Tag Archives: Mia Farrow

Death on the Nile (1978)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Murder on the river.

Based on the 1937 Agatha Christie novel of the same name the story centers around everyone’s favorite Belgium sleuth Hercule Poirot (Peter Ustinov) as he tries solve a murder that occurs while he is traveling on a steamer going down the famous Nile River.

The on-location shooting in Egypt is the film’s chief asset. The scene where actors Simon MacCorkindale and Lois Chiles climb to the outer top of a pyramid is impressive as in the extended scene inside the Karnak Temple Complex. However, outside of this the visuals are blah and this entry fails to show the same cinematic flair done 4 years earlier of another Christie novel that was brought to the big screen Murder on the Orient Express.

I was also not too impressed with the steamer that was used to cart the characters down the river as it appeared to be too small and not at all luxurious. The fact that the production crew took a real steamer that they had found and then painstakingly recreated it to a minute detail inside the Pinewood studios in London is certainly commendable, but I felt the insides of the cabins were too big and too fancy and not in proportion to the actual boat that we see from the exterior, which looked like nothing more than a cheap, mid-sized thing that could be rented by a small family at a modest price for an afternoon on the lake.

The story itself takes too long to get going and in fact the murder and actual mystery doesn’t occur until 1 hour and 10 minutes in. Mia Farrow gives a provocative performance and it’s interesting seeing how things were before there were anti-stalking laws and people could simply follow around those that they hated, which is what the Farrow character does here, and harass the hell out of them without any fear of breaking any penalty, but the set-up gets too played out. The supporting cardboard characters are dull and put in simply to heighten the mystery with their own motives for wanting to kill the victim, which comes off as formulaic.

The ultimate denouncement isn’t too great either. I never read the book, so I don’t know how closely this follows it, but the explanation for how the killing is done hinged too much on careful split-second timing that I don’t think anyone would’ve been able to actually accomplish nor even want to risk trying. Also, the evidence that Poirot uses to solve the crime is threadbare and circumstantial to the extreme and if the killer’s hadn’t ultimately cracked under pressure I’m not so sure they would’ve been convicted.

The cast of big name stars is wasted and only Angela Lansbury is entertaining as the alcoholic erotic novelist, but even here her drunken condition gets overplayed as we never ever see her sober making it seem almost like she suffers from a degenerative disease like cerebral palsy. Ustinov is no fun as Poirot and Albert Finney was far better as he played the same character in a more lovable and amusingly eccentric way. He was asked to reprise the role, which he played in Murder on the Orient Express, but due to the unpleasant grind of having to wear a lot of makeup for the part he ended up declining.

If you’re a fan of Agatha Christie or enjoy mysteries then you may take to this a bit more. It’s still watchable and even marginally engrossing; however despite the excellent cast and splashy production values the ultimate effect is flat.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: September 29, 1978

Runtime: 2Hours 20Minutes

Rated PG

Director: John Guillermin

Studio: Paramount

Available: DVD

See No Evil (1971)

see no evil

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Psycho stalks blind girl.

Sarah (Mia Farrow) is a young woman who becomes permanently blinded during a horse riding accident. After months of rehabilitation she returns to her family home in the English countryside. Dealing with her new handicap is awkward at first, but things go genuinely smoothly. Unfortunately a psychotic man harboring a petty grudge lurks in the shadows. One day while Sarah is away he murders her entire family and when she returns he goes after her, but the viewer is as in the dark as she is to his identity as all that is shown are the nifty looking cowboy boots that he walks in.

Veteran director Richard Fleischer takes Brian Clemens compact script and turns it into a visual masterpiece. The camera angles and shot compositions are not only perfect, but highly creative. One of the highlights is when Sarah comes home and doesn’t realize at first that her family is dead and only slowly becomes aware of it along with the viewer. The countryside, which was shot near Berkshire, England, is majestically captured particularly during the horse riding sequences. The pace is fast and intense and never lets up with twists that prove to be quite interesting.

