Death on the Nile


2h 20m 1978

Brief Synopsis

Hercule Poirot investigates the murder of an heiress during an Egyptian tour.

Film Details

Also Known As
Mort sur le Nil
MPAA Rating
Genre
Crime
Mystery
Thriller
Adaptation
Release Date
1978
Production Company
EMI Films, Ltd.
Distribution Company
Paramount Pictures; Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 20m
Sound
Stereo
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1

Synopsis

During a luxurious pleasure cruise down the Nile aboard a lavish vessel populated with wealthy passengers, widely despised heiress and home wrecker Linnet Ridgeway is murdered. Also aboard is famed Belgian detective Poirot and his taciturn traveling companion, Colonel Race. Poirot undertakes an investigation into Ridgeway's killing.

Film Details

Also Known As
Mort sur le Nil
MPAA Rating
Genre
Crime
Mystery
Thriller
Adaptation
Release Date
1978
Production Company
EMI Films, Ltd.
Distribution Company
Paramount Pictures; Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 20m
Sound
Stereo
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1

Award Wins

Best Costume Design

1978
Anthony Powell

Articles

Death on the Nile


Everyone's a suspect in this star-studded Agatha Christie adaptation. Based on a novel by the same name, Death on the Nile (1978) turns from pleasure cruise to crime scene when a wealthy passenger is murdered. Luckily, famed detective Hercule Poirot (Peter Ustinov) also happens to be on board the ship.

Murder on the Orient Express (1974), a previous film adaptation of an Agatha Christie novel featuring Albert Finney as Poirot and a cast that included Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman and Anthony Perkins, was the surprise hit of its year. Death on the Nile attempted to cash in on the sudden Christie craze, casting high profile names like Bette Davis, Angela Lansbury, David Niven and George Kennedy, as well as spotlighting some younger stars like Mia Farrow and Olivia Hussey.

Despite the exotic locale, split between Egypt and London, filming conditions for the movie were less than ideal. Filmed on a little boat called The Carnock, the actors took a speedboat back and forth each day from their hotel in Aswan down river to the shooting location. The Carnock was also apparently too small for all the actors to have their own dressing rooms. One unpleasant incident involved Bette Davis, Olivia Hussey and some Eastern chant records Hussey liked to play early in the morning. After Davis asked Hussey not to play her music, it was reported that the actresses did not speak to each other again while aboard The Carnock. If tensions weren't high enough, the temperature climbed well above 100 degrees everyday and filming often was halted at noon.

On a happier note, Death on the Nile was one of George Kennedy's more offbeat acting assignments. It gave him an opportunity to play against type in a genre that was closer to the PBS Mystery series than Kennedy's usual acting assignments which were more contemporary action dramas like The Human Factor (1975) and Mean Dog Blues (1978). The film was also a great showcase for costume designer Anthony Powell, who won an Oscar® for Best Costume Design for his work. This was actually PowellÕs second Academy Award. He won his first for Travels With My Aunt (1972) and would go on to win another for Tess (1979). The attention to period detail in Death on the Nile still predominates Powell's work which continues in less traditional costume features like Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), Hook (1991) and the 1996 Disney film 102 Dalmatians.

Director: John Guillermin
Producer: John Brabourne, Richard B. Goodwin
Screenplay: Anthony Shaffer
Cinematography: Jack Cardiff
Art Direction: Terry Ackland-Snow, Brian Ackland-Snow, Peter Murton
Music: Nino Rota
Cast: Peter Ustinov (Hercule Poirot), Jane Birkin (Louise Bourget), Lois Chiles (Linnet Ridgeway), Bette Davis (Mrs. Van Schuyler), Mia Farrow (Jacqueline De Bellefort), George Kennedy (Andrew Pennington), Angela Lansbury (Salome Otterbourne), David Niven (Colonel Race), Maggie Smith (Miss Bowers), Jack Warden (Doctor Bessner), Olivia Hussey (Rosalie Otterbourne), Jon Finch (Jim Ferguson).
C-141m. Letterboxed.

