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.
The film opens in 1937 in a New Jersey mansion with the obligatory reading of the will, a scene that also establishes Piper Laurie as she fixes the will to get all hubby’s money and for his four children to get nothing. She takes them off on a trip to Europe and the Holy Land, and it is while they are en route to Palestine by liner that they meet Ustinov, Lauren Bacall (playing a British Member of Parliament), Jenny Seagrove and Hayley Mills.
Laurie finally is poisoned while the troupe is at an archaeological dig, leaving Ustinov to twiddle his moustache and pinpoint the killer (who actually is quite easy to spot).