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Death on the Nile
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Length:2 Hours 20 Minutes
Cast:John Guillermin, Peter Ustinov, Jane Birkin, Lois Chiles

Agatha Christie's bombastic Belgian sleuth, the inestimable Hercule Poirot, returned to the screen after a four-year absence in this star-studded, lushly appointed, old-fashioned murder mystery. Following the surprise success of 1974's Murder on the Orient Express, the first of the handsomely produced Christie adaptations, Nile found Peter Ustinov replacing Albert Finney as Poirot, a role he would reprise in several more sequels. Director John Guillermin (The Towering Inferno), no stranger to lavish productions and big-name casts, hewed closely to the formula: exotic locations, a dastardly murder, secretive suspects, multifarious motives, and the inevitable drawing-room climax exposing the killer. Anthony Shaffer's script remains impressive in its wit, cleverness, and intricacy, while Ustinov's Poirot has just the right touch of condescending arrogance. On the basis of star power alone, this is clearly the best of the sequels. The players include Bette Davis, Angela Lansbury, David Niven, Mia Farrow, Maggie Smith, George Kennedy, Jack Warden, Jon Finch, Olivia Hussey, and Jane Birkin. Ustinov discusses his interpretation of Poirot (among many other things) in a contemporaneous interview added to the DVD, which also includes a making-of featurette and an interview with supporting player Birkin. If you're a fancier of traditional whodunits, Death on the Nile should be at the top of your DVD must-have list. Ed Hulse

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