by Stephanie Thames
Death On The Nile

Death on the Nile

Everyone's a suspect in this star-studded Agatha Christie adaptation. Based on a novel by the same name, Death on the Nile (1978) turns from pleasure cruise to crime scene when a wealthy passenger is murdered. Luckily, famed detective Hercule Poirot (Peter Ustinov) also happens to be on board the ship. Murder on the Orient Express (1974), a previous film adaptation of an Agatha Christie novel featuring Albert Finney as Poirot and a cast that included Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman and Anthony Perkins, was the surprise hit of its year. Death on the Nile attempted to cash in on the sudden Christie craze, casting high profile names like Bette Davis, Angela Lansbury, David Niven and George Kennedy, as well as spotlighting some younger stars like Mia Farrow and Olivia Hussey. Despite the exotic locale, split between Egypt and London, filming conditions for the movie were less than ideal. Filmed on a little boat called The Carnock, the actors took a speedboat back and forth each day from their hotel in Aswan down river to the shooting location. The Carnock was also apparently too small for all the actors to have their own dressing rooms. One unpleasant incident involved Bette Davis, Olivia Hussey and some Eastern chant records Hussey liked to play early in the morning. After Davis asked Hussey not to play her music, it was reported that the actresses did not speak to each other again while aboard The Carnock. If tensions weren't high enough, the temperature climbed well above 100 degrees everyday and filming often was halted at noon. On a happier note, Death on the Nile was one of George Kennedy's more offbeat acting assignments. It gave him an opportunity to play against type in a genre that was closer to the PBS Mystery series than Kennedy's usual acting assignments which were more contemporary action dramas like The Human Factor (1975) and Mean Dog Blues (1978). The film was also a great showcase for costume designer Anthony Powell, who won an Oscar® for Best Costume Design for his work. This was actually PowellÕs second Academy Award. He won his first for Travels With My Aunt (1972) and would go on to win another for Tess (1979). The attention to period detail in Death on the Nile still predominates Powell's work which continues in less traditional costume features like Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), Hook (1991) and the 1996 Disney film 102 Dalmatians. Director: John Guillermin Producer: John Brabourne, Richard B. Goodwin Screenplay: Anthony Shaffer Cinematography: Jack Cardiff Art Direction: Terry Ackland-Snow, Brian Ackland-Snow, Peter Murton Music: Nino Rota Cast: Peter Ustinov (Hercule Poirot), Jane Birkin (Louise Bourget), Lois Chiles (Linnet Ridgeway), Bette Davis (Mrs. Van Schuyler), Mia Farrow (Jacqueline De Bellefort), George Kennedy (Andrew Pennington), Angela Lansbury (Salome Otterbourne), David Niven (Colonel Race), Maggie Smith (Miss Bowers), Jack Warden (Doctor Bessner), Olivia Hussey (Rosalie Otterbourne), Jon Finch (Jim Ferguson). C-141m. Letterboxed. by Stephanie Thames

Sir Peter Ustinov (1921-2004)


Sir Peter Ustinov, the witty, multi-talented actor, director and writer whose 60-year career in entertainment included two Best Supporting Actor Oscars® for his memorable character turns in the films Spartacus and Topkapi, died of heart failure on March 28 at a clinic in Genolier, Switzerland. He was 82.

He was born Peter Alexander Ustinov on April 16, 1921 in London, England. His father was a press attache at the German embassy until 1935 - when disgusted by the Nazi regime - he took out British nationality. He attended Westminster School, an exclusive private school in central London until he was 16. He then enrolled for acting classes at the London Theater Studio, and by 1939, he made his London stage debut.

His jovial nature and strong gift for dialects made him a natural player for films, and it wasn't long after finding theatre work that Ustinov moved into motion pictures: a Dutch priest in Michael Powell's One of Our Aircraft is Missing (1941); an elderly Czech professor in Let the People Sing (1942); and a star pupil of a Nazi spy school in The Goose Steps Out (1942).

He served in the British Army for four years (1942-46), where he found his talents well utilized by the military, allowing him to join the director Sir Carol Reed on some propaganda films. He eventually earned his first screenwriting credit for The Way Ahead (1944). One of Sir Carol Reed's best films, The Way Ahead was a thrilling drama which starred David Niven as a civilian heading up a group of locals to resist an oncoming Nazi unit. It was enough of a hit to earn Ustinov his first film directorial assignment, School for Secrets (1946), a well paced drama about the discovery of radar starring Sir Ralph Richardson and Sir Richard Attenborough.

