Release Date(s)1982 (September 1, 2020)
Studio(s)Universal Pictures/Associated Film Distribution (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: B+
After the Academy Award-winning success of Murder on the Orient Express in 1974 (starring Albert Finney) and its financially disappointing follow-up Death on the Nile in 1978, a third outing with Agatha Christie’s Belgian detective extraordinaire, Hercule Poirot, was adapted: 1982’s Evil Under the Sun. Taking over the role of Poirot in the previous film, Peter Ustinov returned for a lighter and less sinister story. The film also featured another ensemble cast of familiar and memorable faces, but failed to compete with films like Chariots of Fire and On Golden Pond at the box office. As such, Evil Under the Sun became an undervalued Poirot movie, though Ustinov would go on to play the character on TV in the years to come.
Hercule Poirot (Ustinov) is going on vacation—specifically to a small Adriatic Sea island. While there he is asked by a tempestuous millionaire to track down his former mistress and actress Arlena (Diana Rigg) about a missing diamond. The island’s hotel manager, Daphne Castle (Maggie Smith), is happy to oblige Poirot during his stay. Arriving also are theater owners Odell and Myra (James Mason and Sylvia Miles), Arlena herself and her new husband Kenneth (Denis Quilley), his daughter Linda (Emily Hone), writer and Arlena fanboy Rex (Roddy McDowall), and married couple Patrick and Christine (Nicholas Clay and Jane Birkin). After a day of sunbathing alone, Arlena is found murdered. At the insistence of Miss Castle, Poirot begins investigating immediately to keep things quiet, but also to discover the whereabouts of the missing diamond.
Kino Lorber Studio Classics brings Evil Under the Sun to Blu-ray for the first time stateside via StudioCanal, who released the film overseas in 2017. The source for the transfer is not known, but it’s a pleasant and organic experience. Film grain is not entirely tight at all times in the establishing shots of the hotel and wide shots of sea-going vessels, and there are frequent issues with density, but overall clarity is superb. Detail has been boosted on the various costumes, sets, and skin textures. The color palette is warm with nice flesh tones, while increased black levels allow for additional shadow detail. Contrast and brightness levels are ideal and the overall image is stable and clean. Despite the minor flaws, it’s a lovely upgrade.
The audio is presented in English 2.0 mono DTS-HD with optional subtitles in English SDH. There are no overriding issues to report here either. Dialogue exchanges are clear and precise and Cole Porter’s score mixes well into the track without overcrowding it. Sound effects have decent depth as well, including cannon fire and the crashing waves of the sea. There are no balance issues, nor are there any leftover instances of hiss, crackle, distortion, or dropouts. It’s a solid mono-sourced experience.
The following extras are also included:
- Audio Commentary by Nathaniel Thompson, Howard S. Berger, and Steve Mitchell
- The Making of Agatha Christie’s Evil Under the Sun (SD – 15:17)
- Radio Spots (HD – 3 in all – 1:26)
- Theatrical Trailer (HD – 3:13)
- Death on the Nile Trailer (SD – 2:51)
- The Mirror Crack’d Trailer (HD – 2:48)
- Witness for the Prosecution Trailer (SD – 3:08)
- Endless Night Trailer (SD – 3:15)
- Ordeal by Innocence Trailer (HD – 2:06)
- Ten Little Indians Trailer (HD – 1:28)
The audio commentary with film historians Nathaniel Thompson, Howard S. Berger, and Steve Mitchell is an entertaining listen as the three discuss the quality of the watercolor paintings seen during the opening titles, that the film improves upon its source material, that it aired on cable for a long time, how it is less violent than other Agatha Christie films, how it was severely edited for TV, Diana Rigg’s and Peter Ustinov’s performances, Albert Finney’s impact on the character of Hercule Poirot, the mixing of British and American crews, the film’s influence on Knives Out, that the film suffered due to the glut of films released in 1982, adapting Agatha Christie’s work, other related films, Guy Hamilton’s work, magic tricks in cinema, and their appreciation of working directors. The radio spots and trailer are valuable as Ustinov introduces the film in character, challenging viewers to try and match wits with him. The Making of is a vintage promotional studio piece that interviews some of the main cast and the film’s director, but also shows finished scenes from the final film. There are also a couple of things not carried over from other releases, including the US Anchor Bay DVD which contains an additional vintage brief featurette, and a couple of overseas Blu-ray releases which feature interviews with costume designer Anthony Powell, screenwriter Barry Sandler, and producer Richard Goodwin, as well as a couple of still galleries.
Though more Hercule Poirot TV movies, TV shows, and even additional films were made later, most box Murder on the Orient Express, Death on the Nile, and Evil Under the Sun together as a kind of unofficial trilogy. Each have their own strengths and weaknesses, but even so, they’re still entertaining murder mysteries that modern audiences could and should appreciate. Kino Lorber’s Blu-ray release of Evil Under the Sun provides a satisfactory A/V experience with a nice scholarly commentary to go with it.
- Tim Salmons