Death on the Nile (1978)

Mrs Otterbourne: [Interrupting Poirot and Race] Do forgive me for butting in, but I have a bet with my daughter here, that you’re Hercules Porridge, the famous French sleuth.

Hercule Poirot: Not quite. I am Hercule Poirot, the famous Belgian sleuth.

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Death on the Nile is a 1978 British mystery film based on Agatha Christie’s 1937 novel of the same name, directed by John Guillermin and adapted by Anthony Shaffer. The film features the Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, played by Peter Ustinov, plus an all-star supporting cast including Maggie Smith, Angela Lansbury, Bette Davis, Mia Farrow, David Niven, George Kennedy and Jack Warden.

It takes place in Egypt in the 1937, mostly on a period paddle steamer on the Nile River. Many of the cultural highlights of Egypt are also featured in the film, such as the Great Pyramids, the Sphinx, and temples at Abu Simbel and Karnak, even though the locations are not in sequence. The boat trip starts in Aswan, follows to Karnak and then to Abu Simbel which is upstream from Aswan. Furthermore, it was never possible to go by boat from Aswan to Abu Simbel, even before the Aswan Dam was built because of the cataracts near Aswan.

Death on the Nile won the Academy Award for Best Costume Design at the 51st Academy Awards.


Rating 7.3 in IMDB

Watch the Trailer (just click)

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Bette Davis and Maggie Smith


Jacqueline “Jackie” de Bellefort asks her close friend, wealthy heiress, Linnet Ridgeway, to hire her fiancé, Simon Doyle since he is broke. Jackie is initially pleased when Linnet agrees, but Linnet and Simon soon start a whirlwind affair and end up marrying. While honeymooning in Egypt, they are continually hounded by the jilted Jackie. In an attempt to get away, the Doyles pretend to go to the Cairo Railway Station before backtracking to board their booked cruise on a Nile paddle steamer, the S.S. Karnak.

When the passengers venture on-shore to examine a nearby temple, a large stone is pushed off a pillar and narrowly misses the Doyles. They are shocked when Jackie finds them and joins the cruise, having ignored the warnings of detective Hercule Poirot to stay away and having revealed that she carries a small automatic pistol in her handbag. That night, Jackie confronts Simon in a drunken rage and shoots him in the leg. The next morning, Linnet is found dead from a gunshot wound to the head. A “J” written in blood on the wall above her bed appears to implicate Jackie, but she has a solid alibi as Miss Bowers sedated her with morphia and stayed with her all night.

Poirot and his friend, Colonel Race, investigate. They discover that numerous passengers had reasons to kill Linnet: Louise Bourget, Linnet’s maid, was bitter due to her mistress’ refusal to grant her a promised dowry; Andrew Pennington, Linnet’s American trustee, was anxious to prevent her from discovering that he embezzled from her; Mrs. van Schuyler, an elderly American socialite suffering from kleptomania, displayed a great interest in Linnet’s pearl necklace; van Schuyler’s nurse, Miss Bowers, blamed Linnet’s father for forcing her own father into financial ruin; Salome Otterbourne, a romance novelist, was being sued for libel due to a likeness between Linnet and one of her characters; Mrs. Otterbourne’s daughter, Rosalie, was anxious to protect her mother from financial ruin; Jim Ferguson, an outspoken Communist, resented Linnet’s affluent lifestyle; and Dr. Ludwig Bessner, a Swiss psychiatrist, faced exposure by Linnet concerning his unorthodox methods involving one of Linnet’s past friends.

Soon a bundle is found in the Nile. The missing pistol is wrapped in Mrs. van Schuyler’s stole, which has a small bullet hole in it. A handkerchief was also included, stained with blood, and a marble ashtray to make sure it would sink to the bottom of the Nile. They later discover that Linnet’s pearls are missing, and Mrs. van Schuyler denies ever having touched them. Soon after, the pearls are found on Linnet’s body, so Poirot deduces Mrs van Schuyler has “returned” them.

While Poirot and Race conduct their investigation, Louise Bourget is murdered. Her throat has been cut with one of Dr. Bessner’s scalpels and a fragment of a banknote is found in her hand. Poirot deduces she saw the murderer coming out of Linnet’s cabin and attempted to extort money for her silence. Salome Otterbourne claims to have seen Louise’s murderer and is about to tell Poirot and Race when she is shot in the head through an open cabin door with Pennington’s revolver, too large to have been used on Linnet.

Poirot gathers everyone in the saloon and reveals that Simon is responsible for Linnet’s murder, with Jackie working as his accomplice. She pretended to shoot Simon, drawing attention to herself. After running to Linnet’s cabin and shooting her in the head, Simon shot himself in the leg, using Mrs. van Schuyler’s stole as a silencer and replaced one of the empty cartridges with a new one should the gun ever be found. He then wrapped the gun in the stole along with a marble ashtray and the supposed blood stained handkerchief and threw them out the open window; hoping they would sink into the Nile. Jackie later killed Louise, who was blackmailing Simon because she witnessed him enter Linnet’s cabin, then killed Mrs. Otterbourne, who saw Jackie exiting Louise’s cabin. The plan was that Simon would marry then kill Linnet, inherit her money, and at a later date, marry his old love.

When Simon points out that Poirot has no proof, Poirot reveals that the police will simply do a gunshot residue test known as a moulage test on both him and Jacqueline. Realizing they are caught, Jacqueline confesses before embracing Simon. Poirot suddenly realizes she has taken back her pistol, but is unable to prevent her from shooting Simon in the head before killing herself.

The passengers depart when the boat next docks, while Poirot is thoroughly congratulated for his work.

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