After the war, Ustinov took on another writer-director project Vice Versa (1948), a whimsical fantasy-comedy starring Roger Livesey and Anthony Newley as a father and son who magically switch personalities. Although not a huge hit of its day, the sheer buoyancy of the surreal premise has earned the film a large cult following.

Ustinov made his Hollywood debut, and garnered his first Oscar® nomination for Best Supporting Actor, as an indolent Nero in the Roman epic, Quo Vadis? (1951). After achieving some international popularity with that role, Ustinov gave some top-notch performances in quality films: the snappish Prinny in the Stewart Granger vehicle Beau Brummel (1954); holding his own against Humphrey Bogart as an escaped convict in We're No Angels (1954); the ring master who presides over the life of the lead character in Max Ophuls's resplendent Lola Montez (1955); and a garrulous settler coping with the Australian outback in The Sundowners (1960).

The '60s would be Ustinov's most fruitful decade. He started off gabbing his first Oscar® as the cunning slave dealer in Spartacus (1960); made a smooth screen adaptation by directing his smash play, Romanoff and Juliet (1961), earned critical acclaim for his co-adaptation, direction, production and performance in Herman Melville's nautical classic Billy Budd (1962); and earned a second Oscar® as the fumbling jewel thief in the crime comedy Topkapi (1964).

He scored another Oscar® nomination in the Best Original Screenplay category for his airy, clever crime romp Hot Millions (1968), in which he played a con artist who uses a computer to bilk a company out of millions of dollars; but after that, Ustinov began taking a string of offbeat character parts: the lead in one of Disney's better kiddie flicks Blackbeard's Ghost (1968); a Mexican General who wants to reclaim Texas for Mexico in Viva Max! (1969); an old man who survives the ravaged planet of the future in Logan's Run (1976); and an unfortunate turn as a Chinese stereotype in Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen (1981). Still, he did achieve renewed popularity when he took on the role of Hercule Poirot in the star laced, Agatha Christie extravaganza Death on the Nile (1978). He was such a hit, that he would adroitly play the Belgian detective in two more theatrical movies: Evil Under the Sun (1982) and Appointment With Death (1988); as well as three television movies: Thirteen at Dinner (1985), Murder in Three Acts, Dead Man's Folly (both 1986).

Beyond his work in films, Ustinov was justifiably praised for his humanitarian work - most notably as the unpaid, goodwill ambassador for United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). Since 1968, he had traveled to all corners of the globe: China, Russia, Myanmar, Cambodia, Kenya, Egypt, Thailand and numerous other countries to promote and host many benefit concerts for the agency.

Ustinov, who in 1990 earned a knighthood for his artistic and humanitarian contributions, is survived by his wife of 32 years, Hélène du Lau d'Allemans; three daughters, Tamara, Pavla, Andrea; and a son, Igor.

by Michael T. Toole

Sir Peter Ustinov (1921-2004)

