We have quite a few Agatha Christie movies on DVD, the ones in which Peter Ustinov plays Hercule Poirot. Of these, I think probably the best is Death On The Nile. I'm talking about the movie adaptions here, not the original books. I presume I'm safe mentioning spoilers on a story that was published 75 years ago...if not, avert your eyes now.
|Would you go on a cruise with these people?|
These films are done very well indeed. The cast probably helps. Even when they're hamming it up as hard as they can go, actors like Ustinov, David Niven, Bette Davis and Angela Lansbury can hardly go wrong, and in passing, it's fascinating to watch the future Miss Marple as a suspect who dies.
I tend to watch these films with the critical eye of a mystery writer. They're traditional mysteries, of course, and that's quite a different thing to a modern cozy. My own stories have more than a little in common with Poirot's traditional methods, because Nico, like Poirot, has no CSI to spoil the pure logic of the puzzle.
Yet in Death on the Nile, I was deeply struck by how, in the traditional denouement during which Poirot reveals all, that at the last moment, he tells Doyle that gunshot residue can be lifted from his hands using hot wax. This is indeed a test that works. The interesting thing is that this is early CSI, and it's in an Agatha Christie. Poirot does so because the perps have correctly pointed out that he doesn't have any evidence that would fly in court. The test is what provokes the inevitable confession.
If a CSI team had been available, this story would have been over within 5 minutes of the murder.
Death On The Nile would be absolutely unwriteable in the modern world. And that's a pity, because it's brilliant fun. I have a theory that's why so many recent mysteries have retreated into past times.