Everywhere…there is Evil Under the Sun… (part of the Beach Party Blogathon)

Hey all! Today I’m participating in the Beach Party Blogathon, hosted by Speakeasy and Silver Screenings. Kowabunga! Here’s my entry…a little gem that is completely underrated.

You know those art deco travel posters that are all the rage? The ones advertising trips to Juan les Pins or Biarritz featuring stylized, tanned 1930s rick folk in belted maillots and swim caps? Imagine one of those come to life. That is Evil Under the Sun.

From its lovely watercolor sketch titles to its breezy Cole Porter soundtrack and its exotic Mallorca locales (standing in for an island off Albania somewhere), this movie has always ranked among my favorites.

Title

Not singing to you yet? Then throw in who I consider to be the best Hercule Poirot of all time– Peter Ustinov, who reprised him in several films in the late 1970s and early 1980s, including Appointment with Death, Death on the Nile, and Thirteen at Dinner. I found Albert Finney monumentally stiff and boring in Murder on the Orient Express, and I never warmed to Suchet. I know– the British TV purists will tut-tut at me, but it’s true. To me, Ustinov really wears those little grey cells. He comes across as a cuddly teddy bear of a man innately proud of his abilities, but also supremely amused at not only others’ foibles, but also his own. When the agent at the London Trojan Insurance Company laments having to pay out, Poirot tells him this is one of those times he must “laugh and lump eet.” Then chuckles at his own humor.

If that’s not enough to bring you onboard, imagine (for you youngins) a cage match between Lady Olenna Tyrell of Game of Thrones (Diana Rigg) and Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham from Downtown Abbey (Maggie Smith). Yep, you heard me. Intriguing you a bit now?

If you know your Christie, you know the plot will be convoluted and inexplicable, and it doesn’t disappoint here. The movie locale has been transferred from the book’s original island off the coast of Wales, but the snappy dialogue and costumes carry you along on a wave of 1930s bliss. It’s the perfect beach movie (with a little mean-spiritedness thrown in for good measure).

The story begins when the insurance company asks Poirot to speak to Sir Horace Blatt, a millionaire industrialist who has recently tried to insure a diamond with them that is a cheap knock-off. Since Sir Horace is not in London, Poirot must travel to the South of France to visit Sir Horace on his yacht, the Jolly Roger.

Sir Horace explains that he recently met a showgirl whom he bought the diamond for, but she’s evidently had the diamond copied. He wants to confront the woman, Arlena Marshall, and he knows that she’ll be at “Daphne’s Place,” a fancy inn on an island paradise for society folk. Daphne herself is the former mistress of the King of Tirrhenia, who bought her the inn to keep her quiet when he married the Queen. However, since Poirot cannot handle boats (le mal de mer, unfortunately), he must take the train, and says he’ll meet Sir Horace there. But Sir Horace is delayed sue to his “piffle valve.”

When the guests arrive, Poirot doesn’t endear himself to Daphne, what with his unusual demands for “a good valet, a tisane de Montpoivret at 8:00 every morning, and beeswax for his shoes. That’s all.” Oh, and don’t forget his requests for creme de cassis or sirop de banane instead of the Sidecars and Between the Sheets cocktails she favors.

His hilarious “swim” involves him walking shin-deep in the cove, waving his arms in a swim-like motion, but barely getting wet.

PoirotSwim PoirotSwim2

“Great day for a swim, Poirot!”

“You saw me?”

Of course, with a name like Evil Under the Sun, someone has to die. This time, it is Arlena. She’s  a bitchy, gold-digging chorus girl who has recently given up the boards for marriage and stepmother-hood. She is found strangled on the beach in one of the island’s cove. And coincidentally enough, as it goes with Dame Agatha, everyone on the island had a reason to do her in.

This time, the suspects include:

Sir Horace (Colin Blakely) – Thrown over for Kenneth Marshall, and now made to look like a fool since Arlena kept the real diamond and gave him a forgery. He’s plenty mad.

Rex Brewster (Roddy MacDowell) – Fey theatre maven and worshiper of Arlena, who dug a little too deep for his recent biography, and can’t get it published because she doesn’t like what it reveals (her real birthdate, and how she got her role in Flames of Eternity). Oh, and he’s already spent the advance.

