Old is gold: 1937 crime thriller Death on the Nile is being remade

In recent years, there have been a number of remakes of old films, underlining the fact that people in the industry appear to be running out of good ideas.

That trend will be emphasised in February 2022 when a version of the Agatha Christie novel Death on the Nile is released, with Kenneth Branagh playing the role of the detective Hercule Poirot.

It is worth noting that this film was first made in 1978, with the late Peter Ustinov leading a cast full of big names: Mia Farrow, David Niven, George Kennedy, Olivia Hussey, Angela Lansbury and I.S. Johar.

The film was not exceptional in any way, with Ustinov rendering a rather buffoonish performance as Poirot, who by any standards is at least the second best-known detective of fiction after Sherlock Holmes.

There is also plenty of stupidity in the films starring Ustinov as Poirot. In Evil under the Sun, Ustinov as Poirot agrees with the proprietor of the hotel where a murder takes place not to inform the police after the body is found. In the book, of course, this is not the case as it would be silly to act in this manner and against the law.

But the fact that film producers have to keep turning back to old ideas is of greater note. Christie’s novels and short stories, especially those that feature Poirot, have extremely well-crafted plots that would satisfy even the most demanding of audiences.

A much better version of Death on the Nile was made in 2004 by a British TV company, with David Suchet in the role of Poirot. Suchet brought Poirot to life over a 25-year period of playing the little detective, appearing in 70 films featuring the man.

Probably the one reason why Suchet was so good in this role was because he stuck carefully to the character that Christie had crafted, noting all the little mannerisms and eccentricities that were part of his personality and faithfully reproducing them on screen. He did not try to add anything of his own to the character as Americans often do.

Other well-known actors have also appeared as Poirot: Albert Finney, Ian Holm, Alfred Molina, Austin Trevor, Tony Randall and John Malkovich. None of them has taken over the character as Suchet did. It remains to be seen what kind of a performance Branagh will produce, though it would be fair to assume that at best he would be a poor second to Suchet.

Branagh played Poirot in a 2017 remake of the film Murder on the Orient Express. The film was a glorious mess compared to the version in which Suchet starred some years earlier.

The new Death on the Nile film will be an American production, even though the director, Branagh, is British. Thus it is very likely that it will be somewhat garish with plenty of embellishments, exactly the kind of thing that has ruined many a film in the past.

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