Sir Peter Ustinov, the witty, multi-talented actor, director and writer whose 60-year career in entertainment included two Best Supporting Actor Oscars® for his memorable character turns in the films Spartacus and Topkapi, died of heart failure on March 28 at a clinic in Genolier, Switzerland. He was 82. He was born Peter Alexander Ustinov on April 16, 1921 in London, England. His father was a press attache at the German embassy until 1935 - when disgusted by the Nazi regime - he took out British nationality. He attended Westminster School, an exclusive private school in central London until he was 16. He then enrolled for acting classes at the London Theater Studio, and by 1939, he made his London stage debut. His jovial nature and strong gift for dialects made him a natural player for films, and it wasn't long after finding theatre work that Ustinov moved into motion pictures: a Dutch priest in Michael Powell's One of Our Aircraft is Missing (1941); an elderly Czech professor in Let the People Sing (1942); and a star pupil of a Nazi spy school in The Goose Steps Out (1942). He served in the British Army for four years (1942-46), where he found his talents well utilized by the military, allowing him to join the director Sir Carol Reed on some propaganda films. He eventually earned his first screenwriting credit for The Way Ahead (1944). One of Sir Carol Reed's best films, The Way Ahead was a thrilling drama which starred David Niven as a civilian heading up a group of locals to resist an oncoming Nazi unit. It was enough of a hit to earn Ustinov his first film directorial assignment, School for Secrets (1946), a well paced drama about the discovery of radar starring Sir Ralph Richardson and Sir Richard Attenborough. After the war, Ustinov took on another writer-director project Vice Versa (1948), a whimsical fantasy-comedy starring Roger Livesey and Anthony Newley as a father and son who magically switch personalities. Although not a huge hit of its day, the sheer buoyancy of the surreal premise has earned the film a large cult following. Ustinov made his Hollywood debut, and garnered his first Oscar® nomination for Best Supporting Actor, as an indolent Nero in the Roman epic, Quo Vadis? (1951). After achieving some international popularity with that role, Ustinov gave some top-notch performances in quality films: the snappish Prinny in the Stewart Granger vehicle Beau Brummel (1954); holding his own against Humphrey Bogart as an escaped convict in We're No Angels (1954); the ring master who presides over the life of the lead character in Max Ophuls's resplendent Lola Montez (1955); and a garrulous settler coping with the Australian outback in The Sundowners (1960). The '60s would be Ustinov's most fruitful decade. He started off gabbing his first Oscar® as the cunning slave dealer in Spartacus (1960); made a smooth screen adaptation by directing his smash play, Romanoff and Juliet (1961), earned critical acclaim for his co-adaptation, direction, production and performance in Herman Melville's nautical classic Billy Budd (1962); and earned a second Oscar® as the fumbling jewel thief in the crime comedy Topkapi (1964). He scored another Oscar® nomination in the Best Original Screenplay category for his airy, clever crime romp Hot Millions (1968), in which he played a con artist who uses a computer to bilk a company out of millions of dollars; but after that, Ustinov began taking a string of offbeat character parts: the lead in one of Disney's better kiddie flicks Blackbeard's Ghost (1968); a Mexican General who wants to reclaim Texas for Mexico in Viva Max! (1969); an old man who survives the ravaged planet of the future in Logan's Run (1976); and an unfortunate turn as a Chinese stereotype in Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen (1981). Still, he did achieve renewed popularity when he took on the role of Hercule Poirot in the star laced, Agatha Christie extravaganza Death on the Nile (1978). He was such a hit, that he would adroitly play the Belgian detective in two more theatrical movies: Evil Under the Sun (1982) and Appointment With Death (1988); as well as three television movies: Thirteen at Dinner (1985), Murder in Three Acts, Dead Man's Folly (both 1986). Beyond his work in films, Ustinov was justifiably praised for his humanitarian work - most notably as the unpaid, goodwill ambassador for United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). Since 1968, he had traveled to all corners of the globe: China, Russia, Myanmar, Cambodia, Kenya, Egypt, Thailand and numerous other countries to promote and host many benefit concerts for the agency. Ustinov, who in 1990 earned a knighthood for his artistic and humanitarian contributions, is survived by his wife of 32 years, Hélène du Lau d'Allemans; three daughters, Tamara, Pavla, Andrea; and a son, Igor. by Michael T. Toole

Quotes

It's more than likely, it has been my experience that men are least attracted to women who treat them well.
- Miss Bowers
Come Bowers, it's time to go, this place is beginning to resemble a mortuary.
- Mrs. Van Schuyler
Thank God you'll be in one yourself before too long you bloody old fossil!
- Miss Bowers
You damn froggy eavesdropper.
- Jim Ferguson
Belgian! Belgian eavesdropper!
- Hercule Poirot
"You need a nice cool holiday, I was thinking of a trip along the Gobi Desert!"
- Mrs. Van Schuyler
Frenchmen aren't afraid of good strong sex!
- Mrs Otterbourne

Trivia

Filming had to be stopped every day at noon because temperatures reached 130 degrees F at that time.

Aboard ship, no one was allowed his or her own dressing room, so Bette Davis, Maggie Smith, and Angela Lansbury all shared a room.

The movie was shot aboard the paddle steamer 'Sudan' (in the movie named 'Karnak') which is the last operating paddle steamer on the Nile as of 2004.

Miscellaneous Notes

The United Kingdom

Released in United States September 1978

Released in United States Summer September 1, 1978

Completed production August 1978.

Released in United States September 1978

Released in United States Summer September 1, 1978