Kenneth Marshall (Denis Quilley) – Arlena’s new husband, who discovers she not only hasn’t given up her single-girl lifestyle, but booked her lover into the inn.

Patrick Redfern (Nicholas Clay) – A married, but extremely attractive lothario who romances Arlena, but leaves his wife mopey and miserable.

Christine Redfern (Jane Birkin) – A bit of an unmade bed in the looks department, and a bundle of neuroses as well (she has vertigo, skin that burns easily, and loves pity parties).

O’Dell and Myra Gardner (James Mason and Sylvia Miles) – Husband and wife Broadway producers who sank a mint into their last show, Hail and Farewell, starring Arlena, only to have her quit and leave them holding the bag.

Linda Marshall (Emily Hone) – Arlen’a stepdaughter. At about fourteen or so, she’s at the age when any cruel word can do extra damage to a psyche, and Arlena provides a battery of them.

Daphne Castle (Maggie Smith) – The proprietress of the inn. She and Arlena performed together years ago, and their dislike for each other is palpable. Besides, Daphne’s sweet on Kenneth (and he likes her too).

Poirot has to put two and two together as usual, this time taking into account the following clues: a watch, a bathing cap, a mid-day bath, a bottle of suntan oil, and the noonday gun (fired every day at noon to commemorate the victory of the Tirrhenian Army against an opposing force of Bosnians in 1183).

Guy Hamilton (who also directed Agatha Christie’s The Mirror Crack’d from 1980) helms the catfight expertly. Hamilton was also the mastermind behind several Bond films (Goldfinger, Live and Let Die, Diamonds are Forever, and Man With the Golden Gun). And in addition to Ustinov, several of the others here are Christie regulars. Jane Birkin and Maggie Smith both appeared in 1978’s Death on the Nile. Denis Quilley and Colin Blakely were both in Murder on the Orient Express.

Anthony Powell outdoes himself with the costume design here. Mostly Arlena’s. A silver lame’ number with turban the first night is not-to-be-believed. And another of stretchy, body hugging red lame.’ Then there are the bathing costumes– one white with huge multicolor dots, matching turban, bangles, necklace and cape. And another with a diaphanous Asian print coverup and a pointed Chinese red hat. In addition, there are Myra’s elaborate hats and Rex’s sailor suits.

SilverLame

Silvery!

PolkaDotSuits

Dots versus nautical deathmatch…

ArlenaRedDress

Red and slinky…

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The Gardners are not amused…

ChineseHat

The Chinese hat (fashion accessory or murder prop? You decide…)

The dialogue is side-splitting in certain places. “She runs like a dromedary with dropsy!” Arlena cruelly says of her stepdaughter.  Or “Linda, don’t just stand there like a cough drop, say hello to Monsieur Poirot.” And Daphne throws out expressions like “diggity boo” with no irony whatsoever.

If you haven’t seen this movie, you’re missing out. Pour yourself a sirop de banane, rub on some Coppertone, and prepare to have some fun.

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Here are the other Beach Party Blogathon entries. Enjoy!

