Imagine it! You see a gathering of mysterious people in costumed clothes. They are in an exotic looking lounge or study, and a portly, mustached man is talking, recounting a tale of murder. You witness these crimes. A sleeping woman shot at night. Another young woman, a maid, has her throat slit. Then a very bizarre woman is blathering on about how she saw who killed…Bam! She’s shot in the forehead and falls down dead. You are back in the room with the mustached man who tells all…
You’ve just seen your first classic murder mystery. Only you came in too late. You’ve only seen the ending.
As a young boy, Death on the Nile (1978) certainly left it’s impression on me. I’d never seen anything like it before, and I was fascinated. The murders were exciting and horrifying at the same time, but I never forgot it. I’d only seen it twice (both times I only caught the ending). I had no idea what the movie was! And in a pre-Internet era how could I possibly find out?
A few years passed, and after beginning to read Agatha Christie, I was finally able to put two and two together. I got to see the whole movie and read the book. I devoured both. This would be my favorite Christie story. Part of what shaped me…then and now.
In the intervening years, I’ve also come to greatly appreciate this awesome all-star cast. Peter Ustinov as Poirot, a role he played several times; Dame Maggie Smith, better known to younger audiences as Professor McGonagall; Angela Lansbury, who went on to play TV sleuth Jessica Fletcher; and Bette Davis, a Hollywood legend. Just to name a few.
Then there’s the location! A river cruise on the Nile, a tour of archaeological wonders of Egypt. Set in the 1930s, everything about this movie was lavish, from the sets to the costumes.
I would even go so far as to say that I liked the movie better than book. A very rare occurrence indeed! I suppose this is partially due to the fact that by the time I read the book, I already knew whodunit. However, the film also trimmed a few characters and subplots that weren’t strictly necessary.
If you haven’t already, I encourage all mystery fans, readers and writers alike, to read the book and see the movie. You choose which order. See what you think.