EVIL UNDER THE SUN
HOLIDAYS CAN BE MURDER!
Evil Under The Sun was the second Agatha Christie adaption Shaffer scripted for producers John Brabourne and Richard Goodwin. Brabourne and Goodwin had by now already done Murder On The Orient Express, Death On The Nile, The Mirror Crack'd and now Evil Under The Sun. Of these, The Mirror Crack'd stands out from the others as it features Christie's other famous sleuth, Miss Marple, and the locations were filmed in Kent and at Twickenham Studios, not the usual lavish locations usually chosen for the Christie films. Although the cast wasn't as prolific as those featured in the previous films, it did include Angela Lansbury as Miss Marple, Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, Kim Novak, Charles Gray, Edward Fox and Tony Curtis. Jonathan Hales and Barry Sandler shared screenwriting credits. The director was was Guy Hamilton who was now to direct Shaffer's script for Evil Under The Sun.
Agatha Christie's novel was first published in 1941 and is set on Smugglers Island off the coast of Devon where Hercule Poirot is holidaying - or supposed to be! Shaffer's printed script is also set on Smugglers Island and its surrounding beaches and coves. A sketch of the island and its various points is attached to the script - a useful guide for sure! However, Brabourne and Goodwin wanted their film to feature wonderful and exotic locations with a star studded cast and so, in 1981, the story is transferred to the warmer climate of Majorca in Spain with studio shots being filmed at Lee International Studios, Wembley in London. Finding a suitable location though was a headache for the producers as all the nice, quiet, little beaches they looked at all had large, modern hotels nearby. Time was moving on and so Guy Hamilton, who lived on Majorca, suggested they look around his side of the island. They did and found their locations.
Guy Hamilton has many successful films to his credit including Battle Of Britain, Force 10 From Navarone, An Inspector Calls, The Colditz Story and several James Bond titles: Goldfinger, Diamonds Are Forever, Live And Let Die and The Man With The Golden Gun.
The cast on this occasion would include: Peter Ustinov as Poirot, James Mason, Roddy McDowall, Diana Rigg, Jane Birkin, Maggie Smith, Colin Blakely, Sylvia Miles, Nicholas Clay and Denis Quilley. As well as Ustinov making a return appearance, Jane Birkin and Maggie Smith both appeared in Death On The Nile and Dennis Quilley, Collin Blakely and John Gielgud all appeared in Murder On The Orient Express (Gielgud would later appear in Appointment With Death.)
Jane Birkin commented on Ustinov's portrayal of Poirot: "For me Ustinov is Poirot so it's very hard to separate them. If you have lunch with him you see him doing practically every accent in the world and being equally funny. He is Poirot - I can't imagine anybody else. He's left his mark. He makes him very funny and very sweet too."
Roddy McDowall: "I’ve enjoyed doing 'Evil Under The Sun' because the cast was splendid and so were the locations. It was fast-paced, and I’m a Christie fan, and I got to play a Hollywood gossip columnist – and I’ve always been interested in Hedda and Louella and what they did and wrote about."
Peter Ustinov was keen to add the scene where Poirot enters the sea in a voluminous pre-war bathing suit, more for dramatic than costume reasons. “We wanted a break in the film: the form is as rigid as an interview, with Poirot asking all the questions and not being able to put on a bravura performance until the end.”
Evil Under The Sun was released in the US in March 1982 and in Europe between March - September that year. The film was also given the honour of being chosen to be performed at the Royal Film Performance in 1982.
The films atmosphere was enhanced by the music of Cole Porter which was arranged and conducted by John Lanchberry. A soundtrack was released on vinyl by RCA Records in 1982 and on CD by DRG Records in 1994. Some of the songs in the film include Porter’s ’Anything Goes,’ ’You’re The Top,’ and ’Begin The Beguine.’
Eagle eyed viewers may have noticed some of the famous guests who had stayed at Daphne Castle's hotel. The hotel register lists Cole Porter, Ivor Novello, Maurice Chevalier, Fred and Adele Astaire and Charlie Chaplin having stayed there!
The critics were fair with their reviews. The New York Times said: "In adapting Dame Agatha's not exactly flamboyant novel, Mr. Shaffer seems to have put a paperback edition of it under his pillow for one night and then allowed his imagination to take over. That's all to the good, though, because this is - after all - a conventional whodunit; both he and Guy Hamilton, the director, faithfully observe all of those genteel, drawing room conceits that so charm Christie fans and stupefy the rest of us."
Evil Under The Sun was Shaffer's favourite film of the Christie adaption's and for which he was nominated an Edgar Allan Poe Award in 1983.
