Appointment with Death
R4 - Australia - Umbrella Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (29th March 2017).
The Film

"The Agatha Christie Movie Collection"

Dame Agatha Mary Clarissa Christie, Lady Mallowan, DBE - or Agatha Christie as she is more well known, is unarguably the most famous mystery and crime writer of all time worldwide. Being the creator of detective Hercule Poirot and master sleuth Miss Marple, writer of short stories, novels, and stageplays, her output continues to remain popular with readers, audiences, and critics many years after her death in 1976 at the age of 85.

Umbrella Entertainment collects three film adapted from Christie with a set simply titled "The Agatha Christie Movie Collection".

"Appointment with Death" (1988)

Who planned the untimely demise of the malevolent Mrs. Boynton? Only one man has the skills and abilities to solve this murder. Acclaimed actor Sir Peter Ustinov stars as enigmatic and nimble-witted Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot alongside an impressive all-star cast of suspects including: Lauren Bacall, Carrie Fisher, Sir John Gielgud, Piper Laurie and Hayley Mills.

Directed by Michael Winner, this Cannon Films production from 1988 takes the same 1930s setting in the Middle East as was in the original story, but this whodunit with Poirot does come off a bit on the bland side. The story and figuring out the clues with Poirot is intriguing with the subtle hints and red herrings everywhere, but the direction, the acting, and the overall balance of the film are uninspired, with the actors seeming to phone it in rather than developing their characters much.

"Witness for the Prosecution" (1957)

Sir Wilfrid Roberts (Charles Laughton) is a successful defence lawyer in the twilight of his career. Presented a case involving the murder of an elderly woman, suspicion points to her married suitor, Leonard Vole (Tyrone Power). But Vole's only true hope for acquittal is the testimony of his wife Christine (Marlene Dietrich).

One of the most well-known of Christie's works and also one of director Billy Wilder's most celebrated films, the acting and direction are top notch in this courtroom drama with twists and turns, double crossing and unreliable flashbacks. To top that, it is also played with a lot of humor, especially between Laughton and his real life wife Elsa Lanchester, and especially scenes with Una O'Connor (which both Lanchester and O'Connor appeared together in "The Bride of Frankenstein" more than 20 years prior). Tyrone Power gives a great performance that would sadly be his last completed film before his sudden death at the age of 44 from a heart attack. Marlene Dietrich is a real femme fatale in the production which dabbles in film noir with its darker tones, and Laughton is great as ever as the lawyer taking on the infamous murder case which leaves audiences speechless. An absolute classic.

"Ten Little Indians" (1965)

Ten people are invited to stay at a luxury mountaintop mansion. But a grisly mystery unfolds when a killer begins murdering them one by one. Could one of the guests be the killer? Featuring Hugh O’Brian, Shirley Eaton, Fabian, Leo Genn, Stanley Holloway and Wilfrid Hyde-White.

An adaptation of the classic slasher/murder mystery "And Then There Were None" (which had a much more controversial title in its first printing), it really foreshadows the slasher film craze of the late 70s and 80s with violent and mysterious deaths from a mysterious murderer in an enclosed location. Though this film is set in the swinging 60s, so there is a little addition of sexuality and hipness here and there. The eclectic cast makes it a fun ride and it also includes a gimmicky William Castle-like intermission near the end to help you try to guess the outcome.

This set collects the previously released individual releases into a single keep case with new artwork for the cover. The discs themselves are the same as the individual releases with the same disc art.

Note that "Appointment with Death" is encoded regions 2/4/7 in the PAL format, "Witness for the Prosecution" is region ALL in the NTSC format, and "Ten Little Indians" is region ALL in the PAL format.

Video

"Appointment with Death"
The film is presented in the original theatrical 1.85:1 aspect ratio with anamorphic enhancement in the PAL format. Although this is the most recent film in the set, it is not the strongest. Colors are a bit on the bland side with no colors looking particularly sharp. The transfer is quite clean with no major instances of damage or dust, with film grain visible. An average transfer to say the least.

The film's runtime is 98:22.
















"Witness for the Prosecution"
The film is presented in the original theatrical 1.66:1 aspect ratio with anamorphic enhancement in the NTSC format. The remastered transfer is the best in the set with the black and white photography looking particularly good, and detail such as in Tyrone Power's suits looking good. It is not perfect, with some scenes lacking fine detail, but overall very much on the acceptable side.

The film's runtime is 116:18.

















"Ten Little Indians"
The film is presented in the original theatrical 1.85:1 aspect ratio with anamorphic enhancement in the PAL format. The transfer comes from a poor master with contrasty black and white, damage marks, dust, debris, and lacking detail all over. Considering the US Warner Brothers DVD had a very good transfer, it's a shame that Umbrella could not use the same master and had to use this weaker one.

The film's runtime is 87:35















Audio

"Appointment with Death" / "Ten Little Indians"
English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono

"Witness for the Prosecution"
English Dolby Digital 1.0


All three films have a Dolby Digital mono track as the sole option with no dubs or alternate audio available. "Appointment with Death" is a fine track with no issues of audio damage, but it is a rather flat track for a more modern film. The dialogue is easy to hear and understand but music and effects are very flat and non-distinguishing.
"Witness for the Prosecution" has a fine track being remastered with no issues of hisses or pops with dialogue always clear. The music also sounds good and well-balanced with the dialogue track.
"Ten Little Indians" suffers the most with the audio, with a continuous hiss and obvious minor pops and cracks in the audio track. Like the picture there was no remastering done to the audio.

There are optional English HoH subtitles in a white font for "Appointment with Death" only. The other two films have no subtitle tracks.

Extras

Bonus Trailers
- "Dragonwyck" (0:56)
- "The Innocents" (2:51)


The trailers are available on the "Ten Little Indians" disc. The "Dragonwyck" clip is more a montage of clips rather than a standard trailer. "The Innocents" is the original trailer.
in non-anamorphic 1.33:1 ("Dragonwyck") and non-anamorphic 1.85:1 ("The Innocents"), in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

As said this set is just a repackaging of the three films previously released individually so if you have the older releases the only difference is the single keep case packaging. It's a shame there are no extras available on any of the films - whether extras concentrating on the films themselves or a documentary on Agatha Christie.

Overall

"The Agatha Christie Movie Collection" collects one major classic, one cult classic, and one forgettable ensemble film in a single package. Christie's storytelling keeps readers and fans on edge and the films are no different - they are fun pieces of entertainment while also smart puzzle pieces that make readers/audiences/fans keep on guessing and keep them on their toes at all times. Umbrella Entertainment's presentations of the films are vastly different from disc to disc, and it's a shame that none of the films have no extras, but for Christie fans and fans of mystery, the films are recommended.

Note that the ratings below are for this particular disc and not an average for all three films.

The Film: C Video: C+ Audio: B- Extras: F- Overall: C

 


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