Blue Hawaii (1961) Speakeasy hqofk.wordpress.com/
Beach Party (1963) Silver Screenings silverscreenings.org
Hula (1927) Movies Silently moviessilently.com
Lord Love a Duck (1966) Font and Frock fontandfrock.com
Great White (1981) Mike’s Take on the Movies mikestakeonthemovies.com
Point Break (1991) Brian Doan http://bubblegum-cinephile.blogspot.com/
The Black Camel Caftan Woman http://www.caftanwoman.com/
To Catch a Thief Old Hollywood Films www.oldhollywoodfilms.com
Horror of Party Beach Sister Celluloid www.sistercelluoid.com
Beach Blanket Bingo A Shroud of Thoughts http://mercurie.blogspot.com/
The Fat Spy Forgotten Films https://forgottenfilmcast.wordpress.com/
Jaws 2 Cinematic Catharsis http://cinematiccatharsis.blogspot.com/
Jaws / Harvey Lembeck as Eric Von Zipper Tales of the Easily Distracted http://doriantb.blogspot.com/
Road to Singapore Now Voyaging nowvoyaging.wordpress.com
Flipper (1963) and Flipper’s New Adventure (1964) The Movie Rat themovierat.com
Clambake Once Upon a Screen aurorasginjoint.com
Drive a Crooked Road Shadows & Satin https://shadowsandsatin.wordpress.com/
Some Like It Hot The Filmatelist filmatelist.blogspot.com/
The Palm Beach Story Critica Retro http://www.criticaretro.blogspot.com
Piranha Prowler Needs a Jump https://prowlerneedsajump.wordpress.com/
On an Island with You (1948) The Stars are Ageless http://stars-are-ageless.blogspot.com.au/
The Talented Mr. Ripley BarryBradford.com Www.BarryBradford.com
Local Hero Moon in Gemini https://debravega.wordpress.com/
Open Water (2004) Movie Movie Blog Blog http://moviemovieblogblog.wordpress.com
Malibu Beach (1978) Cinema Monolith https://cinemamonolith.wordpress.com/
Creature From the Black Lagoon The last drive in Http//:www.thelastdrivein.com
The Endless Summer Wide Screen World http://widescreenworld.blogspot.com
Orca (1977) Film Grimoire http://www.filmgrimoire.com
Such a Pretty Little Beach Make Mine Criterion! https://makeminecriterion.wordpress.com/
The Palm Beach Story The Stop Button http://www.thestopbutton.com
Gidget (1959) Phyllis Loves Classic Movies http://phyllislovesclassicmovies.blogspot.com/
The Beach Girls and the Monster (1965) A Classic Movie Blog aclassicmovieblog.com
Holiday Camp (1947) British Film Classics britishfilmclassics.wordpress.com
Girl Happy (1965) Old Movies Nostalgia http://oldmoviesnostalgia.com
The Seventh Seal CriterionBlues http://www.criterionblues.com
Tarzan’s New York Adventure. Wolffianclassicmoviesdigest https://wolffianclassicmoviesdigest.wordpress.com/
Stromboli (1950) The Wonderful World of Cinema https://thewonderfulworldofcinema.wordpress.com
All is Lost Hitchcock’s World hitchcocksworld.blogspot.ca
And God Created Woman GirlsDoFilm https://girlsdofilm.wordpress.com/
A Summer Place Pop Culture Reverie https://popculturereverie.wordpress.com/
The Ghost And Mrs Muir In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood https://crystalkalyana.wordpress.com/
Bikini Beach Smitten Kitten Vintage http://smittenkittenvintage.wordpress.com
The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini Classic Film & TV Cafe www.classicfilmtvcafe.com
Lord of the Flies Part Time Monster http://parttimemonster.wordpress.com
Captain Blood Sourcerer http://sourcererblog.wordpress.com
Gidget Chasing Destino http://chasingdestino.com/
Open Water Herheadache http://www.kkherheadache.wordpress.com
Teen Beach Movie Victim To Charm http://victimtocharm.com
Plein Soleil Ramblings of a Cinephile http://ramblingsofacinephile.com/
Dr. No (1962) The Doglady’s Den http://thedogladysden.com
Die Hard With A Vengeance Le Mot du Cinephiliaque http://cinephiliaque.blogspot.ca/
Night Tide The Last Drive In http://www.thelastdrivein
La Mer (1895) Century Film Project https://centuryfilmproject.wordpress.com/
Point Break Everything Noir everythingnoir.com
Key Largo (1948) B Noir Detour bnoirdetour.wordpress.com
The Significance of ‘The Beach’ in Hitchcock’s REBECCA (1940) No Nonsense with Nuwan Sen https://nononsensewithnuwansen.wordpress.com/
Italian Film ‘Il Compleanno’, in English – ‘David’s Birthday’ (2009) No Nonsense with Nuwan Sen https://nononsensewithnuwansen.wordpress.com/
Jaws The Cinematic Frontier https://cinematicfrontier.wordpress.com/
Back to the Beach Silver Scenes silverscenesblog.blogspot.com
Bikini Beach The Hannibal 8 https://thehannibal8.wordpress.com/
Mr. Hulot’s Holiday The Stop Button http://thestopbutton.com/
Whale Rider portraitsbyjenni https://portraitsbyjenni.wordpress.com
Summertime. 1955 In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood https://crystalkalyana.wordpress.com/
Humanoids From The Deep Destroy All Fanboys! http://fanboydestroy.com
Miranda (1948) Mildred’s Fatburgers www.mildredsfatburgers.com
The Beach Back to the Viewer https://backtotheviewer.wordpress.com/
Cabin Fever: Patient Zero It Came From The Man Cave! http://www.mda4life.blogspot.com/
Female on the Beach Movie Fanfare http://www.moviefanfare.com/
Beach Blanket Bingo Thrift Shop Commando http://thriftshopcommando.blogspot.com/
Dangerous When Wet Love Letters to Old Hollywood loveletterstooldhollywood.blogspot.com
Beaches Plucking Of My Heartstrings http://pluckingofmyheartstrings.com
Evil Under the Sun Sepia Stories https://sepiastories.wordpress.com/
Evil Under the Sun Vivien Leigh http://vivienleighlegend.blogspot.com/
The Old Man & the Sea 365 Days 365 Classics https://365days365classiccinemareview.wordpress.com/
“The Raft” in Creepshow 2 (1987) Reel Distracted www.reeldistracted.com
Beneath the 12 Mile Reef (1953) The Stalking Moon thestalkingmoon.weebly.com
Beach Party Laura’s Miscellaneous Musings http://www.laurasmiscmusings.blogspot.com/
The Blue Lagoon (1980) confessions of a broccoli addict https://broccoliaddict.wordpress.com/
Lonesome (1928) Nitrate Diva nitratediva.wordpress.com
Mosayile Kuthira Meenukal Totally Filmi totallyfilmi.com
Girls on the Beach SixtiesCinema sixtiescinema.com
beach movie influence on fashion/pop culture Outspoken & Freckled http://kelleepratt.com/
Creature from the Haunted Sea U.P. Schlock: The Good, The Bad, And The Retro http://upschlock.blogspot.com/

