Appointment with Death (film)

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Appointment with Death
Appointment with Death poster.jpg
Original cinema poster
Directed by Michael Winner
Screenplay byMichael Winner
Anthony Shaffer
Peter Buckman
Based on Appointment with Death
by
Agatha Christie
Produced byMichael Winner
Menahem Golan
Yoram Globus
Starring
Cinematography David Gurfinkel
Edited byArnold Crust Jr. (Michael Winner)
Music by Pino Donaggio
Production
company
Distributed by Cannon Film Distributors
Release date
15 April 1988 (US)
Running time
102 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$6 million [1]
Box office$960,040 [2]

Appointment with Death is a 1988 American mystery film and sequel produced and directed by Michael Winner. Made by Golan-Globus Productions, the film is an adaptation of the 1938 Agatha Christie novel Appointment with Death featuring the detective Hercule Poirot. The screenplay was written by Winner as well as Peter Buckman and Anthony Shaffer.

Contents

The film stars Peter Ustinov as Poirot, along with Lauren Bacall, Carrie Fisher, John Gielgud, Piper Laurie, Hayley Mills, Jenny Seagrove and David Soul. It is a follow-up to numerous other theatrical and made-for-television adaptions starring Ustinov, as well as 1974's Murder On The Orient-Express.

It marks Ustinov's final portrayal of Hercule Poirot.

Plot

Emily Boynton, stepmother to the three Boynton children – Lennox, Raymond, and Carol – and mother to Ginevra, blackmails the family lawyer, Jefferson Cope, into destroying her late husband's second will that left them $200,000 each, which would free them from Mrs. Boynton's domination.

She takes the stepchildren and Nadine, her daughter-in-law serving as a nurse, on holiday to Europe. In Trieste, the great detective Hercule Poirot runs into an old friend, Dr. Sarah King. Sarah soon falls in love with Raymond Boynton, to Emily's disapproval.

Lady Westholme is introduced. She was born American but has had British nationality for the last ten years due to her marriage, during which she became an MP. She, archaeologist Miss Quinton, and lawyer Jefferson Cope (the same) are also on their way to Jerusalem and Qumran.

The Boynton family are surprised to see Cope on board the ship. The adult step-children discover the existence of a second will since their father told Lennox before he died but no one can prove this. Emily continues to bully her step-children. Cope is flirting with Nadine who overtly accepts his courting. He also resists Emily's demand that he stay away from them. Emily poisons Cope's wine, but this is spilt when Nadine's husband thumps Cope, having found an engraved cigarette case given to Nadine by Cope. Poirot observes a fly drinking from the spill and dying, and keeps a close eye on the family when they disembark.

At the archaeological dig, Cope, Nadine, Lennox, Carol, Raymond and Dr King go for a walk, but Lennox turns back, upset by his wife's preference for Cope. Later the others return one by one. Dr King notices an Arab man hovering over Emily. When she goes over, she finds Emily dead. Dr King thinks Emily died of a heart attack but Poirot points out it is wise to be suspicious when there is a death of someone who is widely hated. He asks Dr King to check her medical bag and she finds it disordered, with an empty bottle of digitalis and there is a missing syringe.

Poirot deduces that Mrs. Boynton was injected with a lethal dose of digitalis, corresponding to a medicine she took that was usually administered by Nadine, in order that her death appear to be by natural causes. Since the family could have altered her medication without needing an additional syringe, he suspects an outsider.

There is an altercation in the street, a gun is fired and an Arab boy is killed. Dr King is accused, but Poirot has her released so she can travel with him to meet the others for a 'picnic' where he plans to reveal what happened. Having suggested that all the step-children lied about seeing their step-mother alive when she was dead (thinking one of them may have done it and wishing to delay or protect them against discovery), he reveals the truth: Lady Westholme is the murderer. She was once in prison and Emily had recognised her from her time as a prison warden. To keep her quiet and maintain her status, Lady Westholme had resorted to murder.

