blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Death on the Nile (1978, John Guillermin)

I’d forgotten John Guillermin directed Death on the Nile. The opening credits, a static shot of the river, suggest a much different experience then the film delivers–between Guillermin directing, Jack Cardiff shooting it and Anthony Shaffer handling the adaptation. I suppose I should have remembered Shaffer also adapted Christie’s Evil Under the Sun to similar result.

Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned the wondrous Nino Rota score, which starts as the titles identify Guillermin as the director.

Unfortunately, Guillermin does very little with the direction here. I suppose he presents a fantastic travelogue of Egypt–how could he not with Cardiff photographing it–but, otherwise, the direction is little different than if he’d been shooting for television. In fact, Death on the Nile often reminded me (when inside) of a British television drama from the seventies.

But the point of these Poirot films isn’t necessarily the filmmaking or the writing, it’s the all star cast–it must be the cast, since relatively nothing happens for the first hour. And the cast is decent, but somewhat unspectacular, as the roles don’t give any actor much to do.

Mia Farrow is best, since her role gives her a lot of range, and Maggie Smith and Bette Davis are amusing as they bicker. But young lovers Jon Finch and Olivia Hussey? They’re genial, pointless additions.

Particularly–and sadly–useless is David Niven, who plays sidekick to Peter Ustinov’s tepid Poirot. Ustinov plays him here without flair, which is, like everything else, disappointing.

2 responses to “Death on the Nile (1978, John Guillermin)”

  1. Best thing about the film is Nino Rota’s great score. The film won an Oscar for its costumes, so I’m surprised that Rota wasn’t nominated. Anyhow, I like Sidney Lumet’s Orient Express a bit more. Lumet’s stylish direction (you are right about Guillermin’s work) is fantastic. And I love Albert Finney’s Poirot (it ubber-eccentric per the books).

  2. drush76

    This is my favorite Agatha Christie adaptation of all time. Ustinov was wonderful in the role. And I not only enjoyed his screen chemistry with David Niven, he was marvelous with Mia Farrow, as well.

    Lumet’s direction of “MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS” was stylish . . . perhaps a little too stylish at times. I think that Guillermin’s style was a little more sublte. And if I must be honest, I’m thankful for that.

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