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Friday, May 24, 2024

The Poirot Collection (Murder On The Orient Express / Death On The Nile / Evil Under The Sun) Blu-ray Review


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The Films



Agatha Christie’s murder mysteries were often based on stories torn straight from the headlines, and arguably the most famous of them all was Murder on the Orient Express, notably based on the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby. In the 1974 film, directed by Sydney Lumet, Christie’s famous Belgian sleuth, Hercule Poirot (a well-costumed Albert Finney putting on a terrible French accent), finds himself stuck aboard the Orient Express when a snowstorm forces the train to stop. He is then called upon to solve the murder of corrupt financier Ratchett (Richard Widmark), whom everyone aboard the locomotive has already concluded is also responsible for kidnapping the infant daughter of a famous aviatrix. The very particular Poirot must navigate the various passengers, putting his “little grey cells” to work to get to the truth of who perpetrated the crime. Included in the cast of actors are Sean Connery, Ingrid Bergman in an Oscar-winning performance, Lauren Bacall, Jacqueline Bisset, John Gielgud, Vanessa Redgrave, and Anthony Perkins. Sydney Lumet’s direction adds just the right amount of glamour and class with a bit of humor to keep things interesting in this claustrophobic train setting.


In Death on the Nile (1978), Peter Ustinov takes over in the role as the finicky sleuth Hercule Poirot and John Guillermin assumes directorial duties. Ustinov is perhaps a bit less immediately imposing in the role than his predecessor Albert Finney, but he has a pleasant demeanor and a much better accent. The story follows all the basic guidelines of any typical Agatha Christie mystery, and the film places a cast of well known actors in a glamorous setting in which the famous Poirot must step in to solve a murder. In this case the cast of colorful characters are very effectively by portrayed by Lois Chiles, Bette Davis, Mia Farrow, Olivia Hussey, George Kennedy, and Maggie Smith, among others. The story revolves around a luxurious cruise down the Nile with several wealthy passengers, among them the generally ill-regarded heiress and adulteress Linnet Ridgeway (Lois Chiles) who ends up murdered. Naturally, Poirot must step in to solve the case finding the murderer amongst the numerous potential suspects with strong motives. Death on the Nile did not find the same financial success at the box office as its predecessor Murder on the Orient Express, however as a film it is a successful run through Christie’s mystery, allowing for ample viewer involvement in trying to solve the crime while also offering up the usual lavish sets and costumes.


The final film in this set hails from 1982. Evil Under the Sun brings back Peter Ustinov as Poirot but shifts to Guy Hamilton as director, and he just doesn’t seem to be able to handle the task. The least successful of the three all-star Christie feature films, the story involves a gathering of who’s who’s at an exclusive exotic resort. The main attraction amongst the guests being not so well regarded (amongst the guests) star of the stage Arlena Marshall (Diana Rigg), who ends up being found dead by her lover. Poirot must now negotiate the various guests and determine who would want to kill Arlena. It’s an arduous task indeed, for it seems like everyone had a reason to really hate the star. The all-star suspects include Maggie Smith, Denis Quilley, Nicholas Clay and Roddy McDowall. As muddled as the writing may seem in this adaptation, it’s the wonderfully over-the-top performances by the cast that help to keep things quite interesting. Diana Rigg and Maggie Smith steal the movie with a musical cat fight during Rigg’s performance of “You’re the Top”. Meanwhile, the beautiful locales and marvelous filming provide more than enough eye candy to keep this from being a total disaster.

Video Quality



The three films in this Blu-ray set date all the way back to 1974 (Murder on the Orient Express) and the last of them is from 1982 (Evil Under the Sun), so these are by no means new films and cannot be expected to look pristine. With that being said, the AVC/MPEG-4 1080p encodements from StudioCanal do not reach the higher echelons of catalogue releases on Blu-ray, even when compared to films from earlier decades. Murder on the Orient Express by far looks the worst, with a bit of a washed out and thick-grained look. Evil Under the Sun looks the best of the three, but it also shows the most speckles of source damage throughout. Death on the Nile is a serviceable transfer, but it can tend to be rather soft in appearance, partly from the filming techniques and partly from the film softness due to age.

Audio Quality



Each film comes with an English LPCM 2.0 mono (48kHz/16-bit) soundtrack. As one might imagine, the sound gets incrementally better from each film to the next, but each one sounds rather good, with no clipping, a bit of low end, and a medium amount of dynamic range.

Supplemental Materials



It is so disappointing that these three classic Poirot mysteries have been gathered together without a single extra – not a featurette, not an audio commentary, not even a trailer.

The Definitive Word




These Poirot films will be fun for fans of murder mysteries and although they each hold their own charm, the real gem here is the first film in the set, Murder on the Orient Express. Despite all efforts, both subsequent films feel like they are trying too hard to recapture the magic of that original, with all actors playing their parts like they’re all in a battle to steal every scene.

Additional Screen Captures

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[amazon-product region=”uk” tracking_id=”bluraydefinit-21″]B00GML4USY[/amazon-product]


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