Picks and Pans Review: Appointment with Death

updated 05/09/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/09/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Not only does this film pale in comparison with such earlier movie versions of Agatha Christie stories as Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile, it pales in comparison with anything else likely to appear on a screen, including the five-minutes-to-showtime drive-in stuff with the dancing gumdrops. In this story of murder in the Middle East in 1937, Peter Ustinov reprises the role of Christie's effete detective Hercule Poirot. Among the suspects he confronts are Lauren Bacall, Hayley Mills, Carrie Fisher, Jenny (Local Hero) Seagrove and Sir John Gielgud as a British police officer in Palestine. Nothing wrong with the cast nor the Israel and Italy locations. But the script by playwrights Anthony (Sleuth) Shaffer and Peter Buckman and Michael Winner, who also directed, is cruelly lame. When Seagrove meets dashing John (Secret Admirer) Terlesky, for instance, she says, "I just finished medical school." He says, "I'll bet you did." So much for repartee. The punch lines are like straight lines, the straight lines like stage directions. But then Winner is best known for directing such witty films as Death Wish. When Ustinov solves the murder during the climactic gathering of possible culprits, he doesn't relieve the audience's tension; he puts it out of its misery. (PG)

From Our Partners