Mostly for Poirot completists and admirers of then-trendy, all-star ensemble casts from the 1970s and early '80s, Evil Under the Sun finds Peter Ustinov in his second outing as Agatha Christie's famous Belgian detective (t... more »hree years after 1978's Death on the Nile). As the title promises, the action this time takes place on an Adriatic island (though Christie fans will surely balk at the switch from the novel's setting on the English coast), where a famous stage star (Diana Rigg) is murdered, and the list of likely suspects is unusually high. The parade of legendary performers--Roddy McDowall, James Mason, Sylvia Miles, Maggie Smith, Jane Birkin--plus Ustinov's energetic performance keep things hopping. But Anthony Shaffer's lazy screenplay and director Guy Hamilton's superficial approach nudge everything (action, characters, tone) toward campy, near-parody, with bitchy sniping, tacky costumes, and an obligatory soundtrack of Cole Porter tunes. It's only in the last lap that the film transcends such obviousness and finds its way back to the glories of detective fiction. --Tom Keogh« less
Francis M. Hough Jr. | Charlotte, NC USA | 03/07/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"EVIL UNDER THE SUN contains perhaps the campiest dialogue and most over-the-top performances of the four sparkling, big budget adaptations of Agatha Christie mysteries (ORIENT EXPRESS, NILE, MIRROR, and this one) made by the same producers. Somehow, it all works better here with its exquisite locations, lyrical Cole Porter score, and knockout Anthony Powell costumes which are truly breathtaking.As always in a Christie mystery, no one seems able to have done the crime (despite everyone having a viable motive), and it's up to Hercule Poirot (Peter Ustinov who plays with the part more than ever in his broadest interpretation of the role in five tries - two films and three made-for-TV movies) to sort things out. He does so in a beautifully played denouement at the film's conclusion which makes everything clear.The new DVD release is to be treasured for its very saturated colors (the VHS tape seemed washed out and vaguely unfocused) and clear sound (though mono, it seemed wonderfully rich and full). It's a terrific addition to anyone's mystery library and remains my favorite of the Christie adaptations. (I would like to see MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPESS get a widescreen DVD release some day, however.)"
Off to summer camp
Michael M. Wilk | Howard Beach, NY | 08/02/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I am very grateful to my dear, multi-talented friend Sun for introducing me to this delightful, extremely campy film. Based on the Agatha Christie Hercule Poirot whodunit, it makes for an enjoyable 2 hours. "Evil" boasts a terrific cast, a witty script, lovely Majorca locations, a delightful Cole Porter score, and some of the funniest costumes seen on film. The suspense factor is practically nonexistent, but who cares? The story takes place at a resort isle in the Adriatic, run by ex-chorus girl Daphne Castle, played by Maggie Smith. One of the guests is Smith's old rival, Arlena Marshall, a bitchy, Gertrude Lawrenceish musical comedy stage star, played by the gorgeous, fabulous Diana Rigg (that's Dame Diana Rigg to you, nowadays). Arlena has made a lot of enemies, many of whom happen to be staying at the same resort. There's Odell and Myra Gardner, theatrical producers that Arlena left in the lurch when she left a show they had produced, due to "health" problems; Rex Brewster, a flamingly effeminate columnist whose biography of Arlena she will not allow him to publish; her stepdaughter Linda; Sir Horace Blatt, from whom she accepted a fabulous diamond and then jilted him; Daphne, who has carried a torch for Arlena's husband; and Christine Redfern, the plain-Jane wife of studly Patrick Redfern, with whom Arlena is having an affair. Arlena is found strangled to death on the beach, and it is up to Hercule Poirot to find out who the murderer is. The performances, as I said before, are a lot of fun. Roddy McDowell lets it ALL hang out, complete with Tallulah Bankhead voice, James Mason and Sylvia Miles are great as the bickering Gardners, Ms. Miles particularly hilarious as a shrill-voiced harpy (her voice could shatter glass). Maggie Smith, Peter Ustinov as Poirot, and Nicholas Clay and lovely Jane Birkin (so frumped-up in this film, you wouldn't know her), Colin Blakely, Denis Quilley, and Emily Hone as Arlena's stepdaughter round out this wonderful cast. The score, made up of well-known and not-so-well-known Cole Porter tunes, is a delight, and then there are the costumes! Anthony Powell, with a strong sense of camp, designed the outrageous, black, white, red, and navy blue costumes that are a homage to legendary MGM designer Adrian, known for his exaggerated silhouettes, oversized decorations, and stark contrasts. The direction, by Guy Hamilton, who also has the James Bond classic "Goldfinger" to his credit, is capable. The picture and sound quality on the DVD are great, the colors crisp and clean, the sound fine and clear. I highly recommend this film to anyone who has a good sense of "camp"-it's like being at a catty, 2-hour-long cocktail party!"
