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Monday 15 February 2021

Burl reviews Evil Under the Sun! (1982)


With a drawing room hello it’s Burl, here with a good old-fashioned murder mystery to tell you about today! Like The Mirror Crack’d it’s an Agatha Christie story, as was the fashion in the 70s and early 80s; until Cannon took a hand in killing the loosely-knit franchise, just as they strangled others aborning around the same time, Masters of the Universe or what have you! But unlike The Mirror Crack’d, today's picture, Evil Under the Sun has as its sleuth the Belgian moustache wax enthusiast Hercule Poirot, not old Miss Marple!

Of course Poirot is played by Peter Ustinov from Logan’s Run, who had embodied the Fussles from Brussels before in Death on the Nile, and would again in Cannon’s Appointment With Death! Here he appears in a Mediterranean spa, on a sort of a busman’s holiday it seems, and in the company of, by and large, highly objectionable people! Ha ha!  Colin Blakely from The Pink Panther Strikes Again is Sir Horace Blatt, who has entreated the Belgian flatfoot to help him recover a diamond!

The location is a sun-drenched hotel run by Maggie Smith, and other guests include Roddy McDowell from Fright Night and Doin’ Time on Planet Earth as a sailor-hatted gossipmonger; Jane Birkin from Beethoven’s Nephew and Nicholas Clay from Excalibur as a seemingly ill-matched couple; an odder couple still are Sylvia Miles from The Sentinel and James Mason from ‘Salem’s Lot, playing a pair of Broadway producers! A hail-fellow-well-met sort of a chappie is played by Denis Quilley from The Black Windmill, and he’s married to the inconstant, bitchy Arlena, well-enacted by Diana Rigg from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service!

Everyone but Poirot has a reason to hate Arlena, and the only surprise about her murder is that it takes so long to happen! But everything that occurs while we’re waiting around for her to fall victim to one or more or all of the other characters isn’t boring, though some of it is a bit repetitive! Ha ha, I have to admit that I was kept enthralled simply by the location - it’s very cold where I am right now, and a little Mediterranean sun goes a long way! (I think the island is supposed to be in the Adriatic, but they shot the picture much farther West, on Majorca!)

Of course we’re all just waiting for the moment when Poirot gathers all the characters in the siting room and explains in his usual self-celebratory terms how he solved the mystery, and we the audience get flashbacks to all the clues we missed! It’s done perfectly well here, though the whole sequence seems a bit mechanical - possibly from our over-familiarity with such detective-driven climaxes! But Usinov is good, as always, and this may be the place to mention that I actually got the chance to meet him once, and needless to say he was delightful!

The movie is directed by Guy Hamilton, who had just made The Mirror Crack’d, and would go on to Remo Williams after this! Ha ha, he’d also done several Bond pictures, of course - The Man With the Golden Gun, Live and Let Die, so forth; and he evidently loved the Majorca location so much that he retired there and, in 2016, died there! Most of the actors had appeared in murder mysteries before, Christie or otherwise: Ustinov, of course, but also Blakely and Quilley in Murder on the Orient Express, Mason in The Last of Sheila, Smith in Murder By Death, and Birkin in Death on the Nile!

So there was plenty of mystery experience on this set, and the result is a film of absolute competence, but little excitement! It’s never quite thrilling while it’s on, but it’s consistently exactly what you hope for when you choose this as the picture you want to watch! So that’s something, certainly - or at the very least, it’s not nothing! It gave me a nice break from the winter chill, and so I give Evil Under the Sun two disappearing eggs!

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