Dead Man\’s Folly Film Details
Overview: During a murder hunt game at a country house, to which Hercule Poirot is invited as an “expert”, a real murder occurs.
Review: I am currently collecting TV and film adaptations of Agatha Christie and bought this Dead Man’s Folly just to complete the set. That’s my excuse: what’s yours? Like most TV movies, it has a bland, soporific, drifting feel, with no dramatic structure, no pace or rhythm within scenes and no overall sense of urgency. It just meanders listlessly from one advertisement break to the next until it has filled its two hour time slot. It is hard to believe that the director, Clive Donner, was once regarded as one of the bright hopes of the British film industry. Years of working in television seem to have blunted whatever edge his work once had. He and Ustinov had previously worked together on Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen. I can imagine Donner saying “Well Peter, do you think we can make one worse than that?” and Ustinov replying “I doubt it, but let’s give it a try.” Because this movie never managed to capture my full attention I wasn’t always sure what was going on. For example, I never understood the mechanics of the Murder Hunt so I didn’t see why it was important to the actual murder. Similarly, Ariadne Oliver didn’t seem to have any real reason for inviting Poirot to the event so when the murder is eventually committed he has nothing to go on and just bumbles around without purpose or plan. In truth, he doesn’t really do much detecting, so the process by which he comes to suspect the truth is somewhat obscure. The crucial breakthrough is simply something he is told by the dead girl’s sister. Since there was no other way he could have got this information I have to conclude that if she hadn’t blabbed when she did the mystery would never have been solved. Even when this crucial information is dropped into his lap, Poirot is still a long way away from understanding what is really going on, so the final solution comes completely out of the blue. It also proves to be thoroughly absurd. It turns out that George Stubbs and his wife are both impostors. Together, they have murdered the real Hattie and then proceed to murder the two people they think could expose them. But why do they think that these are the only people they have to worry about? He is returning to his childhood home so how can he hope to escape immediate recognition? Similarly, she is spooked by the arrival of one of Hattie’s old friends, but why only that one? Did that unfortunate corpse have no other friends, family or acquaintances that might also want to visit her from time to time? How could this couple imagine for one minute that their imposture would remain undetected? For some reason that escaped me, the fake Hattie also assumes the disguise of an Italian student and then disappears, leaving everybody thinking that Hattie too has been murdered. Was there a reason for this? I would like to be able to blame this farrago on the writer, Rod Browning, or Warner Bros Television, but other reviewers have said that this adaptation is actually very faithful to the book. If so, it must have been one of Agatha Christie’s off days. The mystery of Dead Man’s Folly is apparently lined up for David Suchet’s Poirot. It will be interesting to see how much they will change the story to make to make it more plausible (or at least more interesting). Mention of David Suchet brings me to my other main reservation about this movie: Peter Ustinov. Far from being the ‘definitive Poirot’, as some reviewers have called him, I think he is just an irritating ham who condescends to nearly every role he plays. I get the impression that he thought he was too good for the movies he appeared in, so he was doing them a favour when he sent them up. I might be able to accept this superior attitude from Ustinov if I had ever seen him give a real performance in a challenging role, but despite his two Oscars I cannot recall one. I doubt if he was ever really capable of it. PS: In truth, anybody would have been too good for some of the movies Ustinov appeared in and his amused contempt for the material was sometimes the only thing that made them watchable. My objection to Ustinov is that this became a habit and carried over into work that deserved better of him. PPS I have now seen the David Suchet version (much better in all respects) and taken another look at this one. The story made more sense when I actually paid attention to it, but remains somewhat implausible and is slightly undermined by the updating. My aversion to Ustinov’s performance only intensified on second viewing. His persistent hamming was hard to tolerate and his constant upstaging of all the other actors was actually offensive.
Duration: 90 min
Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery
Also known as: Dead Man’s Folly,Hra na vrazdu,Το πέτρινο φέρετρο,Gloriett a hullának,Altanka nieboszczyka,Детективы Агаты Кристи: Загадка мертвеца,La otra cara de la muerte,El templete de Nasse House,Забаганка небіжчика,Poirot joue le jeu,Död mans fåfänga,Двойно убийство,Poirot e o Jogo Macabro,死者のあやまち,Agatha Christie’s Dead Man’s Folly,Mord mit verteilten Rollen,Agatha Christie: Caccia al delitto