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.
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.
“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.
Dots versus nautical deathmatch…
Red and slinky…
The Gardners are not amused…
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.
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|
|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/|
|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/|