It’s took me a long time to track down this film, it was on Channel 5 at Christmas but I managed to miss it, and then found it had been deleted as a DVD and the cost was astronomical, but I finally managed to get one at a decent price from eBay last week and it was definitely worth the wait and effort.
Appointment With Death is a 1988 film, the last of the Peter Ustinov Poirot films, following on from Death on the Nile, Evil Under the Sun, and three television movies. Appointment With Death was the last cinema release for the Ustinov films and the least well received, even though it followed the blueprint of the others – a starry cast, beautifully shot on location, and a fabulous Agatha Christie story at it’s heart.
The story of rich widow Mrs Boynton, and her unhappy brood of step children who take a trip to the Holy Land is one of my fave Agatha stories, as it has such an unexpected killer at its heart, and a sort of happy ending for most of the unhappy protagonists. The film is pretty faithful to the story, with a peerless cast of leads including Lauren Bacall (in her second Christie adaptation following Murder on the Orient Express in 1974), Piper Laurie, Hayley Mills, John Gielgud and Carrie Fisher. Jenny Seagrove plays Dr Sarah King, who sort of serves as Poirot’s assistant, while it is a surprise to see David Soul in the cast as the somewhat sleazy lawyer Jefferson.
I wonder if some of the negative reviews came from this being a Michael Winner film, as I generally found it very entertaining, beautifully shot on location, and also stylishly costumed. Lauren Bacall is great, fabulously acerbic and very funny at times, and great foil for Poirot, clearly irritated by her overbearing presence. Piper Laurie is a great victim/villain too, chilling in her control over her children.
If you can hold of a copy, Appointment with Death is great fun and well worth a watch, and maybe a reassessment.