Evil Under the Sun (1982 film)

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Evil Under the Sun
Theatrical release poster
Directed byGuy Hamilton
Produced byJohn Brabourne
Richard Goodwin
Screenplay byAnthony Shaffer
Based onEvil Under the Sun
by Agatha Christie
Music byCole Porter
CinematographyChristopher Challis
Edited byRichard Marden
EMI Films
Titan Productions
Distributed byEMI Films
Release date
  • 5 March 1982 (1982-03-05)
Running time
117 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Budget$10 million[1]
Box office$6.1 million[2]

Evil Under the Sun is a 1982 British mystery film based on the 1941 novel of the same name by Agatha Christie.[3] It was directed by Guy Hamilton, and stars Peter Ustinov in his second theatrical appearance as the Belgian detective Hercule Poirot.[4]


A hiker finds a dead woman on the Yorkshire moors; the victim, who has been strangled, is identified as Alice Ruber. Shortly afterwards, Belgian detective Hercule Poirot (Peter Ustinov) examines a diamond belonging to millionaire industrialist Sir Horace Blatt (Colin Blakely), and declares it a fake. Assured that Sir Horace gave a real diamond to his mistress and she later returned the fake to him, Poirot agrees to meet Sir Horace at an exclusive Adriatic island resort to confront her. The hotel is the former summer palace of the reigning King of Tyrania, now owned by Daphne Castle (Maggie Smith), who had received the palace "for services rendered".

Sir Horace's former mistress is actress Arlena Stuart Marshall (Diana Rigg), who is on holiday with her husband Kenneth (Denis Quilley). Arlena is emotionally abusive to her stepdaughter, Linda (Emily Hone), and flirts with handsome young Patrick Redfern (Nicholas Clay), who is himself married to the meek Christine (Jane Birkin). Patrick is on the island only because Arlena arranged it. Kenneth turns to his old friend, Daphne, who reviles the way that Arlena treats both him and Linda. Arlena has also caused financial problems for Odell and Myra Gardener (James Mason and Sylvia Miles) by walking out of a major play, and refusing another. Writer Rex Brewster (Roddy McDowall) has already spent the royalties advanced to him for a tell-all biography of Arlena, but she refuses to give him a release. Early on the third morning, Arlena takes a paddle-boat to Ladder Bay. Patrick and Myra go for a boat trip around the island and see a body lying motionless on the beach. Patrick approaches the body and recognizes Arlena, announcing that she has been strangled. Poirot must determine which of his eight fellow guests—or Daphne—is the murderer.

Daphne had heard Kenneth in his room typing at the time of the murder, and Christine was with Linda at Gull Cove and did not leave until 11:55 for a 12:30 tennis match. Sir Horace argued with Arlena about the diamond at Ladder Bay at 11:30, which is confirmed by his yacht crew and by Daphne. Arlena kept the diamond, promising an explanation that evening, and Poirot finds the fake jewel nearby in a grotto. Patrick left at 11:30 with Myra, seeing Sir Horace's yacht coming, and hearing the noon cannon. Rex met Linda entering Gull Cove at 12:00, and reports that a bottle flung from the top of a cliff nearly hit him. Odell was seen reading by Daphne and her staff. He claims low water pressure hindered his 12:15 wash before tennis, but nobody admits to bathing at that time.

Assembling the suspects together, Poirot accuses Christine and Patrick of the crime: Christine knocked out Arlena and hid her in the nearby grotto, and Patrick strangled the helpless Arlena later. Christine posed as Arlena with makeup to simulate a suntan, Arlena's swimsuit and large red hat, to be purposely mis-identified by Patrick in Myra's presence. But Poirot had smelled Arlena's perfume in the grotto. Christine set Linda's watch twenty minutes fast, suggested a swim cap to muffle the noon cannon, and corrected the watch afterward. She tossed out the lotion bottle, almost hitting Rex, and bathed off her tan, thus depriving the leaky hotel water system of pressure. Poirot suspects that Patrick switched Sir Horace's jewel with a paste one, and that Patrick and Christine killed Arlena to protect the theft. The Redferns scoff at the detective's accusations, as he has no real proof.

