ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Old Movie Review: Agatha Christie's "Evil Under the Sun" with Peter Ustinov

Updated on November 19, 2011

Tip: Always plan a murder on a secluded island; it narrows down the suspects.

Dragonera Island, used as the setting of the film. (In reality, it's off the coast of Spain...shh!)
Dragonera Island, used as the setting of the film. (In reality, it's off the coast of Spain...shh!) | Source

Evil Under the Sun

Evil Under the Sun
Evil Under the Sun

Directed by Guy Hamilton, 1982.


A Hercule Poirot Film

Campy acting by an all-star cast, a good old-fashioned Agatha Christie whodunnit, Peter Ustinov as Hercule Poirot, and a chance to see Diana Rigg and Maggie Smith on the screen together -- when I stumbled across Evil Under the Sun while browsing Netflix, I pounced upon it.

It did not disappoint me. I don't think it was Oscar-worthy, as the pacing was a little slow and the quality slightly choppy, but it's still enjoyable. Here's a brief summary, to avoid spoilers: at a quirky resort/retreat for aging actors and theater types in the Mediterranean, practically every hotel guest has sound reasons to murder the victim, and practically everyone has an alibi. Prior to the murder, there are catty quips and zingers, adultery, quite a lot of eccentricity, and some truly ridiculous hats. Poirot solves the case in a suitably theatrical performance at the end of the story.

I nearly figured out whodunnit through surprisingly acute knowledge of Diana Rigg's anatomy -- her kneecaps, to be precise -- but I still needed Poirot to explain it all to me. The "revelation" sequence should surprise you.

The cast is a mix of Shakespearean and character actors: Peter Ustinov, Maggie Smith (introduced to a new generation of fans as Professor Minerva McGonagall), Diana Rigg (lots of serious work, but I'll always adore her for Ms. Emma Peel in The Avengers), Nicholas Clay (Merlin, Excalibur, New Adventures of Robin Hood and a lot of other second-rate films), Colin Blakely, Jane Birkin (excellent work in this film), Roddy McDowall, Denis Quilley, and others. Nearly all of them are playing seedy characters; there are few saints on the island besides Poirot.

Maggie Smith is entertaining while trying to "solve" the mystery for Poirot, but I was most amused with her startlingly blunt exchanges with Diana Rigg. There are some gruesome and unconfortable scenes as well; this is a murder mystery, and people aren't always terribly kind to each other. However, all is not quite what it seems.

I regret that I have not read the original Agatha Christie mystery book on which the film is based, so I do not know how faithful is the adaptation. I understand that the setting was moved from a UK seaside retreat to the Adriatic to make it more picturesque.

At any rate, if you are poking around on streaming Netflix cursing its limited selection, here's an unusual forgotten film to sample. It's not Orient Express caliber, but a toothy two-hour mystery for a quiet evening.

Fun trivia: when Poirot examines the hotel register, I noticed the names of Cole Porter, who wrote the musical score, but also Fred Astaire and Charlie Chaplins. Apparently all the famous stars of the 1930s (Poirot's contemporaries) visited this resort for aging celebrities!


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Thelma Alberts profile image

      Thelma Alberts 

      6 years ago from Germany

      I love the films of Agatha Christie´s books who´s character is Hercule Poirot played by a brilliant and a very good actor, Peter Ustinov. Thanks for sharing.

    • brandasaur profile image


      6 years ago from Planet X

      Im so addicted with Agatha Christie, I even have flash games of her mysteries :)

    • Judi Bee profile image

      Judi Brown 

      6 years ago from UK

      Yes, it's the original hotel that Agatha Christie stayed in. I believe it became dilapidated but has been restored in the past decade.

    • Greekgeek profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from California

      Thank you! I'm not sure I'm qualified to be a discerning film critic, since I don't watch enough films, but I do love watching classic character actors and Shakespearean actors having fun.

      I assume the Art Deco hotel you're describing is the original in the novel, not the one in the film. I wish I could see it, as I've a soft spot for Art Deco. Sea tractor? Better than the mules we used to have to take to get from the harbor of Santorini up to the town!

    • Judi Bee profile image

      Judi Brown 

      6 years ago from UK

      It's a very entertaining film. You are right about the novel - the story was set in Devon, at a hotel on Burgh Island - also the inspiration for another of her novels. The hotel is a fine example of Art Deco and you reach it via a strange contraption, a sort of long legged sea tractor.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)