Murder is 'just one of those things'
C. J. Hormann | Wellington, New Zealand | 12/20/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Agatha Christie's murder mystery, 'Evil Under The Sun' is brought gloriously to life, in this movie from the early 80's. It features Peter Ustinov in his second showing as the legendary Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot along with a cast of actors who camp it up for all they are worth.The plot follows the classic Christie template (see Death on the Nile, Murder on the Orient Express) of a group of people gathered together, with one being particularly nasty and unlikeable and (surprise, surprise!!) is murdered, with all of the remaining characters having a motive for putting this person out of the way. While this movie doesn't move too far away from the template, it rewards the viewer with an intriguing yet fun couple of hours.The performances from all of the actors on board are excellent - yes they are over the top (especially Roddy McDowell's bitchy Rex Brewster and Sylvia Miles's droning Myra Gardener) but that makes them all the more endearing. Maggie Smith is obviously having loads of fun as the hotel proprieter, Daphne Castle, and her scenes with Ustinov have great energy. However Diana Rigg all but steals the film as the "ageing" actress, Arlena Marshall, a prize and completely ostentatious vamp. Ustinov is again on fine form as Poirot and relishes the chance to add his stamp to a character already memorably portrayed on screen by Albert Finney.This film offers a great opportunity to actors out of their normal milieu (the aforementioned Smith and Rigg, as well as the luminous Jane Birkin) and is almost worth watching for that alone. Added to that is a great soundtrack of Cole Porter numbers which indelibly places this movie in the 1930's. While it does deviate from the setting and characters of Christie's source novel, that doesn't detract it from being an superb addition to the canon of Christie films."
"critics" don't know CRAP!
JadeRain | Juneau, AK United States | 10/03/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The guy who wrote the "official" Amazon review once again proves that the "critics" don't know anything. What does he think he was trying to prove? That he can make a name for himself by bashing the top-notch actors and screenplay? Come on! We all know that the book is better 99% of the time!! That being said, this movie is a CLASSIC, pure and simple. The setting on the beautiful island of Majorica, Spain, is incredible! The villa/resort where the story takes place is magnificent, and the interplay of the actors is just great. Ustinov rules in his portrayal of the famed detective. I have watched and will watch this movie until I die, how do we delete the official bash, uh, I mean review of this film??"
Use those little grey cells
E. A Solinas | MD USA | 11/14/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"A mysterious murder, unbreakable alibis, and a stolen diamond... all wrapped up in a glitzy, mildly campy shell.
Yeah, you can't expect "Evil Under the Sun," with its barbed Mediterranean atmosphere, to resemble Agatha Christie's usual cozies. This relaxed murder mystery does succeed at being fun and genuinely befuddling, although the martini-swilling, sunny atmosphere make the entire gruesome murder feel rather too... relaxing. A murder shouldn't seem like a vacation... or should it?
An insurance goof and a stolen gem send Hercule Poirot (Peter Ustinov) to "Daphne's Place," a palace-turned-hotel in a small Mediterranean country. He arrives on the same boat as famed stage actress Arlena Marshall (Diana Rigg) and her new husband and stepdaughter. Arlena openly has an affair with boytoy Patrick (Nicholas Clay) -- and then she suddenly turns up, strangled on a remote beach.
There are suspects galore: her betrayed husband, resentful stepdaughter, an old rival who is attracted to Mr. Marshall, a pair of ugly American producers whom she's bankrupting, a flaming gossip writer who has written a steamy tell-all, and her boytoy's mousy wife. But no one had the opportunity -- everyone has an alibi. So Hercule Poirot exercises the "little gray cells," unravelling the clues of a discarded bottle, a midday shower, a cannon, and perfume in a cave.
Don't expect "Evil Under the Sun" to be any more faithful to its book than Arlena is to Marshall -- several aspects of the plot are rearranged or changed, and the sense of darkness is exchanged for a rhinestoned camp quality. And the plot unfolds at a leisurely pace, dropping in hints, clues and clever deceptions like so many plastic jewels on a beach.
In fact, the clothes say it all -- both Rigg and Maggie Smith wear faux jewels on silver lame, and American Myra resembles a Christmas tree with fur. Everyone swills martinis, sunbathes, and wanders across a lush little island to the hotel. Occasionally the impending murder and its aftereffects seem almost like an afterthought.
That said, "Evil Under the Sun's" campy quality is part of what makes it so much fun. Lots of catty, witty dialogue ("She always could throw her legs up in the air higher than the rest of us... and wider..."), sniping characters with plenty of motives, and a delightfully loathsome victim. You'll want Arlena dead by the time she tells her daughter to go play with the jellyfish, and then you'll want to know who could possibly have done the impossible.
Peter Ustinov has the right combination of smarts and comedy to play Poirot, the Belgian sleuth who saves the day and drives the hotel staff crazy. And while he succeeds in bringing Poirot's eccentricities to life (such as the "swimming" scene), he never takes it over the top to the point where Poirot becomes cartoonish.
The always-awesome Maggie Smith also turns in a wonderful performance as the razor-tongued "maitresse en titre turned hotelier," turning in some touching and funny moments among the sharp dialogue. And Rigg is wonderfully catty, nasty, glamorous and utterly uncaring of anyone else. The supporting cast also does a wonderful job, particularly the two who play the murderers -- and are the last ones you'd expect.
The one flaw is that all the humor, glitz and wit detract a little from the dark atmosphere one expects from a murder mystery. Instead, "Evil Under the Sun" is a campy comedy that happens to have a murder in it."