Almost everyone on the S.S.Karnak, cruising the Nile, has a reason to want heiress Linnet Ridgeway dead. Her jewels are coveted by elderly Mrs. van Schuyler, her maid is upset because Linnet won't give her a promised dowry, writer Salome Otterbourne is facing a libel suit brought by Linnet, Salome's daughter Rosalie wants to protect her mother, American Andrew Pennington has been embezzling from the Ridgeway family, and former friend Jacqueline de Bellefort is upset that Linnet stole her fiance, Simon, away from her. Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot must unravel the mystery when Linnet (and some of the others) turn up dead.
Peter Ustinov ... Hercule Poirot
Jane Birkin ... Louise Bourget
Lois Chiles ... Linnet Ridgeway Doyle
Bette Davis ... Marie Van Schuyler
Mia Farrow ... Jacqueline De Bellefort
Jon Finch ... James Ferguson
Olivia Hussey ... Rosalie Otterbourne
George Kennedy ... Andrew Pennington
Angela Lansbury ... Salome Otterbourne
Simon MacCorkindale ... Simon Doyle
David Niven ... Colonel Johnny Race
Maggie Smith ... Miss Bowers
Jack Warden ... Doctor Ludwig Bessner
Harry Andrews ... Barnstable
I.S. Johar ... Manager of The Karnak
Murder aboard a Nile steamer in the 1930s is deftly handled here thanks to a good script and some excellent performances.
There can be no question about it--if you're a mystery fan of the sort of crime novels Agatha Christie wrote during her prolific writing career--this is for you. The script fashioned from one of her best works gives a number of interesting actors roles they can chew the scenery with--and most of them do. I can't praise Angela Lansbury enough for her deft and daffy portrayal of a tipsy authoress--so good, she deserved at least an Oscar nomination. The only real flaw is the film's tendency to move at a rather slow pace before things get more intense.
Other acting kudos among the suspects aboard a Nile steamer belong to Bette Davis as an elderly dowager with a penchant for stealing jewelry; her servant, Maggie Smith, with whom she exchanges some priceless barbs; Simon MacCorkindale and Lois Chiles as lovers; Mia Farrow as a vengeful ex-sweetheart; and of course Peter Ustinov as Poirot. David Niven has the least colorful role and can do little with it as he endeavors to help Poirot solve the mystery. The plot has all the ingenious twists we come to expect of Christie and is a very clever one--if slightly improbable when you stop to think about it--depending heavily on luck and coincidence.
But it's all delivered as entertainment and wrapped up in a package designed to stir the senses with an excellent musical score, some fine scenery and Oscar-winning costumes. It's a relief that the writer decided to keep the period of the novel in the 1930s rather than update it as has been done with other Christie stories--notably, MURDER IS EASY ('82) which was updated to include computer technology as part of the plotline. The period flavor here is an added pleasure.
Flavorful, and highly amusing whenever Bette Davis and Maggie Smith have a go at some wisecracks, with an ending that will surprise you if you fail to catch some of the clues. Superior entertainment.
An heiress is murdered while honeymooning on a Nile cruise. Fortunately, the famous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot is holidaying on the same paddle steamer, and begins an investigation. However, it would seem that all of the other passengers on board have clear motives for committing the murder.
This was the second of Agatha Christie's novels featuring Hercule Poirot to be filmed, after the success of 'Murder On The Orient Express' a few years earlier. The great Peter Ustinov, who so recently passed away, took on the role this time, and injected it with his own droll humour. Indeed the whole film seems rather tongue in cheek, with the all star cast having fun with their roles. Bette Davis, Maggie Smith and Jack Warden all enjoyably ham it up, but Angela Lansbury manages to outdo them all with a delightfully over the top performance as the perpetually drunk author of erotic novels. David Niven, ever the archetypal British gent, proves a good foil as Poirot's partner in the investigation.
Where the film really scores is in the locations and photography. Egypt proves a stately backdrop to proceedings and veteran Cinematographer Jack Cardiff makes the most of it. The 1930's setting also gives an air of genteel opulence to the surroundings. While the film couldn't claim to be a classic tension filled mystery, it is a pleasant, laid back and enjoyable entertainment, that's clever enough to keep you guessing until the end.
The book, from which this film was adapted, is probably one of Agatha Christie's best. The plot centres on Linnet Doyle, a woman who stole her best friend's fiancé. The scorned Jackie pursues the couple wherever they go, and when she follows them onto a Nile cruise, it seems that Jackie is not the only one who has a motive for murder. Of course, the ever dependable Poirot is on hand to solve the incredibly cleverly planned crime.
This film contains some fantastic scenes set in the heart of Egypt, along with an all star cast. The most brilliant performance of all comes from Angela Lansbury, who plays Mrs. Otterbourne, a drunken old writer who apparently used Linnet in one of her overly erotic books and is consequently being taken to court where she may loose everything. Lansbury captures the humorous side but also the unfortunate aspect of the character and it is this immense acting ability that should have won her an Oscar.
The chemistry between the main characters is marvellous and at the end, when the final solution to the affair is presented, the audience is shocked when they learn who did it, appreciating fully the extent of Christie's genius. This is a fantastic film, which builds up tension fantastically, and is perhaps one of the greatest films ever made, and is always underrated.
* Filming had to be stopped every day at noon because temperatures reached 130 degrees F at that time.
* Aboard ship, no one was allowed his or her own dressing room, so Bette Davis, Maggie Smith, and Angela Lansbury all shared a room.
* The movie was shot aboard the paddle steamer 'Memnon' (in the movie named 'Karnak'), one of the few paddle steamers remaining on the Nile.
* Albert Finney was initially asked to reprise his role as Poirot from Murder on the Orient Express (1974). However, he had found the make-up he had to wear for the first movie very uncomfortable in the hot interior of the train, and on realizing that he would have to undergo the same experience, this time in temperatures exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit, he declined the role.
* Michael York was attached to this project at one stage.
* Cybill Shepherd turned down the role of Linnet Doyle
* David Niven as Colonel Johnny Race boards the Karnak wearing a straw boater hat with a Royal Green Jackets hatband, and later in the film wears a Royal Green Jackets necktie. The Royal Green Jackets (formed in 1966) were, at the time the film was made, the descendant regiment of Niven's wartime regiment the King's Royal Rifle Corps.