‘Death on the Nile’ (1978) (Film)


Please feel free to comment on my review.

Peter Ustinov as Hercule Poriot on the Nile

At the time of this review, I’m looking forward to seeing the new ‘Death on the Nile’ film by Kenneth Branagh. I’m curious about how it’ll compare to what I’ve seen in the 1978 ‘Death on the Nile’ film. 🙂

To be honest, I find ‘Death on the Nile’ a better story than ‘Murder on the Orient Express’. It’s a clearer story, especially in how the 1978 film does it. The editing and the direction are easy to follow.

Despite being produced by the same producers who did the 1974 film of ‘Murder on the Orient Express’, the 1978 ‘Death on the Nile’ film features a new actor playing Poriot. That is Peter Ustinov.

I’ve seen Peter Ustinov play King Herod in the ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ mini-series. I like Peter Ustinov’s portrayal of Hercule Poriot more than Albert Finney’s since he’s so well-balanced in his performance.

He’s not over-the-top and has a calmer approach to tackling a murder case compared to Albert Finney’s Poriot. I also like how Peter Ustinov’s Poriot observes and eavesdrops during a murder case.

The film also has the luxury of presenting what could’ve happened if a particular person committed the murder. This is described by Poriot with actual scenes featuring suspects committing the murder.

It also takes a while for Poriot to actually appear in the film as he’s there in Egypt when Simon and Linnet get married. When he does appear, he takes things in his stride before and after the murders.

The story of ‘Death on the Nile’ goes like this. A man named Simon Doyle who is engaged to Jackie de Bellefort ends up marrying her close friend Linnet Ridgeway. Understandably, Jackie is not happy.

But a honeymoon in Egypt and aboard a luxury Nile steamer turns into disaster once a mystery assassin kills newlywed Linnet. But it seems there’s more to this murder than Hercule Poriot realises.

It does take a while for the murder case to happen and that happens by the movie’s second half. But the first half does well setting up characters and establishing the motives before the murders occur.

Essentially, nobody really likes Linnet Ridgeway. Whether it’d be some grudge against her because of her wealth and such, everyone aboard the Nile steamer has a reason to want to kill Linnet Ridgeway.

Lois Chiles stars as Linnet Ridgeway Doyle whilst Simon MacCorkindale stars as Simon Doyle. There’s also Mia Farrow as Jacqueline ‘Jackie’ de Bellefort who stalks Linnet and Simon on their honeymoon.

Mia Farrow has also been in the 1984 ‘Supergirl’ film (which I’ve yet to see 😀 ). It’s tense when Jackie keeps on following Linnet and Simon. She even ends up shooting Simon on board the steamer.

There’s Jane Birkin as Louise Bourget, Linnet’s maidservant in the film. Sadly, Louise Bourget gets killed in the film since she found out something about who did the murder on her former mistress. 😮

The film also features Bette Davis as Marie Van Schuyler, an American socialite along with her nurse Maggie Smith as Miss Bowers. It was so surreal to see Maggie Smith in an early role in her career. 😀

There’s also Olivia Hussey as Rosalie Otterbourne with her mother Angela Lansbury as Salome Otterbourne. I’ve seen Olivia Hussey play Mary, Jesus’ mother in the ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ mini-series.

Angela Lansbury has done many things in film and TV including ‘Murder, She Wrote’. Sadly, Angela Lansbury’s romance novelist character Salome Otterbourne gets killed off once she knows too much.

There’s also Jon Finch as James Ferguson who ends up falling in love and getting engaged to Olivia Hussey’s Rosalie character. I liked their love story in the film since it was quite sweet between them.

George Kennedy stars as Andrew Pennington, Linnet’s trustee who tries to get her to sign a power of attorney document without reading it. George Kennedy later did Brick Bazooka in ‘Small Soldiers’. 😀

David Niven stars as Colonel Race, an old friend of Poriot’s who helps him to investigate the murder. I have seen David Niven in the Christmas film ‘The Bishop’s Wife’ and he did ‘The Prisoner of Zenda’.

Jack Warden stars as Dr. Bessner, an Austrian physician who could easily have a motive for killing Linnet when she threatened him. It was amusing that Bessner got uppity once Poriot suspected him.

I. S. Johar stars as Mr. Choudhury, who is in charge of the Nile steamer’s voyage in the film. Mr. Choudhury does come across as a comic relief character and might not be significant in the movie. 😀

It came as a surprise to me when watching the making-of documentary that the Nile steamer was filmed as a built set. I thought they actually made the movie on a real ship as opposed to a built one.

To be fair, they have scenes filmed in Egypt itself, especially with the Great Pyramids, the Sphinx and the temples at Abu Simbel and Karnak. And at least they present scenes of that steamer on the Nile.

The 1978 ‘Death on the Nile’ film is definitely a better film than the 1974 ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ film. I enjoyed every minute of 1978’s ‘Death on the Nile’. Peter Ustinov’s Poriot is brilliant.

The DVD special features are as follows. There’s a making-of documentary and a theatrical trailer for the film.

‘Death on the Nile’ (1978) rating – 8/10

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