Saturday, January 02, 2021

Tonight's Movie: Evil Under the Sun (1982) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

EVIL UNDER THE SUN (1982) is one of a trio of Agatha Christie films now available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber.

The other Christie films which have received Blu-ray releases are DEATH ON THE NILE (1978) and THE MIRROR CRACK'D (1980).  I reviewed DEATH ON THE NILE a few weeks ago and will be reviewing THE MIRROR CRACK'D at a future date.

In EVIL UNDER THE SUN Peter Ustinov reprises his DEATH ON THE NILE role as detective Hercule Poirot.  

Poirot is investigating the case of a millionaire, Sir Horace Blatt (Colin Blakely), who tried to insure a fake gem.  It had been a gift  from Blatt to his fiancee, actress Arlena Stuart (Diana Rigg).  She jilted him to marry Kenneth Marshall (Dennis Quilley) and initially refused to return the jewelry, but ultimately did so -- only for Blatt to learn from the insurance company that it was phony.

In order to get to the bottom of the matter, Poirot decides to head for an island resort Arlena is visiting with her new husband and stepdaughter (Emily Hone).  Also on hand are the Gardeners (James Mason and Sylvia Miles), Broadway producers Arlena had left in the lurch; Arlena's lover Patrick (Nicholas Clay) and his shy wife Christine (Jane Birkin); Rex (Roddy McDowall), whose plans for a book on Arlena have been thwarted; and Daphne (Maggie Smith), who owns the resort.

In short order, a murder victim turns up on the beach, and it's up to Poirot to solve the crime.

Like DEATH ON THE NILE, I found EVIL UNDER THE SUN a pleasant watch, with some interesting actors and lovely scenery filmed in Spain.  I think I actually preferred it to DEATH ON THE NILE due to a lighter, less violent tone, though David Niven's presence as Poirot's friend was greatly missed.  

At 117 minutes EVIL UNDER THE SUN also benefits from being over 20 minutes shorter than DEATH ON THE NILE, which was an enjoyable film but didn't know when to quit.  Both films were written by Anthony Shaffer; perhaps he learned from the earlier film, as this one was better paced.

I do find there's a problem inherent to a story such as this, inasmuch as in order for multiple people to be reasonably considered as suspects, they must tend not to be very nice; watching a bunch of waspish people be unpleasant to one another can get to be a little tedious.  In addition, I have to say that the actresses playing Christine and Linda were not only unsympathetic, they were dull.

It did help that the murder solved by Poirot was pretty interesting -- though so complicated I'm not sure it was actually believable!

Maggie Smith comes off best among the cast as the flamboyant yet sympathetic resort owner, and the film's energy level rises each time she's on screen.  

It was nice to see faces like Rigg, McDowall, and Mason, but I think the film might have been better served with more star power in the other roles.  Having some more charismatic performers filling out the cast would have improved the film.

All told, like its predecessor DEATH ON THE NILE, EVIL UNDER THE SUN might not have been as scintillating as hoped, but I found it relaxing company for a couple of hours.  It's the kind of movie which is a pleasant time-passer on a lazy afternoon.

EVIL UNDER THE SUN was directed by Guy Hamilton and filmed by Christopher Challis.

A trailer is currently available at IMDb.

The Kino Lorber Blu-ray looks and sounds terrific.  The print is quite lovely.

Extras on the Kino Lorber Blu-ray include a commentary track by Howard S. Berger, Steve Mitchell, and Nathaniel Thompson; a "making of" featurette; radio spots; the trailer; and six additional trailers for other films available from Kino Lorber.  The case features reversible cover art.

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.


Blogger Jerry Entract said...

Hi Laura. Happy New Year (we hope)!
I enjoyed reading your review of this Christie adaptation, particularly because we viewed the 2017 version of "MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS" last night.

I don't want to re-state comments on an earlier post by me and others about the suitability of different actors to play Poirot, except to say that I read quite a lot of the novels years ago and before I had seen any film versions of the novels. I am afraid Mr. Branagh joins Messrs. Finney & Ustinov to go up against David Suchet's 'spot-on' characterisation.
As a thriller on a train (like you, a genre I really enjoy)the new film was very entertaining and well-made but I found it hard to accept this was Poirot much of the time. The ridiculous mustache certainly didn't help and to see Poirot chasing a suspect and wrestling with him - NO, not in a million years. Am I too fussy?

10:48 AM  
Blogger barrylane said...

Laura, other than David Suchet's performance as Poirot, I think there were only two motion pictures that worked perfectly well; And Then There Were None (1945) and Witness For the Presecution (1957). All the many others fall by the wayside. As in require an abundance of audience goodwill.

11:31 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Jerry,

Happy New Year!

What fun you were watching a Christie film on the same day. I liked ORIENT EXPRESS a lot but that impression was definitely aided by the fact I had no preconceptions of Poirot from either page or screen. Based on the praise by you and others for Suchet I will look forward to seeing those at some point! (And I definitely agree about Branagh's was way overdone and distracting.)

Curious to see what Branagh does with DEATH ON THE NILE when it comes out this fall, after a year's delay due to COVID.

Best wishes,

11:32 AM  
Blogger Jerry Entract said...

I agree with Barry's assessment above.

And if I may add one further thing (sorry!) Mrs. Christie's other main character in her novels was elderly spinster Jane Marple. There have been films but again British TV got it right with a wonderful series of Miss Marple films from the novels all starring Joan Hickson. Christie herself saw these and said this was a perfect characterisation. They are also highly recommended by yours truly!

2:29 PM  
Blogger barrylane said...

Jerry and I are completely onside, especially with Joan Hickson and Miss Marple.

2:42 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Love all this great info.

I really enjoy WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION and was fortunate to see it at a festival a couple of years ago. I have not yet seen AND THEN THERE WERE NONE but do have a copy.

I saw THE MIRROR CRACK'D on first release so am curious to return to it soon.

I still have a lot of Christie-related productions to watch for the first time, including the original film version of MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS.

Thanks to both of you, Jerry and Barrylane, for all the Christie feedback! Much appreciated.

Best wishes,

8:51 PM  

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