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Default Death on the Nile




Reviewer: Jeremy
Review Date: January 25, 2001

Released by: Anchor Bay Entertainment
Release date: 2/13/2001
MSRP: $24.98
Region 0, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: Yes



The Story

inline ImageJackie De Bellefort (Mia Farrow) and Linnet Ridgeway (Lois Chiles) are two old school friends in 1930's England. Jackie has just gotten engaged to Simon Doyle (Simon MacCorkindale), a penniless college graduate who is desperately in need of a job. Linnet, who has inherited a ton of money from her father, agrees to give Simon a job managing the family estate. Unfortunately for Jackie, he and Linnet end up falling in love, and he dumps Jackie to marry her.

inline ImageUnfortunately for the newlyweds, Jackie is a bit obsessive, and she begins stalking the couple, following them through country after country on their honeymoon. When they arrive in Egypt, she's waiting for them there as well. Linnet becomes desperate to get rid of her, and Simon comes up with a plan to throw her off the trail. The two board a carriage at their hotel and give the driver instructions to go to the train station. As expected, Jackie follows them, but they manage to outwit her and instead board the Karnak, a luxury steamer headed down the Nile.

inline ImageIt seems that they've lost Jackie - until, that is, the Karnak makes a tourist stop so that the passengers can explore some ancient ruins along the river bank, and Jackie shows up there as well! She boards the ship, and that night in the lounge she shows up and gets drunk. Linnet goes to bed, but Simon stays. Jackie and him get into a confrontation, and she becomes so upset that she pulls out a pistol and shoots him in the leg. Jackie is taken to her cabin and given a sedative, and Simon is treated for the wound. However, the gun that Jackie used, which she dropped on the floor, seems to have disappeared. The next morning, everyone gets a major shock - Linnet is dead, shot in the head with Jackie's pistol! Fortunately, one of the steamer's passengers in none other than world-famous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot (Peter Ustinov), who, along with his friend Colonel Race (David Niven), set about trying to solve the mystery.

inline ImageAlthough Jackie is an obvious suspect, Poirot quickly determines that the girl couldn't have done it, because she was under the effects the sedative when it happened. So who did it? There's no shortage of suspects with potential motives - there's Andrew Pennington (George Kennedy), Linnet's uncle and lawyer, who's been suspected of embezzling money from her estate, and tried to get her to sign a legal document covering everything up. There's romance novelist Salome Otterbourne (Angela Lansbury) and her daughter Rosalie (Olivia Hussey), who were involved in a lawsuit with Linnet. There's Linnet's maid Louise (Jane Birkin), who was upset because she wouldn't give her a dowry. There's Dr. Ludwig Bessner (Jack Ward), who was upset because Linnet tried to get his clinic shut down after one of his experimental treatments drove a friend of hers insane. There's Jim Ferguson (Jon Finch), a devoted Marxist who described Linnet as a "parasite on the skin of society", and there's Mrs. Van Schuyler (Bette Davis), who was obsessed with Linnet's priceless string of pearls, and her maid Ms. Bowers (Maggie Smith), who has always had a grudge against Linnet because her father's business practices brought her family to ruin.

inline ImageBased on Agatha Christie's novel of the same name, Death on the Nile nearly outdoes its predecessor, Murder of the Orient Express (which had the same producer and screenwriter) for star quality. With Peter Ustinov, Angela Lansbury, Mia Farrow, Bette Davis and other notables all making up the eccentric passengers of the Karnak, you can guarantee there's never going to be a dull moment. As Inspector Poirot, Ustinov in particular steals the show, and he and veteran British actor David Niven make a fine Holmes/Watson team. But the best performance is Angela Lansbury's as the perpetually-intoxicated novelist Salome Otterbourne, who's always making clumsy passes at Poirot and complaining about how her writing gets no respect.

The movie does it's job as a "whodunnit" admirably - with it's numerous suspects, red herrings and plot twists, it's unlikely you'll be able guess who the killer is (unless you've read the book, of course). In fact, the script does it's job too well - there are so many suspects to consider that the movie starts to seem a bit contrived. Somehow, I think the probability of ending up on a confined ship in a Third World country, surrounded by nearly a dozen people, all with a genuine motive to want to kill you, is a bit low. Nonetheless, you'll probably be so absorbed in trying to figure out the mystery that you won't notice that until the movie is over.

Although it's not the greatest mystery ever filmed, Death on the Nile is a very rewarding one, and I'd easily recommend it to all Agatha Christie fans and film buffs. You owe it to yourself to give this one a look.

Image Quality

inline Image Anchor Bay has given Death on the Nile a stellar presentation, letterboxed at 1.85:1 and enhanced for 16x9 TVs. The print used was practically flawless, with strong colors and a great level of detail. The only problem is some light grain and haze that appear during the some of the outdoor scenes on the ship, but these are probably the result of the way the movie was filmed. Overall an exceptionally pleasing transfer.

Sound

Presented in Dolby 2.0 Mono, the soundtrack is very good. Dialogue is crystal clear, and the music is as full-bodied as you could expect from a Mono track. There is no background noise of any kind. No subtitles or alternate audio tracks are provided.

Supplemental Material

inline Image First off, there's a "making-of" featurette, which includes behind-the-scenes footage, and on-set interviews with Peter Ustinov, Donald Niven, producer John Brabourn and other members of the cast and crew. Although it's listed as running 53 minutes, it's actually a significantly leaner 23 minutes. I guess nobody caught the typo.

Also included are two interviews, one with Peter Ustinov and the other with Jane Birkin. The Ustinov interview is in Spanish with optional English subtitles, and Birkin's is in English/Spanish with no subtitles. Rounding it all off, there's a trailer and talent bios for most of the cast.

Final Thoughts

A good movie, great audio/video quality and some interesting supplements. Death on the Nile is definitely a movie you'll want to be seeing, and for fans of this movie the DVD is a must-have.

Rating

Movie B+
Image Quality - A-
Sound B+
Supplements B

Technical Info.
  • Running Time - 2 hours 20 minutes
  • Color
  • Rated PG
  • 1 Disc
  • 28 Chapter Stops
  • Dolby Digital Mono 2.0
Supplements
  • Making-of featurette
  • Interview with Peter Ustinov
  • Interview with Jane Birkin
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Talent bios

 

 

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