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Appointment with Death is an 1988 film adaptation of Agatha Christie's novel with the same name. It was produced by Golan-Globus Productions and directed by Michael Winner. It starred Peter Ustinov in the lead role. It was the sixth and last film to feature Ustinov as Hercule Poirot.

Synopsis

This adaptation is fairly faithful to the original novel with a few additional characters. The main plot concerns the murder of the tyrannical Mrs Boynton while on a trip to the Middleeast. Hercule Poirot is on the tour and undertakes to investigate. He interviews all of the suspects which comprise all of Mrs Boynton's extended family. The main action of this adaptation takes place in Qumran and Jerusalem rather than Petra and Amman in the original novel.

Comparison with original story

(may contain spoilers - click on expand to read)

The adaptation is fairly faithful to the original with the addition of a few sideplots and changes in characters.

  • There is a prologue involving Elmer Boynton having made a second will leaving his money divided between Mrs Boynton and the children. Mrs Boynton objected to this and persuaded Jefferson Cope (who is in this adaptation the family lawyer) to burn this will, reverting to the first will which left a life interest to Mrs Boynton and then distributed to the children only after her death.
  • After reading the will, Mrs Boynton takes the children on a surprise trip through Europe and the Holy Land. Most of the key events will later take place in Qumran and Jerusalem and not in Petra and Amman.
  • Jefferson Cope trails the party. In this adaptation, Cope has an affair with Nadine which is conducted fairly openly.
  • Because Cope is a threat to Mrs Boynton, she makes a failed attempt to poison him while on the ship from Trieste to Jaffa. This fails because Lennox discovers a gift from Cope to Nadine. He punches Cope in the face, making him spill the poisoned drink.
  • Poirot overhears Raymond and Carole plotting to kill Mrs Boynton but this is on the ship to Jaffa and not in the hotel.
  • There is a new character Miss Quinton, an archaeologist who replaces Miss Pierce. Lady Westholme takes her on as a travelling partner. There is no Dr Gerard in the party.
  • Sarah King meets Raymond at Trieste and not a train from Kantara to Jerusalem.
  • There is a sideplot of Miss Quinton and Jefferson heading for Qumran immediately after disembarking from the ship at Jaffa, and then they are reported as having disappeared.
  • The important scene of Mrs Boynton talking past Sarah King and saying she never forgets a face is faithfully portrayed.
  • Evens at Qumran take place much as at Petra in the original. Poirot is actually part of the same tour and was at Qumran with the Boyntons. However during the time of the murder he had gone with Carbury for an excursion to Acre. In the original Poirot was not present at Petra and only gets involved at Amman when the death was reported.
  • There is a sideplot of a servant boy Hassan who apparently saw something significant at Qumran. He wants to meet Poirot in Jerusalem but he is overheard making the rendezvous and is killed before he can tell Poirot.
  • The denouement takes place at the Springs of Safar and not in a hotel room. Lady Westholme is actually present in this case but Poirot doesn't mention her at all.
  • After the denouement, all of them attend the coronation ball. Poirot sits with the Boyntons and explains that he cleared the family because, knowing Mrs Boynton's regular consumption of digitalis in water, none of them would have needed to inject it by syringe. They simply had to add more to her drink. He explains to the family how the killer dressed up as an Arab to kill Mrs Boynton, using a tablecloth to demonstrate. Hassan is seen in flashback witnessing this. Lady Westholme sees Poirot giving his demonstration and knows Poirot has arrived at the truth. There is a scene where Poirot confronts her. She later commits suicide in the same way as in the novel.
  • In a small additional plot element, Poirot asks Carbury's adjutant Captain Rogers to enquire into the background of Lady Westholme and he brings a message confirming Poirot's suspicion that she was a convict in Mrs Boynton's prison. In the original, this fact is approached in a different way, he managed to get her fingerprints and intended to send them to America for comparison with the files. However she died before this was done.
  • In this adaptation, Ginevra is portrayed as a more balanced individual. In the original novel, she is someone displaying symptoms of schizophrenia or homicidal mania, which would have made her a plausible suspect. See her biographical article for details.
  • In this adaptation, Cope ends up with Miss Quinton and not Carole Boynton. Raymond ends up with Sarah King like in the original.
  • In the book Ginevra becomes an actress and it is implied that she ends with Dr Gerard. This is not carried in the adaptation.

Cast

Crew

  • Director - Michael Winner
  • Screenplay - Anthony Shaffer, Michael Winner, Peter Buckman

Filming locations

  • Saint Peter's Church and other parts of old Jaffa - scenes at Trieste
  • Jaffa Port - arrival at Jaffa. Light house is seen in the background
  • The American Colony Hotel, Jerusalem - Poirot, Sarah King and the others all stay here
  • Scenes of old city of Jerusalem including Dome of the Rock
  • Church of the Visitation, Jerusalem - Sarah is not allowed in because she has no sleeves
  • Wailing Wall - Lady Westholme's faux pas
  • Church of the Holy Sepulchre
  • Venezia Square, Akko - Cafe El-Arish is set up here (appears to be an outdoors tentage)
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