Cast

Production

Filming took place in Israel. [3] The denouement takes place at the Springs of Sataf.

Director Michael Winner had become known for violent films but this represented a change of pace. "You won't see Lauren Bacall walking around machine-gunning everyone," he said. "In fact, it's my first picture in years that was under budget on blood." There were plans for Winner to adapt another Agatha Christie tale for the film the following year, but this did not happen. [4]

Reception

The film received a mixed reception. Vincent Canby wrote in The New York Times that the film "is not up to the stylish standard of the earlier all-star, Hercule Poirot mysteries, especially Sidney Lumet's Murder on the Orient Express . The pleasures of the form are not inexhaustible, and this time the physical production looks sort of cut-rate." [5] Michael Wilmington of the Los Angeles Times blasted the film as "unsatisfying, even a little soporific [with a] tendency to blame co-writer-producer-director Michael Winner, whose 1978 adaptation of "The Big Sleep" ruined the story by translating its action from Los Angeles in the 1930s to London in the 1970s." [6] Another blasting of the film came from Variety , whose reviewer wrote: "Peter Ustinov hams his way through Appointment with Death one more time as ace Belgian detective 'Hercuool Pwarow,' but neither he nor glitz can lift the pic from an impression of little more than a routine whodunit. Even the normally amusing Ustinov looks a bit jaded in his third big-screen outing as the sleuth, as well as several TV productions. Director Michael Winner has some fine Israeli locations to play with, but his helming is only lackluster, the script and characterizations bland, and there simply are not enough murders to sustain the interest of even the most avid Agatha Christie fan." [7] Critic David Aldridge, from an issue of Film Review magazine dated May 1988, classified the film as "another loser from Winner, though, to give the man some small due, even a more talented director would have floundered forcing freshness in such formularised fare." He also criticized Cannon Films for the production value of a film that ostensibly was shot on an exotic location, with the quote: "But, then, it is a Cannon Film and they're not known for spending a penny when a halfpenny would just about do. Good for TV."

Box office

The film failed at the box office. [8]

Changes

The novel takes place primarily in Petra, Jordan, whereas the film takes place in Jerusalem and Qumran (near the Dead Sea). This change was made because the production company of Yoram Globus and Menahem Golan was based in Israel.

DVD availability

Appointment with Death is the only one of the six films in which Peter Ustinov portrayed Hercule Poirot that's never been released on Region 1 DVD for U.S. and Canadian home video.

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References

  1. "Box Office Champs, Chumps : The hero of the bottom line was the 46-year-old 'Bambi' - Page 2 - latimes". Los Angeles Times . Archived from the original on 14 October 2018. Retrieved 16 April 2020.
  2. "Appointment with Death". Box Office Mojo .
  3. Lauren Bacall reflects on an 'uphill' career 'I'm not going to give up' PEARL SHEFFY GEFEN. The Globe and Mail;10 July 1987: D.3.
  4. PRODUCER IS 'WIRED' FOR STORY OF JOHN BELUSHI: [SPORTS FINAL, C Edition] Beck, Marilyn. Chicago Tribune7 Apr 1988: 15.
  5. Canby, Vincent (15 April 1988). "Movie Review - Appointment With Death - Review/Film; Review/Film; 'Appointment With Death' Recasts Ustinov as Poirot". The New York Times . Retrieved 26 June 2012.
  6. Wilmington, Michael (15 April 1988). "MOVIE REVIEWS : 'Appointment With Death' a Disappointment". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 26 June 2012.
  7. "Variety Reviews – Appointment with Death – Film Reviews – - Review by Variety Staff". Variety.com. 31 December 1987. Retrieved 26 June 2012.
  8. Klady, Leonard (8 January 1989). "Box Office Champs, Chumps : The hero of the bottom line was the 46-year-old 'Bambi' – Page 2". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 26 June 2012.