Farrow has a limited range as an actress, but her delicate features and the character’s self-reliant nature make her easily likable and the viewer immediately becomes empathetic to her plight. The rest of the characters are well-rounded and believable with noted character actress Lila Kaye in a small, but memorable role as a gypsy mother.

The fact that the identity of the killer is kept a secret until the very end is an added bonus, but you actually do see his face in an earlier scene, but are not made aware that it is him, which I thought was pretty cool. The only misgivings that I had in this area is the fact that the killer supposedly murders these people in a fit of revenge for accidently splashing water on his precious boots when they drove past him in a car, but then later after he kills them he goes to bed and allows the droplets of blood from his victims to dry on his boots while he sleeps even though I felt with his obsessive preoccupation with them that he would have wiped that off right away. Also, for a man who brazenly murders a family in broad daylight for such a petty reason he seems to get a little too nervous about it afterwards even though if he is that crazy I would think that he would have remained cocky about it and felt that he would be able to murder anyone else who got in his way. He also puts up no fight in the end when he finally gets cornered making him look wimpy and making the climax a bit of a letdown.

Overall though I found this thriller to be highly entertaining and its effect has not diminished through repeat viewings. They don’t seem to be able to make them like this anymore, which is unfortunate.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Alternate Title: Blind Terror

Released: September 2, 1971

Runtime: 1Hour 29Minutes

Rated GP

Director: Richard Fleischer

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video

The Public Eye (1972)

the public eye 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: He follows her around.

This film, which is based on the Peter Schaffer play, deals with Charles (Michael Jayston) an uptight British accountant who thinks that his wife Belinda (Mia Farrow) is having an affair. He hires Julian (Topol) a goofy private detective to follow her around and see where she is going and what she is doing everyday while he is at work. Unfortunately for Charles Julian starts to fall in love with Belinda as he is following her and she in him, which only further complicates matters since she was initially not seeing anyone and all those trips that Charles thought were so suspicious were simply innocent excursions.

The biggest problem with this film is that it is too lightweight probably more so than even other lightweight films. Nothing really happens. Julian just follows Belinda around much to her amusement, but the two don’t share any dialogue nor ever consummate their pseudo-relationship. The film simply spends long drawn out sequences showing the two following each other throughout the streets of London and occasionally giggling at their ‘little game’ and that is about it. You keep waiting for that second act to kick in, but it never does, which after 95 minutes starts to make the whole thing almost pointless.

Topol is miscast in the lead and ends up being the film’s weakest link when he should have been the strongest. He was fresh off his award winning performance in Fiddler on the Roof and this movie was supposed to make him into a leading man, but the attempts at turning him into a variation of Inspector Clouseau fail badly. His bright white suit that he wears looks garish and ridiculous especially for an undercover spy. Watching him constantly stuffing his face with food starts to get obnoxious and his buffoonery becomes more annoying than engaging.

Farrow is appealing and her natural child-like fragility is perfect for the part. The scene where she states to the shock of an upper-crust crowd at a formal dinner party that rapists should be punished by having their ‘thing’ cut off publicly is amusingly edging and the film would have been better had it gone a little more in this route.

Jayston is the one that comes off best. He plays the proper British gentlemen with all his staid mannerisms perfectly. What I really like though about him is the fact that he does love Belinda, but just doesn’t know how to show it effectively.

This was an odd project for legendary director Sir Carol Reed whose final film this was. The story doesn’t allow for much visuals although the way Reed captures London both from aerial shots as well as the downtown streets that Belinda visits is excellent. The movie almost seems to work as a tour guide of London, which in some ways is the best thing that can be said about the film.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Alternate Title: Follow Me

Released: July 18, 1972

Runtime: 1Hour 35Minutes

Rated G

Director: Carol Reed

Studio: Universal

Available: Netflix streaming