Director Guy Hamilton admits to hating Agatha Christie’s writing style. He finds it overcrowded with characters and passe in general. Apart from cutting down the number of characters, Hamilton and scripter Anthony Shaffer have also had the audacity to switch things around in the inevitable denouement scene. Poirot points right away at the guilty party, while the true suspense is put into the how’s and why’s that follow.
But fun it is to follow this cast of English and US characters in their stay at the elegantly old-fashioned resort hotel on a remote Tyrrhenian island (shot in Mallorca, original novel took place in Cornwall), where a famous stage actress gives them all a good motive for doing her in.
Through it all, Peter Ustinov’s Poirot paddles about, being demanding of staff (beeswax for his shoes) and cuisine and happy about himself.
Next to Ustinov, Maggie Smith shines as the hotel proprietress in love with the murdered woman’s husband, played with quiet gusto by Denis Quilley. Diana Rigg as the stage star makes it believable in one short song-and-dance scene that she really is such a star.