On leaving the hotel, Patrick pays by cheque, signing the "R" in "Redfern" in a distinctive way that Poirot recognizes as the same way "Felix Ruber", husband of the Yorkshire moor victim, signed his name. The hiker that found the body had been Christine, establishing Patrick's alibi. Poirot knows photos from the British police will show Patrick and Felix to be the same person. Patrick puts a pipe in his mouth that has never been lit during his stay; Poirot empties the pipe bowl to reveal the genuine diamond. Patrick Redfern sucker punches Poirot into unconsciousness. The closing scene shows Daphne feeding the now conscious Poirot and informing him that the king is awarding him the Order of St Goodwin The Inquisitive, First Class, as Kenneth and Linda look on smiling. Meanwhile, several members of Daphne's staff are shown holding the Redferns prisoner on the island's shuttle boat on the way to the mainland while Blatt, Brewster, and the Gardners gleefully taunt the murderous couple with a champagne toast from Blatt's yacht.



EMI Films had a big success with Murder on the Orient Express. In 1975 head of production Nat Cohen announced the same producers would make Evil Under the Sun as part of a slate of six films worth £6 million, also including Aces High, Spanish Fly, Sweeney and The Likely Lads.[5] EMI ended up making all these films except Evil Under the Sun. In May 1977 EMI announced they would make two Christie adaptations, Evil Under the Sun and Death on the Nile.[6] Initially only the latter was made, which introduced Peter Ustinov as Hercule Poirot.

In March 1981 Barry Spikings announced EMI would make Evil Under the Sun at a budget of $10 million.[7]

Producer Goodwin said, "What we try to do is provide terrific escapist entertainment that you can take your kids to and make it look beautiful at the same time."[8]

The screenplay was written by Anthony Shaffer (who had worked on previous Christie adaptations) and an uncredited Barry Sandler.[9] The adaptation stayed fairly close to Christie's work but truncated scenes for time constraints, removed minor characters, and added humorous elements that were not present in the novel. Additionally, the novel was set in Devon, but the film was set on an Adriatic island in the fictional kingdom of Tyrania (based on Albania). The characters of Rosamund Darnley and Mrs. Castle were merged, the characters of Major Barry and Reverend Stephen Lane were omitted, and the female character of Emily Brewster was written as a man named Rex Brewster, played by McDowall.

The film was directed by Guy Hamilton, who had previously directed The Mirror Crack'd for the same producers. Hamilton said "I think one of the reasons the books and films are so popular is that people know what to expect, though now we try to add a few surprises."[8]

Ustinov made his second film appearance as Poirot, having previously played the Belgian detective in Death on the Nile (1978); Smith and Birkin also appeared in both films. Quilley and Blakely appeared in the earlier Brabourne-produced Murder on the Orient Express (1974).[10] Guy Hamilton had previously directed another Agatha Christie film, The Mirror Crack'd, in 1980.[11]

"I think it's a better script than the first one I did," said Ustinov. "And much more fun."[12]

Diana Rigg was cast as what she called "the archetypal actress bitch."[13]

Nicholas Clay was cast in a key role. Hamilton said "I was looking for someone like Stewart Granger or Michael Rennie - handsome, dashing, physical, romantic. Nick has it all. A fine sense of timing, the right looks and a good physique." [14]

Costumes for the film were designed by Academy Award winner Anthony Powell.[15][16]

Ustinov said, "I find Poirot a very engaging character, although he's quite awful, really. I should hate to know him. He's very vain, self-contained and finicky. People have asked me why he never married - because he couldn't solve it, of course. An ancillary reason is that he's very much in love with himself. He has probably been quite true to himself. I don't think he's ever cheated on himself."[17]

Sylvia Miles based her role on Terry Allen Kramer. "I never met her, but I figured that's what a producer should be like."[18]

Filming locations[edit]

Dragonera from Majorca.

The film was shot at Lee International Studios in Wembley, London, and on location in Majorca, Spain in May 1981.[9][19] The Majorca location was suggested by director Guy Hamilton, who had lived there for several years.[8]

The actual island used for aerial shots is Sa Dragonera, an uninhabited islet with "natural park" status, located just off the west coast of Majorca near Sant Elm.[20][21] Other locations used were Cala Blanca[a] as Ladder Bay, and offshore at Sant Elm[b] for the south of France (Sir Horace's boat scenes). Cala d'en Monjo[c] was used for the exteriors of Daphne's Cove and Hotel; the hotel itself was a private estate later bought by the Mallorca Island Council [ca; es] (along with the Calvià municipality) to create a natural park, which was demolished to its foundations. Gull Cove is the remote Cala en Feliu on the Formentor Peninsula.[22][d] The other hotel exterior shots were filmed at the Raixa [es; ca] Estate[e] in Bunyola, a large Italianate villa surrounded by gardens.[23] Once owned by the German designer Jil Sander, it was subsequently purchased by the Island Council of Majorca.[24] Finally, Poirot boards his boat to the island from Cala de Deià,[f] the cove below the village of Deià.[25]

