Death on the Nile (Blu-ray) (1978)

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Released 25-Oct-2017

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Mystery Featurette-Making Of-Making Death on the Nile (22:33)
Interviews-Crew-Costume Designer Anthony Powell (20:39)
Interviews-Cast-Dame Angela Lansbury (6:30)
Interviews-Crew-Producer Richard Goodwin (11:22)
Gallery-Photo-Behind the Scenes / Costumes
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1978
Running Time 140:11
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By John Guillermin
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Peter Ustinov
Jane Birkin
Lois Chiles
Bette Davis
Mia Farrow
Jon Finch
Olivia Hussey
David Niven
Maggie Smith
Angela Lansbury
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI $36.95 Music Nino Rota


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 2.0 mono
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

†††† World famous detective Hercule Poirot (Peter Ustinov) is in Egypt on holiday, travelling up the Nile on a paddle steamer when wealthy American heiress Linnet Ridgeway (Lois Chiles), on her honeymoon with her husband Simon (Simon MacCorkindale), is murdered in her cabin. As Poirot and his friend Colonel Race (David Niven) start to investigate they discover that there are quite a few people on the boat who have both the motive and the opportunity to kill Linnet. Could it be the elderly American woman who covets Linnetís pearls (Bette Davis), her companion (Maggie Smith) whose family were ruined by Linnetís father, the author being sued by Linnet for defamation (Angela Lansbury), the anarchist who despises inherited wealth (Jon Finch), Linnetís uncle and family lawyer who fears his mismanagement will be discovered (George Kennedy), the maid (Jane Birkin) or the quack doctor who fears Linnet will expose his practices (Jack Warden)?

†††† Death on the Nile is adapted from the mystery crime novel by Agatha Christie. With the commercial and critical success enjoyed by Murder on the Orient Express it was not unexpected that the producers of that film would try to repeat the all-star cast formula in a new and exotic location, albeit with a different director and different actor as Hercule Poirot. Mostly it works pretty well.

†††† Death on the Nile runs for 140 minutes; for the first 60 minutes or so the pace is as leisurely as that of a paddlewheel steamer chugging slowly up the Nile as the various characters / suspects are introduced along with the different reasons they might like to see Linnet dead. The pace picks up with the murder and as Poirot and Colonel Race investigate the different scenarios / possibilities are reconstructed from a number of different angles. Two further murders occur, causing Poirot to re-evaluate his theories until his elaborate and lengthy reveal in the boatís dining salon of the real murderer before the assembled suspects.

†††† Death on the Nile looks sumptuous. The costumes, which won costume designer Anthony Powell a deserved Oscar, are beautiful, the sets, including the hotel and the interior of the paddle wheeler (reconstructed on the set at Pinewood), are opulent and incredibly detailed, and the vision of a real, refurbished paddle wheeler sailing on the Nile stunning. The film also makes excellent use of iconic Egyptian sites, setting scenes at the Giza pyramids, the massive temple at Karnak and the temple of Rameses II at Abu Simbel which are all spectacular. The geography of the film, however, is very dodgy; one does not sail in a paddle wheeler between the temple of Karnak at Luxor and Abu Simbel in half a day, indeed, due to cataracts at Aswan you donít sail between the two anyway, even before the construction of the dams at Aswan, but this is a movie and anything is possible! It is also obvious that the Egyptian government fully cooperated with the filmmakers judging by the complete absence of any tourists in all those locations!

†††† David Suchet is rightly considered the definitive Poirot, having played the detective on TV for 70 episodes between 1989 and 2013 although I thought that Albert Finney was very good in Murder on the Orient Express. Initially I found the much larger and quite robust Peter Ustinov not my idea of Poirot; he is more self-opinionated and humorous and less fussy or fastidious but his interpretation did grow on me during the course of the film, helped no doubt by the fact that Ustinov is a good actor and can sell the character. The rest of the cast are strong, the script giving each a moment to make a mark; perhaps the best moments come from an over the top and ditzy Angela Lansbury while Mia Farrow is very good.

