Little Bits of Classic and Christina Wehner are hosting The Agatha Christie Blogathon running from September 16 - 18. Thank you to these two wonderful bloggers for this great event.
Recaps: Day 1 Day 2 Day 3
Recaps: Day 1 Day 2 Day 3
Agatha Christie's The Mysterious Affair at Styles published in 1920 marked the introduction to the world of Hercule Poirot, the fussy and eccentric Belgian with amazing detective skills. Evil Under the Sun published in 1941 marks about the 3/4 mark in Poirot's 35 novel appearances. The sun in the title shines on a resort island separated from England's coast by a causeway which disappears at high tide. The merry-makers on this isolated amalgam of sandy beaches and secretive coves may be searching for an escape from their everyday lives, but will soon have those lives laid open by a murder investigation.
(1890 - 1976)
A notorious actress, Arlena Stewart Marshall is on the island with her doting husband Kenneth and his daughter Linda. Arlena's notoriety derives from high profile scandals and her obvious attraction to men other than her husband. This summer Arlena is seen spending too much time with the handsome Patrick Redfern, much to the dismay of his wife Christine. The owner of a fashion house, Rosamund Darnley is visibly perturbed by the marital woes of her old friend and sweetheart Kenneth Marshall. The company includes a too hearty businessman, a fanatical clergyman, an outdoorsy woman and an American couple. When Arlena's strangled body is discovered on a remote section of the island no one escapes suspicion and no one escapes the keen eye of Hercule Poirot.
Agatha Christie's stories work not only for their puzzles, but because of her keen eye for characters. Her ability to reveal with precise observations and deceptive dialogue the oh-so-human nature of those who populate her stories is a continual joy to generations of readers. Evil Under the Sun is an engrossing read with an unexpected touch of pity for the foolish Arlena.
The 1982 adaption of Christie's novel by Anthony Shaffer (Death on the Nile, Appointment with Death) moves the time period to the late 30s and the British resort to one in the Adriatic with actual filming on Majorca, the home base of director Guy Hamilton (Goldfinger, Funeral in Berlin).
Some characters from the novel are eliminated and/or combined with others for ease of storytelling. The fashion designer is eliminated, but her connection to Arlena's stoic husband Kenneth Marshall played by Denis Quilley (Murder on the Orient Express, Life at the Top) is rolled over into the innkeeper played by Maggie Smith (Death on the Nile, The VIPs). The hearty businessman is replaced with a bombastic aristocrat, Sir Horace Blatt played by Colin Blakely (Murder on the Orient Express, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes).
Peter Ustinov, Colin Blakely, Jane Birkin, Nichol Clay, Maggie Smith, Diana Rigg
Denis Quilley, Sylvia Miles, James Mason, Emily Hone, Roddy McDowall
The clergyman and rustic female are gone, as are the American tourists. In their stead we have an entertainment chronicler played by Roddy McDowall (Planet of the Apes, Man Hunt) and Sylvia Miles (Crossing Delancey, Midnight Cowboy) and James Mason (Odd Man Out, A Star is Born) as theatrical producers. Diana Rigg (The Hospital, The Great Muppet Caper) plays the doomed Arlena, Nicholas Clay (Lady Chatterley's Lover, Zulu Dawn) her paramour Redfern and Jane Birkin (Death on the Nile, Blow-Up) his dowdy wife. Emily Hone plays the put upon stepdaughter Linda Marshall.
Hercule Poirot takes in the sun.
Peter Ustinov (Spartacus, Topkapi) stars in his second of three outings as one of fiction's greatest detectives, Hercule Poirot. So vain, so fussy, so overbearing and yet so endearing. It must have something to do with that Ustinov fellow.
One of the many pleasures of Evil Under the Sun is Anthony Powell's costume design. He is an Oscar winner for Travels With My Aunt, Death on the Nile and Tess, and a nominee for Pirates, Hook and 102 Dalmatians. The wealthy on holiday in the 1930s allows for all manner of finery to please the eye. We expect our rich to be slightly over-the-top, do we not?
The stroke of genius that gives Evil Under the Sun its special oomph is the use of Cole Porter songs for the score. Porter's music immediately evokes sophistication and the popping of champagne corks that gives this film its special effervescence.
Arlena Marshall takes the spotlight.
Arlena's talent is somewhat suspect, but her notoriety is assured and is necessary to box office success. Thus, the producing Gardeners desire her to star in their upcoming play. Also, she owes them since she left a previous show to hook up with Sir Horace, whom Arlena swindled out of an expensive bauble. Apparently, he didn't feel their affair was worth it. Arlena's current husband Kenneth seems to be suspicious of young Redfern. Redfern's wife certainly has no doubts. Rex Brewster has written a tell-all on Arlena, but can't get her release to publish. Innkeeper Daphne goes way back with Arlena and it is not pretty. Stepdaughter Linda is petulant and we all know teenagers have no boundaries. When Arlena's corpse is discovered on an isolated beach everyone is a suspect and everyone has an alibi. Can Hercule Poirot solve this baffling case?
Lives and the business of the inn are at stake, not to mention the reputation of M. Hercule Poirot. Will this challenge go unmet? Time to put those little grey cells to work. None of us turn to our Christie to see the great detective vanquished in his endeavours and the reveal in Evil Under the Sun is an especially satisfying one.