Evil Under the Sun 1982

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Story: A group of people gather at a seaside resort where jealousy and hatred swirl around a famous actress, observed by the equally famous detective Hercule Poirot.

Detective: Hercule Poirot, Agatha Christie’s fastidiously annoying little Belgian turned into a fabulously over-the-top big Belgian by Peter Ustinov.  (The entire cast of excellent actors pretty much follows him into camp excess as the chew the gorgeous Majorcan scenery.)

Release Date: March 5, 1982

Writer: Anthony Shaffer

Source: Agatha Christie’s 1941 novel of the same name, with significant changes.

Detective as protagonist?

Jenny: Yes.  Ustinov’s Poirot is bigger than life, doggedly inquisitive, and in the movie version, on a paid investigation.

Lani: Absolutely. Although there is a minor blip in the beginning with a murder that seems unconnected, Poirot takes over as protagonist and is in conflict with the antagonist to solve his mystery from the (almost) start.

Murderer as antagonist?

Jenny: Yes, something that’s made clear in the big showdown at the end, complete with Poirot stopping the Big Bads as they head for the door.

Lani: Yes, even before s/he commits the murder, which makes for a solid antagonist and conflict all the way through.

Conflict created by murder?

Jenny: They’re all at each other’s throats before the murder which happens half way into the film, so the conflict looks like it’s being stirred up by the victim, but if you look closely, it’s being stage-managed by the murderers.  Still, as we said in the podcast, the murder is actually part of the find-the-macguffin/cover-up-the-theft-of-the-macguffin conflict between Poirot (hired to find the diamond) and the thieves who have come to the island to murder the only person who can pin the theft on them.

Lani: The problem here is the question, not the answer. During the discussion, we had some clarity on whether it’s the murder that creates the conflict, or the desire of the protagonist/detective to find answers, and the antagonist/criminal to hide them. I think this question needs to be about the conflict centered on the resolution of the mystery – protagonist yay, antagonist nay – and to that question, I answer a hearty, “Yes.”

Fair play with all the clues given?

Jenny: Yes and no.  The audience gets the clues when Poirot gets them, and he even lists them near the end of the movie, but they’re for only one partner in the murder, and they don’t lead to the key to the mystery, the motive.  It gets murkier on the second partner in the plot because the clues are weak and while prominently displayed on the screen, obscure.

Lani: I had some minor quibbles about playing fair; there are a couple of reveals at the end that are kind of there as clues, but not entirely. So I would say predominantly yes, with a couple minor exceptions.

Solved using deduction, not luck?

Jenny: There’s some bad luck on the part of the murderers–tossing the bottle into the sea and having it almost hit a witness, for example–but Poirot solves it by deduction.

Lani: Absolutely. It’s Poirot’s ability to distill the clues into a narrative that tells the tale which solves this mystery.


Jenny says: 5 Pops
Mystery: 5,  Craft: 4, , Suspense: 5, Comedy: 5, Fabulousness: 5

Lucy says: 5 Pops
Mystery: 5,  Craft: 4, , Suspense: 5, Comedy: 5, Fabulousness: 11 (did you see the polka dots?)


Question from podcast:
We were trying to remember who narrated the first scene on the moors.  The answer is nobody, it’s a series of quick cuts: woman running across skyline, runs into police office and says, “There’s a body on the moors,” police open the car door and tell her she needn’t look again, shot of body with marks on neck, shot of doctor estimating time of death (doesn’t mention cause of death.”  Entire sequence is two minutes.
Then there’s the scene in the insurance office which is another three minutes (and where we thought the story actually started).
Then five minutes in, the story switches to the hotel.



12 responses to “Evil Under the Sun 1982”

  1. Wasn’t that wonderful? I think it’s part of a terrific whole: the setting, the score, the art direction, the costumes, everything combined to reinforce the tone of the script and the interpretations of the actors. It really is a beautifully designed whole.

  2. This isn’t too bad. I am not a fan of Poirot in general, and this isn’t the world’s best plot either, but it’s a coherent mystery and pretty well done.

    I do hate prologues even in movies, though. Because I had LONG since forgotten about that opening scene by the time it was cited again. Same problem with prologues in books at times, too.

    (Except for a book I read recently which starts out with three girls DRIVING OFF A CLIFF, and then you don’t find out who those people were until the end of the book. Did the author really want me to be thinking that she was going to kill off her main characters throughout the entire story?! Especially since spoiler, that wasn’t the case?)

    Btw, I already watched Sherlock Holmes RDJ Movie last weekend (I’m doing them about a week ahead of time) and uh…I seem to be the only person on the planet who doesn’t love it. I feel bad already. But dear god, what the fuck was that plot? Oh well, at least Sherlock BBC is better so far.

  3. I hate all prologues, but I REALLY hate Gotcha prologues. “You thought they were going to die, didn’t you? PSYCH!” It why I stopped reading Dennis LeHane even though his first books were fabulous. You screw with me in a prologue. you lose me.

  4. I love Christie’s stories and I never guess whodunit:) Actually, I so very rarely guess whodunit that if I do ever guess it I figure there must be a flaw in the story! I read this so long ago that there was no way I’d remember the ending. It’s a bonus having such a bad memory.