†††† The director of Death on the Nile was John Guillermin; he has a CV with some good and interesting films to his credit such as Guns at Batasi (1964), The Blue Max (1966) and The Bridge at Remagen (1969) (surely one of the most underrated WW2 films). More recently before Death on the Nile he had directed The Towering Inferno (1974) and the rather forgettable King Kong (1976) remake with Jessica Lange; for Death on the Nile his direction is unfussy and mostly lets the story tell itself. The lush orchestral score comes courtesy of Nino Rota who worked with Fellini on 8 1/2 (1963) as well as composing the wonderful music for The Godfather (1972).

†††† Death on the Nile is a decent follow-up to Murder on the Orient Express. While the first half of the film can drag on a bit, the resolution of the mystery, the spectacular Egyptian locations, beautiful costumes and sets, swelling score and good cast make for pleasant entertainment.

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Transfer Quality

Video

†††† Death on the Nile is presented in the original 1.85:1 theatrical ratio, in 1080p, using the MPEG-4 AVC code.

†††† This is advertised as a remastered print. Certainly marks and artefacts are absent and close-ups and interiors of the boat and the hotel are sharp. Exteriors still look very good, although the colours, especially of the blue skies over the Nile, are somewhat dull. In contrast, vision of the red / yellow sunsets over the Nile is stunning. Blacks and shadow detail are good, brightness and contrast consistent and skin tones natural.

†††† English subtitles for the hearing impaired are provided.

Video Ratings Summary
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Audio

†††† Audio is an English DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo.

†††† This is mostly a film of dialogue, which is easy to hear and understand. Effects are limited to horsesí hooves, the thumping of the paddle wheels or the boatís whistle. The shots are sharp and the opulent orchestral score by Nino Rota helps set the tone of the film.

†††† There is obviously no surround or subwoofer use.

†††† I did not notice any hiss or distortion.

†††† Lip synchronisation was fine.

Audio Ratings Summary
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Extras

Making of (22:33)

†††† This is a vintage making of, I suspect produced in the late 1970s. It is in poor condition, with frequent scratches, hairs, marks and soft washed out colours. It was shot at Pinewood studios where a replica of a Nile paddle steamer was being built in a tank that will be flooded. The extra includes some film clips, footage of the steamer being built plus various cast and crew answering questions from an unseen narrator. None of those who comment are identified by a text screen but they include producers John Bradbourne and Richard Goodwin, cast members Peter Ustinov, David Niven, John Finch and George Kennedy and production designer Peter Murton; none say much of value.

Interviews

†††† These interviews are fairly recent Ė some black and white behind the scenes photos and film clips punctuate the interviewee talking to an unseen questioner.

Costume Designer Anthony Powell (20:39)

†††† Powell is delightful as he talks about the producers of the film and making the costumes, although the highlights of the interview are some very funny stories he tells about stars Mia Farrow and Bette Davis.

Dame Angela Lansbury (6:30)

†††† Lansbury provides her memories of some of the trials and pleasures of making the film on location in Egypt, the steamer, the costumes and other cast members.

Producer Richard Goodwin (11:22)

†††† Goodwin recounts stories about filming in Egypt, the director and some cast anecdotes, and notes that Ustinov was hired when Albert Finney, who played Poirot in Murder on the Orient Express, was not available.

Stills Gallery

†††† Two sections of stills; they are silent and advance automatically

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

†††† This release of Death on the Nile is identical to the Region B UK release. There is currently no US Blu-ray version listed.

Summary

†††† With the commercial and critical success enjoyed by Murder on the Orient Express it was not unexpected that the producers of that film would try to repeat the all-star cast formula. The result is Death on the Nile which features iconic Egyptian locations including the Giza pyramids, Karnak Temple and the temple at Abu Simbel, beautiful Oscar winning costumes, sumptuous sets, a swelling score and a star-studded cast. I donít think it quite matches the cast or tight plotting of Murder on the Orient Express but it is still very entertaining and the vision of a paddle wheel steamer on the Nile (done for real) and the ancient sites of Egypt is stunning.

†††† The film looks fine on Blu-ray, the audio is good. The interviews are interesting and of value.

†††† The previous DVD release of the film, reviewed on this site here, included the making of but not the other extras. For fans of old fashioned murder mysteries, the film, Agatha Christie, or the stars, an upgrade to HD is definitely warranted.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Monday, February 12, 2018
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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