Murder In Three Acts (1986)
Peter Ustinov as Hercule Poirot for me is a delight. Six times he portrayed the famed Belgian sleuth. Three for theatrical release and three for the small screens movie\mystery of the week.
This was Ustinov’s fifth go around as Agatha Christie’s fictional detective and one of the small scale television productions.
Set to write his memoirs our leading character finds himself in Acapulco at the home of retired film star Tony Curtis. In attendance we have a group of select friends and acquaintances from Tony’s past. His doctor Dana Elcar, ex-lover Diana Muldaur and the young and attractive Emma Samms as well are numbered among the party goers. As the cocktail glasses are passed about we’re sure to have a corpse lying on the carpet from an apparent heart attack. Or could murder be in our midst?
When a second gathering of the same group yields another corpse the plot is set in motion for Poirot to seek out the reasons behind the killings and what each individual at the dinner party has to hide.
Jumping into the adventure is Tony who for the first time since the classic 1960 film Spartacus has joined Ustinov on camera once again. He’s helpful in playing along with Ustinov’s shenanigans and little ploys to help find the answers he will be sure to let us in on at the customary unveiling of the killers true identity.
Caught up in the world of actors and writers Ustinov points out, “I don’t need Broadway for my drama.”
Like most of the great sleuths that appeared on film, Hercule Poirot will gather all the films characters at the fadeout to open all their secrets that will culminate in the naming of the killer and the reasons why the murders were committed. In flashback detail we will realize that even the slightest movement that our detective had taken has a real purpose behind the buffoon facade that Ustinov so wonderfully puts forth.
Peter Ustinov was of course a real life adventurer who seemed to have a vitality for life itself and living it to it’s fullest. Something we should all take to heart. Seeing him as Poirot is an opportunity to experience his devilish wit mixed with sarcasm and arrogance all at once. He first played the character in 1978’s Death on the Nile after Albert Finney supposedly turned down the chance to follow up on his portrayal from 1974’s Murder On the Orient Express.
By this point in the career of Tony Curtis the small screens movie of the week offered Tony plenty of roles. He points out in the first of his two autobiographies that he was essentially proud of the work done on this film and that many of the features for television were under valued. He’s right on one count as many theatrical films are not worthy of the large screen yet many of the made for tv productions do offer us a smaller scale production and although Tony is a star of some magnitude, the others in the cast of suspects are not other than Mr. Ustinov. Looking over the list of actors on the big screen mysteries of Detective Poirot yields a much more expensive cast of suspects. Bette Davis, James Mason, Sean Connery and Ingrid Bergman to name a few.
All in all a decent mystery and one that offers us the chance to see Ustinov verbally spar with the man I still affectionately refer to as Stony Curtis.
The three TV features are available in a box set collection.