When done right, mystery movies can be very fun and engaging movies. One of the best mystery authors of the twentieth century was Agatha Christie, and many of her works were adapted to the big screen to varying levels of success. The biggest hit movie was 1974's Murder on the Orient Express. Following in that film's footsteps, Death on the Nile was released four years later with the same formula. The story is essentially the same, but with a different location and brand new set of characters. While the movie is fine, it is also somewhat forgettable. It has not been awhile since I seen this film and I usually remember my films, but I'm having a hard time trying to figure out what exactly happened. That being said, it is a decent watch. The scenery is fun to see and the costumes are cool to look at. The cast is filled to the brim with veteran British actors and they all deliver fine performances.
We are aboard the S.S Karnak as it travels down the great Nile River in Egypt. However, there are many people who want the rich heiress Linnet Ridgeway (Lois Chiles) dead. Her riches are sought after by the elderly Mrs. Van Schulyer (Bette Davis), Salome Otterbourne (Angela Lansbury) is an author who has a libel lawsuit brought upon her, Salome's daughter, Rosalie (Olivia Hussey) wants to keep her mother happy, Andrew Pennington (George Kennedy) has been stealing from her family, and an old friend Jacqueline De Bellefort (Mia Farrow) is upset that her fiancé was stolen away from her. After Ridgeway is murdered, it's up to the famed detective Hercules Poirot (Peter Ustinov) to figured out the culprit behind the murder.
As you can obviously tell, the film has a large cast full of brand names. So it's no surprise that they all deliver good performances. No one delivers career-best performances, but this is not the kind of film that requires such performances. However, my standout performance goes to Peter Ustinov as the detective. If you read any of Christie's stories, you will be able to tell that he captures the essence of what the character is supposed to be. It's also cool to see an actress from the Golden Age of Hollywood in the movie. I'm talking about the legendary Bette Davis. She delivers another great performance, and it's cool to note how she addressed the change of filmmaking since her heyday in the 30's and 40's. She called films travelogues in the 70's and essentially they are. I would have love to work along the Nile River traveling through ancient history. All of the names mentioned above did great, but there are even more names in the movie with the likes of Jane Birkin, Maggie Smith, and Jack Warden in the movie.
So John Guillermin's Death on the Nile is a fun mystery movie even if its a little forgettable. It is formulaic, but the performances are well worth the watch. Seeing Ustinov in action trying to crack the case is what makes this movie a fun watch. It's hard to remember specific plot details, but that is what happens in a movie based on formula. But the film is successful in being mysterious, and that is really all that matters. I liked how the film was shot on location because we got to see exquisite scenery. Also, I really liked the costumes. Overall, this is a little fun mystery.
My Grade: B