Evil Under the Sun

If you’ve already read my thoughts on Death on the Nile, you’ll know how I came by Evil Under the Sun. I bought them on DVD at the same time, in a bid to (re)capture seeing the former as a tiny child. The latter, however, I had no memory of seeing at the cinema or indeed on TV in all the years since, despite the same feeling familiar to me. Perhaps my grandmother had the novel and I saw it as a kid?

Anyway, I went into this one with a full sail. I’d really enjoyed the previous film, particularly Peter Ustinov’s rather quirky and quite fun portrayal of Poirot which is quite different to the longest and arguably most famous portrayal by David Suchet on the Agatha Christie’s Poirot television series.

I also noticed with a little surprise that other actors from the previous film – such as Maggie Smith and Jane Birkin – were backing up, albeit as completely different characters this time. I quite like that sort of thing. It makes it feel like the films are made by a company of actors, moving from project to project, rather than just a random cast. Indeed, it would have been fun to have had even more of the old cast in here but it just wasn’t to be. Instead, it’s a slightly less star-studded ensemble, but still features the likes of Diana Rigg and Roddy McDowall. Nicholas Clay – who might not come immediately to mind, but many will know if I happen to mention he was Lancelot in Excalibur – is also in here. Good stuff.

At first I felt a bit ‘at sea’ with Evil Under the Sun, and not just because of its glamorous Adriatic location. Basically the film introduces us to a bunch of “rich people” who mostly seem to be theatre and film types, and basically frenemies. They’re all pretty unlikeable and, for awhile, I couldn’t really sort out who was who, or who might be the one I could root for. This is all set to a pumping Cole Porter soundtrack to evoke the era, which I took to be sometime in the 1930s. After about half an hour I started to feel more comfortable with the cast, but couldn’t help thinking they weren’t as good – or perhaps the characters weren’t as interesting – as the ones I’d been watching cruise up the Nile the night before. Somehow they didn’t seem as well-defined as the characters in the previous film.

Curiously, however, while I didn’t think the characters were as good, I thought the mystery was a lot more open-ended and more interesting. Here we aren’t confined to the paddle steamer of Death on the Nile. With a wider space for characters to be running around, not to mention Agatha Christie giving all of them pretty solid alibi’s, including one character who at first doesn’t think he has one.

Again, like the previous review, I won’t say too much so that I can’t possibly be tipping you off as to ‘whodunnit’. I will simply reiterate that I think that was a more interesting murder case and one that had me intrigued as to both who and how. I wonder if there’ll be a modern remake of this one?

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