There are many differences between Shaffer's script and the finished film and at times its as if the two don't match. Shaffer's script contains several scenes which were either cut or reworked into different parts of the film. This applies to the dialogue too, with sections being incorporated here and there during the film and not always running to the order of the script. Several characters from the script did not make it to the film - Poirot's old friend Colonel Race being one of them. In the script, Colonel Race is sent to assist Poirot by King Zog of Albania when Arlena's body is found. Colonel Race is with Poirot for most of the story from that point, as in Death On The Nile. Another change is the character Agnes Brewster becomes Rex Brewster in the film.
Some key differences between the script and the film are when Poirot is at the Trojan Insurance Company at the start of the film. The script has Poirot explaining to the insurance executive that the woman found dead on the moors could have been killed by her husband as he had a motive, but was he was travelling on a train at the time. An alibi backed up by witnesses. This scene then cuts straight to the guests arriving by boat to the Jolly Roger Hotel at Smugglers Island and does not include the insurance executive showing Poirot the fake diamond sent in by Horace Blatt. In the script, Poirot talks about his findings in this case with Colonel Race and questions the circumstances surrounding it. The script does not include Poirot's meeting with Horace Blatt on the yacht or when he was at the restaurant observing the Redfern's and sees Mr Redfern sneaking over to a woman at another table.
Scenes which are unique to the script and don't appear in the film include the guests arriving on the island by boat. The Gardeners are on a boat with Miss Agnes Brewster and talk at length about their time in England. Horace Blatt shares a boat with the Redfern's, where he tries to break the ice by telling Patrick a joke about the Irish! Blatt's appearance at the hotel in the finished film comes much later than the script and he, of course, has his own yacht.
The script also reveals that Arlena Marshall and Patrick Redfern know each other through the theatre. Their acquaintance is made much earlier than the film. There's also a scene at the cocktail party with Daphne and Kenneth Marshall laughing about their times in the past when they were neighbours. The next day Miss Brewster tells Poirot about how she used to be Arlena Marshall's secretary and gives him details about the famed actress's life. There's also a scene where Daphne Castle phones King Zog, the King of Albania, asking him to give them time to solve the case before alerting the police. King Zog grants his permission and tells her he has a Colonel Race there, a friend of Poirot's who solved a murder on the Nile, and will send him to the island.
Hercule Poirot........................Peter Ustinov
Produced By: John Brabourne and Richard Goodwin
Directed By: Guy Hamilton
Based On the novel Evil Under The Sun by Agatha Christie (1941)
Production Company: Titan Productions
The film opens with a young woman running across the moors and into a police station where she tells the desk sergeant there's a body on the moors. The police and a doctor arrive at the scene where the dead woman lies.
We see Poirot at the Trojan Insurance company telling the executive there that the case of the dead woman has not been solved and is one of those cases in which the insurance company must 'laugh and lump it!' The executive then shows Poirot a fake diamond which had been sent to them for insurance purposes. Poirot questions why a millionaire industrialist would perpetrate such an obvious fraud. The executive asks Poirot to investigate the matter for them.
Poirot visits Horace Blatt on board his yacht in the south of France. Blatt is furious that Poirot thinks he is trying to fraud the insurance company. He explains how he had bought the jewel for an actress he met in New York who said she was in love with him. She was going to leave the show she was in to move to England and marry him. Half way through the journey she changed her mind and ran off with another man, taking the jewel with her. He demanded the stone back and a few weeks later she returned it to him. He sent it to be insured and now finds its a copy. He tells Poirot that he knows she will be holidaying at a hotel run by Daphne Castle in a few days time and Poirot arranges to meet him there. Later, Poirot is eating at a restaurant and observing Mr and Mrs Redfern. Mrs Redfern leaves the room and Poirot looks up to see Mr Redfern has now joined another table to be with a woman who is out of view.
We see Daphne Castle, the proprietor of the hotel on a remote island in the Adriatic, talking to Rex Brewster and Mr and Mrs Gardener who are theatrical producers. Daphne tells them that Arlena Marshall will be staying at the hotel. Rex teases the Gardeners about one of their shows having to close due to Arlena walking out the production.
REX: "What was that? A sudden breakdown in health?"
MRS GARDENER: "More like a sudden attack of gold digging!"
Patrick and Christine Redfern arrive at the hotel and we see Arlena and Kenneth Marshall and his daughter Linda arriving at the boat waiting to take them to the island. Arlena is making a fuss about the taxi journey to the driver and the boys dragging her cases along the ground as they run to the boat. Poirot is already at the boat and they introduce themselves. We learn that Kenneth Marshall has been to the island a few years earlier after the death of his first wife. They set off to the island.
Daphne Castle greets Kenneth Marshall warmly and comes face to face with Arlena, an old sparring partner which Kenneth wasn't aware of.
DAPHNE: "Arlena and I were in the chorus of a show together. Not that I could ever compete.
Poirot is the next to sign in at the hotel.
