whether translated or subtitled, the pieces offer ways to understand the vocals, even if you don’t speak Spanish. Also included are some talent files and the film’s theatrical trailer.