    That said, I’m not a fan of the movie length adaptations. The lead casting is bad and, most of the time, it’s very hard to follow from the original story. This one isn’t too bad though on story, but Ustinov as Poirot. UGH. Thankfully Netflix has some 1-hr episodes from Mystery! of David Suchet as Poirot and I’ve been doing a double feature of this with Joan Hickson as Miss Marple. {Swoon}.

    But back to EUtS and mysteries in general…
    I think one of the issues y’all were dealing with on the podcast was your definition of: “Conflict created by murder”. I think if you broaden that to say that the “Conflict is created by the mystery” you’re fine. It is true that most mystery novels and mysteries in movies are defined by a murder, but there are many fine mystery novels that do not include a murder. Many Sherlock Holmes stories didn’t include a murder and Dorothy L. Sayers “Gaudy Night” didn’t either. These are definitely mysteries though, and in the case of “Gaudy Night” the only murder that is part of the story is one that takes place in the back story. I can’t remember the plots of the movies on the list that I have seen, and I haven’t seen all the movies on the list, so I don’t know if all of them even are murder mysteries.

    I was listening to the podcast driving home from work yesterday and I had a great metaphor for the arc of antagonist. I’d come up with something similar to the arc you’d find in a romance novel. It was pithy and it made sense and now I can’t remember any of it. It’s probably just as well because by the end of the podcast everything had been resolved;)

    I think the important thing to remember is that “X” is likely working against the protagonist at all times in their antagonist persona even when they give us no reason to believe they are anything other than a nice normal person. When I read a story with a strong antagonist/ protagonist relationship I always remember where I was when I finished it. I still shiver when I think of “A is for Alibi” or “The Murder of Roger Ackroyd”!

  5. This was an excellent podcast. I agree with what you said pretty much on every topic. I also figured out the wife, but not the husband. And I do think those clues were cheated. At no point did anyone say “Wow, look at how large her neck is, she must have been strangled by a man.” So the whole thing about her hands being too small was a cheat IMO. I caught on at the same point Lani did and then figured out how she’d set the kid up after that.

    I watched the whole thing in one pass, with the exception of the point where Poirot looks at the hotel register. Rich and I rewound that and could not figure out what the heck that was about. After listening to the podcast, I understood it was about handwriting, but did we see that earlier?

    But even with feeling cheated about the husband clues, I agree, it was a pretty darn good movie. And I have to laugh, I could not get past thinking of Maggie Smith as Maggie Smith. But I think that was in large part because I just saw her this week in Downton Abbey and she’s been on my brain.

  6. There’s a shout-out to you in the next podcast, Stephanie. We think you’re right about “mystery” not “murder,” so we gave you credit.

  7. Well, she also hit her with a rock. Why not bash her again if you want her dead? There was no point in keeping her alive and a lot of risk in it–what if she came to and wandered out of the cave–so it was just a whole lot more complicated than it needed to be. Although knowing Christine, that was probably her way of making sure that her husband was guilty, too.

  8. I liked this film alot and I think it played fair with the viewer apart from the beginning scene but people have already talked about that. I really liked all the actors in it, especially Diana Rigg, but I have always loved her in anything she’s in.

  9. Yikes, I’m behind. And I’m still behind because I wasn’t paying attention and got the Mystery! version of this, rather than the film version. Still, having listened to the podcast, there seems to have been some real differences between the film version (correct version) and the Mystery! version. In the Mystery! version, there was no mention whatsoever of a diamond, and Poirot’s presence on the island was put down to a proscribed trip from his doctor.

    I only really mention this because this made me really think about mediums that stories work in and how the method of storytelling may work quite well in one medium, but adaptation is necessary for a different medium. Which, I guess is kind of what PopD is about? I’ve noticed it before, specifically with the movie “Wanted” (James McAvoy! Angelina Jolie!) I’d not read the graphic novel the movie was based on before going to see it, and while it’s not the height of film making, it’s an enjoyable flick that works as a movie. I later picked up the graphic novel on which it was based and actually liked the movie MORE because I could see how beautifully the filmmakers had restructured the narrative to make it work AS A MOVIE vs. botching up the graphic novel -> movie transfer.

    Anyway, I do need to track down the film version, if just to compare/contrast for myself against the televised Mystery! version. It’s probably the case that the reasoning for Poirot’s presence in the televised version was done to bring in more of Detective Hastings’ character development than in the film. And what was or was not included from the original source as well. Eh, either way, it was fun way to spend an evening, but I’m sad I didn’t get to see Maggie Smith and Diana Rigg!

  10. I think it’s interesting to look at different versions of anything to see what directors/writers do with it. Lani and I watched the remake of Cactus Flower and liked it better than the original. THe reviews were so scathing for the remake of Charade we didn’t even bother. I vaguely remember The Fugitive as a TV program when I was a kid, but the remake of that into a movie was terrific. But the remake of the TV Avengers was just awful.

    If I was going to rewrite a TV show for a novel, I think I might do Moonlighting. And switch the genders. It’s such a good premise.