DAPHNE: "I hope you haven't come here to practice your sleuthing games on my guests -
At the cocktail party that evening, we see Daphne mingling with her guests. Arlena appears and the Gardeners tell her how they want her to appear in their next production. We know from a conversation earlier between the Gardeners that her casting in the play is crucial to their future. Arlena tells them she is not interested as Kenneth is her new audience now. Poirot sees a bracelet on Arlena's wrist and recognises it as the one worn by the woman that was out of view in the restaurant where Patrick Redfern was eating with his wife. He looks over at Patrick Redfern who is watching Arlena and realises that they are secretly involved with each other.
The next day the guests are seated outside enjoying the sun. The Gardeners are bitter about Arlena who makes a grand entrance onto the terrace. Rex Brewster approaches Arlena and talks about the biography he has written about her. She tells him she wants to keep her past in the past and refuses to allow him to publish it. He contests this, saying that he has already spent the advance and needs the money, but she stands firm. He tells her she will regret this and storms off. Poirot sees from a distance Arlena and Patrick Redfern playing about in the water. They row away in a boat togethert and are seen by the other guests including Daphne, Kenneth Marshall and Linda.
Later, Poirot finds Christine Redfern alone and upset. Poirot tells her that the likes of Arlena are just for the moment and that her husband does love her. They go for a walk and Christine almost collapses due to vertigo but is helped by Poirot.
CHRISTINE: "I'm determined to enjoy myself. It's so blissful here. So tranquil. So far from all the violence and trouble."
POIROT: "Yes, you are right, Madame. The sky is blue, the sun is shining, and yet you forget
That evening Daphne and Kenneth Marshall have a heart to heart about Arlena and the way in which she behaves towards Linda and him. Kenneth is obviously hurt by the way Arlena flaunts herself but believes that he should stand by her.
DAPHNE: "Till death do you part?"
DAPHNE: "I see."
The Gardener's had earlier passed a script for their new stage production to Arlena who had been reading it as she lay in the sun earlier that day. Now, it's obvious that she has declined their offer again. Odell tells Myra that he will think of something.
In the Marshalls room, Kenneth speaks to Arlena about Patrick Redfern. She tells him he just happens to be a guest there. Kenneth tells her he's a guest there because she had booked him in. Arlena is furious with Daphne who has obviously told Kenneth.
Poirot hears the Redfern's arguing in their room. Christine is accusing Patrick of having an affair with Arlena and wants them to leave the hotel.
That night the guests are relaxing in the main lounge and Arlena sings to them, accompanied on the piano by Kenneth.
The next day Poirot is at the beach getting ready for a swim and is asked for help by Arlena to push her pedallo out. She tells him not to tell anyone as she wants some time alone.
Mrs Gardener is going on about Arelena to her husband who tells her that he's got something worked out. She rants on but he quietly exits their room and leaves the hotel. Daphne sees Linda and speaks to her about Arlena. She tells the girl not to let Arlena worry her and that things always have a way of working out. "Yes, if you make them" snaps Linda.
Christine and Linda go off to the cove together to do some sketching. They are watched by Odell Marshall who is hiding among the bushes. Daphne Castle is taking a walk along the cliff path and sees Arlena sunbathing on the beach below. Rex Brewster is in a pedallo and appears to be making his way to the cove. Patrick Redfern looks about him and is contemplating taking a motor boat from a jetty. Mrs Gardener calls out to him and asks if she can join him. Awkwardly, he says yes. They go off in the boat together and are watched by Poirot.
Christine tells Linda that she has to get back to the hotel as she is due to play tennis at 12:30. Patrick and Mrs Gardener are sailing around the cove and they see Arlena lying on the beach. Patrick goes to Arlena but finds her dead. He tells Mrs Gardener to go and get help while he stays. Mrs Gardner sets off in the boat.
Poirot is at the scene with Daphne Castle and Patrick Redfern. He says that Arlena has been strangled and they should inform the police and acquire a doctor to establish the time of death. Daphne takes Poirot to one side and asks him if they could keep this quiet as the scandal of a murdered stage star could ruin her business. Poirot tells her that there is no way this can not become an official matter.
DAPHNE: "Just think what everyone would say if they were to discover you
Poirot, Daphne and Patrick Redfern arrive back at the hotel where Horace Blatt is waiting. He tells Poirot that Arlena was a bit flighty but didn't deserve to die. He says he'll put his encounter down to experience and move on. Poirot tells him he found the fake diamond hidden near to scene and Horace Blatt reveals that he had spoken to Arlena in hope of getting the real jewel back. She wouldn't tell him where it was but he didn't kill her. His crew who were on his yacht would have seen him.
Patrick Redfern also proved his innocence by pointing out that Poirot had watched him leaving in the motor boat with Mrs Gardener therefore making Poirot his alibi.