17 thoughts on “Everywhere…there is Evil Under the Sun… (part of the Beach Party Blogathon)

  1. “Pour yourself a sirop de banane…” Ha ha! That’s great! I think I’ll do just that.

    Thanks for a wonderful review of this film. Such great costumes and scenery – AND Peter Ustinov who really is the best Hercule Poirot in the biz. Thanks for joining the blogathon!

  2. […] Stories joins Hercule Poirot in Evil Under the Sun […]

  3. It could be a dreadful movie, but the Cole Porter songs would bring it together. Thankfully, it is a wonderful movie in every way. Fabulous selection and terrific article.

  4. girlsdofilm says:

    Glad to hear I’m not the only one that’s never really warmed to Suchet, (in fact Christie on screen in general, although I love the books!). I’ll have to give Ustinov a try, and this looks like a good place to start. The costumes look wonderful!

  5. Kristina says:

    Love Ustinov as Poirot and with its great cast, this was fine pick for the blogathon, thanks so much for joining us!

  6. Vivien Leigh says:

    Great post! I’m with you on Peter Ustinov being the best Poirot. This is one of my favorite Christie adaptations. I also chose it for the Beach Party Blogathon 🙂

  7. Debbie D. says:

    I’m a fan from way back! 🙂 Read most of Agatha Christie’s novels back in the 60s and saw the movies as well, I agree that this was one of the best and Peter Ustinov was perfect as Hercule Poirot. Thanks for the memory.

  8. I love a good Agatha Christie movie and recently finished watching Ten Little Indians, the first version. We are having a family vacation soon, at a beach, with my husband’s side of the family. Last time we gathered, I brought along some dvds of classic movies, and some cheesy movies. I’m going to request this one from our library as it sounds like one we’ll all enjoy. I only wish my late father-in-law were still with us as he loved Maggie Smith in anything. Thanks for the review!

    • sepiastories says:

      So sorry your FIL won’t be around to enjoy it with you, but definitely fun for a beach vacation. For another fun romp in the detective vein, see Maggie (and about a bazillion other 1970s stars) in Neil Simon’s Murder By Death. The one-liners keep pinging through it the entire time, so much your sides will hurt. One of my favorites, EVER. (I can quote the entire movie)

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