The early scenes on the moors were shot in the Yorkshire Dales, England, with the exterior of the police station being the former Literary Institute in Muker, Swaledale.[26]

Award nomination[edit]

Award Category Subject Result
Edgar Award Best Motion Picture Anthony Shaffer Nominated


While promoting the film, Ustinov said he was going to do another Poirot film set in Jordan, but they could not make it yet because the country did not yet have the facilities. It was likely this was Appointment with Death.[27] Goodwin said he did not want to make another one for a few years. "We don't want to overdo them".[8]



  1. ^ BRITISH PRODUCTION 1981 Moses, Antoinette. Sight and Sound; London Vol. 51, Iss. 4, (Fall 1982): 258.
  2. ^ "Evil Under the Sun (1982)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2 May 2016.
  3. ^ Canby, Vincent (5 March 1982). "Evil Under Sun, New Christie". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 August 2015.
  4. ^ "Evil Under the Sun (1981) - Guy Hamilton - Synopsis, Characteristics, Moods, Themes and Related - AllMovie". AllMovie.
  5. ^ Boost for studios The Guardian 9 July 1975: 5.
  6. ^ CRITIC AT LARGE: In Search of World Viewers Champlin, Charles. Los Angeles Times 27 May 1977: g1.
  7. ^ British role in US film market is cut Barker, Dennis. The Guardian 3 Mar 1981: 2.
  8. ^ a b c d 'EVIL'--AND FUN--'UNDER THE SUN' Mann, Roderick. Los Angeles Times 7 June 1981: m25.
  9. ^ a b "Evil Under the Sun". Turner Classic Movies.
  10. ^ "Murder on the Orient Express (1975)".
  11. ^ "The Mirror Crack'd (1980) - Guy Hamilton - Cast and Crew - AllMovie". AllMovie.
  12. ^ USTINOV PLAYS THE SLEUTH ONCE MORE Los Angeles Times 23 Feb 1982: g6.
  13. ^ 'EVIL'--AND FUN--'UNDER THE SUN' Mann, Roderick. Los Angeles Times 7 June 1981: m25.
  14. ^ 'EVIL'--AND FUN--'UNDER THE SUN' Mann, Roderick. Los Angeles Times 7 June 1981: m25.
  15. ^ "Evil under the Sun (1982)".
  16. ^ "Anthony Powell - Movie and Film Awards - AllMovie". AllMovie.
  17. ^ A WHIRL IN PETER USTINOV'S BUSY,BUSY WORLD Bennetts, Leslie. New York Times 7 Mar 1982: A.15.
  18. ^ NY CLIPS Sylvia Miles figures nobody takes her seriously O'Toole, Lawrence. The Globe and Mail 25 Mar 1982: E.1.
  19. ^ FILM CLIPS: 'HEAVEN'S GATE' TAKING A BEATING AT BOX OFFICE Pollock, Dale. Los Angeles Times 29 Apr 1981: h1.
  20. ^ "Evil Under the Sun - MARTINGALE". www.martincuff.com.
  21. ^ "Sa Dragonera Natural Park, Mallorca - SeeMallorca.com". SeeMallorca.com.
  22. ^ ViaGallica.com. "The peninsula of Formentor in Majorca - Hotel Formentor". viagallica.com.
  23. ^ "Reel Streets". www.reelstreets.com.
  24. ^ "Cultural Heritage, cultural Routes, cultural spaces, natural heritage, gastronomy, stars Islas Baleares, Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza y Formentera". balearsculturaltour.net.
  25. ^ Consell de Mallorca. Lacomba Produccions. "CINEMA AND THE SERRA DE TRAMUNTANA - Històries de la Serra". histories.serradetramuntana.net.
  26. ^ "Reel Streets". www.reelstreets.com.
  27. ^ Entertainment: Another Poirot in Ustinov's future Beck, Marilyn. Chicago Tribune 13 Feb 1982: 14.

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