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Thursday, August 7, 2008

Death on the Nile (1978)


A Sinister Shipboard Slaying

Agatha Christie wrote "Death on the Nile" in 1937, one year after "Murder in Mesopotamia", and to all appearances "Death on the Nile" was intended as a prequel to "Murder in Mesopotamia", which itself was a prequel to the 1934 classic "Murder in the Orient Express". The three stories make up a satisfying trilogy of mysteries as Poirot tours the Near East finding murder everywhere he goes.

All three of the stories follow Christie's tried-and-true formula: She introduces the cast of suspects, gives each of them a dark secret and a motive to lie, and piles up the circumstances in such a way that the flying fickle finger of suspicion points to every one of them at some time or another. She compounds the confusion by supplying false leads and deliberatly glossing over hot clues. In each case Poirot holds his cards close to his vest, tantalizes the reader/listener with cryptic comments, and finds the most inconsequential-appearing facts to be highly significant. Eventually Poirot airs everyone's dirty laundry, explains his chain of deductive reasoning, reconstructs the crime in all its improbable complexity, and gets a confession.

Of the three stories, however, "Death on the Nile" presents the most feasible modus operandi for the murder, as well as the most likely motivation for murder. This is a roudabout way of saying that "Death on the Nile" is the most realistic of the three.

The Peter Ustinov movie stays faithful to the plot and gives the viewer some excellent scenes of Egyptian ruins along the Nile. The star-studded cast turns in good performances. Having first seen David Suchet as Poirot, I could not help but be somewhat disappointed with Peter Ustinov as Poirot. Of all the Poirot movies starring Ustinov, however, this is the best. By George R Dekle "Bob Dekle"

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