Poirot starts to question the guests about their actions which might have caused Arlena's death. He speaks to her husband Kenneth Marshall who had a motive because of the way she flirted with other men. Kenneth explains that he was typing some letters at the time of her death, but Poirot says he didn't hear him. At that point Daphne enters the room and says she had seen him typing from the doorway in a reflection from the mirror. Poirot proves otherwise by showing that Kenneth Marshall's reflection could not be seen in the mirror and she is lying. Kenneth shows Poirot a number of typed pages which are in reply to a letter he had received earlier that morning. Poirot turns to Daphne and suggests that she might have done the murder while out for her walk that morning. She argues this and says he should be speaking to Horace Blatt because she saw him shouting at Arlena on the beach. Poirot explains that he already has spoken to Blatt and without knowing it, they have collaborated each others stories. He leaves the room.
Poirot heads to his room but stops when he hears Christine shouting and leaving her room, slamming the door. He calls to her and asks about how she spent her time that morning. She tells him she was sketching with Linda and ran straight back to the hotel to play tennis at 12:30 with Daphne, Kenneth and Odell Marshall. Poirot then goes to see Linda who tells him straight that she is not sorry Arlena is dead. She was horrible to her and her father. Linda tells Poirot about how she went sketching with Christine that morning and Christine had left at noon to play tennis. She says he should be questioning Rex Brewster because he hates Arlena. He has written a book about her and she overheard them arguing the day before on the beach.
Rex Brewster is reading from a page he has written when Poirot approaches him. He points out that he had the motive to kill Arlena because he can now publish the biography he has written about her. Rex gives his account of how he went out on a pedallo and saw Linda Marshall swimming in the sea. He asked the girl to help him back but she refused and swam away. Poirot tells him that she said she saw nobody there. Rex confronts Linda and she confesses to seeing him. Poirot apologises and accepts Rex Brewster's alibi.
Odell Gardener tells Poirot that he has no alibi. He was sat reading in the garden unobserved before going back to the room to change for tennis. He got to the tennis courts and shortly after Christine Redfern joined them. Speaking later to Daphne Castle, she tells how she saw Odell Gardener sitting in the garden reading a book. Poirot sighs, perplexed.
DAPHNE: "You mean nobody did it?"
POIROT: "And yet, we still have a body, Madame."
Poirot spends time walking about the island and mulling over the case. That night he goes to the reception and looks through the hotel register. Thoughtfully, he returns to his room.
The next day Poirot asks Daphne to assemble her guests where he will meet them to reveal who the murderer is. Poirot reveals the murderer to be Christine Redfern and proceeds to tell how she had used Linda Marshall as an alibi by changing the time on the girls watch so that she could leave the cove early to make her way to the other cove where Arlena was waiting. Christine protests saying she had vertigo and could not climb down the ladders at that cove. Poirot points out that Christine was pretending to have vertigo the day she almost collapsed in front of him. Christine had made her way down to the beach and struck Arlena on the head with a stone. Poirot goes on to tell the guests that it was in fact Patrick Redfern who had strangled Arlena. Mrs Gardener protests saying she was with him when they got to the beach. She saw Arlena lying in the sun when Patrick went to her. Poirot points out that she saw what they wanted her to see. In fact, the body on the beach was Christine who was wearing the large hat over her head to conceal her face and had applied a fake tan lotion to her arms and legs. When Mrs Gardener left in the boat to fetch help, Christine got up and went back to the small cave where Arlena's body was lying and replaced her bathing suit.
The guests listen quietly as Poirot goes on to tell how Christine then made her way back to the hotel to wash off the fake tan before changing to play tennis with the others. He also tells them about the loud arguments the Redfern's had staged with each other in order that they could be heard by himself.
Patrick Redfern asks him what was the motive for killing Arlena? He adored her. Adultery was not a crime. Poirot is quick to point out that he did not adore her - he adored the diamond given to her by Horace Blatt. Patrick had borrowed the jewel and gave her back the fake copy. He had to do away with her so met her on the quiet island and strangled her in the small cave on the beach. The whole thing had been planned.
Patrick Redfern tells Poirot he has no proof and he and Christine exit the room to pack. The others are not happy with the outcome of Poirot's case. The Redfern's appear all ready to leave and Patrick pays for their stay with a cheque. Poirot tells the guests that Redfern is using a false name and is also responsible for a murder of a girl found strangled on the moor some time ago. Poirot has checked the signatures by Patrick of the hotel register and the insurance application. The style of the signatures match. Poirot then removes Redfern's pipe and reveals the diamond hidden in it. He hands it back to its rightful owner, Horace Blatt. Patrick Redfern then punches Poirot to the floor.
Daphne Castle is nursing Poirot and tells him he has been commended by the King for doing such a thorough job and being discreet. Poirot, still in pain, is happy with the news.
We see the guests on a ship moving away from the island, passing a smaller boat with the Redfern's seated on it. They are tied up and being watched by the crew.