Literature: Evil Under the Sun
A novel by Agatha Christie
published in 1941, featuring Hercule Poirot
A quiet holiday at a secluded hotel in Devon is all that Hercule Poirot wants, but amongst his fellow guests is a beautiful and vain woman who, seemingly oblivious to her own husband, revels in the attention of another woman's husband. When she is found strangled by powerful hands, were those hands male?
The story has been adapted twice for the screen, firstly as a 1982 film starring Peter Ustinov with an all star cast (that included James Mason
and Maggie Smith
) and the music of Cole Porter
, and secondly as a 2001 episode of the Poirot
series starring David Suchet.
Evil Under the Sun contains examples of the following tropes:
- Adaptational Heroism: In the 1982 film, Mrs Castle, originally nothing more than the rather strict hotel owner, is given the name Daphne and combined with the character of Rosamund, becoming Kenneth's love interest and Poirot's main assistant during the investigation. She also helps him trap the killer at the end by taking his signature.
- Sir Horace Blatt is generally more likeable in this version, and is not a dope smuggler but simply a millionare who had an affair with Arlena.
- Adaptational Villainy: In the 1982 film, unlike the original book, Arlena actively bullies and mistreats Linda, insulting her and shoving her out of the way, and her flirtation with Patrick becomes more shameless and disrespectful of her husband.
- Adaptation Name Change: The 1982 film changes Edward Corrigan's name to Felix Ruber, Latin for "Red Fern", in order to introduce another linguistic clue to the killer's identity.
- Asshole Victim: Subverted. While Arlena is disruptive in the community and has personality issues, the worst of her actions are being carefully staged by the killer and his accomplice. Poirot has already realised that her addiction to sex/romance/drama makes her vulnerable to manipulation and exploitation, not liable to perform it on others - she's not intelligent enough. The 1982 film brings the trope slightly closer to being Played Straight.
- Beneath Suspicion: The 1982 film addresses this point of the novel by giving all the suspects alibis.
- The Bluebeard: Patrick Redfern.
- Busman's Holiday: Yet another one for Poirot.
- Camp: Loads of it in the 1982 film.
- Camp Gay: Rex Brewster in the 1982 film. Daphne even refers to him as a "fruit".
- Clock Discrepancy: A watch worn by a witness is deliberately altered to give the murderer an alibi and allow him to stage a fake murder so that the victim appears to have been killed before she really was.
- Composite Character: The 1982 film combines Mrs Castle and Rosamund Darnley into one character, Daphne Castle.
- Distinguished Gentleman's Pipe: Subverted in the 1982 film version. One of the murder suspects, Patrick Redfern, is seen with a pipe throughout the film, but it's only at the end that Poirot realises he's never actually been seen smoking it. The reason: he's hidden a stolen diamond in the bowl.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: The plot of this story is often compared to Death on the Nile: a situation apparently involving an unscrupulous seductress tempting a susceptible man away from his significant other turns out to be the latter two working together to murder the seductress for her money.
- There's even more similarity with another Christie short story, "The Triangle at Rhodes": the supposed seductress is actually too stupid to be anything more than a victim, the "poor little wife" character was manipulating the entire thing and plotting with her lover to set up the situation, then kill the seductress.
- Driven to Suicide: The killer's accomplice tries to do this to Linda.
- Fingertip Drug Analysis: Japp does this in the 2001 version, identifying heroin.
- Gambit Roulette: The murderer/s not only rely on synchronizing their movements according to a very precise schedule, but also arrange for the body to be "discovered" before the actual murder takes place, while the unsuspecting intended victim is hiding nearby. There are a number of ways that could have gone wrong...
- Gender Flip: Both screen adaptations do this:
- In the 1982 version, the spinsterish-but-athletic Emily Brewster becomes the flamboyantly effeminate Rex Brewster.
- In the 2001 version, the victim's teenaged stepdaughter Linda turns into a stepson Lionel.
- Grand Staircase Entrance: Jane Birkin does a stylish one in the climax of the 1982 film, as Christine no longer has to pretend to be the meek, mousy housewife.
- Happily Failed Suicide: Linda. This was removed from both screen adaptations.
- Happy Marriage Charade: Inversion. Christine and Patrick are happily married, but pretend for criminal purposes that their marriage is on the rocks.
- Henpecked Husband: Odell Gardner. Played up in the 1982 film.
- Just One Little Mistake: Drawn out in the 1982 film. It seems that the killers will get away - complete with a grand exit and a final taunt - when Poirot suddenly reveals that Patrick made several mistakes: paying his hotel bill with a signed cheque, giving linguistic clues to his alter-ego's identity, and conspicuously having his pipe in his mouth without smoking it.
- Lighter and Softer: The 1982 film.
- My God, What Have I Done?: Linda believes she has killed Arlena with the use of magic, leaving her vulnerable to Christine's manipulation.
- Named by the Adaptation: Mrs Castle is called Daphne in the 1982 film.
- Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: The murder of the adulterous Arlena greatly improves the situation for her widower Kenneth and his daughter Linda.
- No Pronunciation Guide: In the 1982 film, Horace pronounces Poirot (pwah-ROW) as POY-row. It's easy to imagine this as a jab at people with this issue in real life.
- Obfuscating Disability: Christine pretends to have vertigo so nobody will suspect she climbed down the ladder. Emily also claims (truthfully) to have it. Poirot uses a picnic to test both of them.
- Outlaw Couple: The Redferns.
- Pragmatic Adaptation: The 1982 film took assorted liberties with the plot, such as giving all the suspects alibis (to cover up the fact that in the original novel, only the murderers had one), beefing up the character of the hotel owner, making the American tourists theater producers (and turning the husband into a Brit played by James Mason), and changing the dowdy spinster into a gay man played by Roddy McDowall.
- Ruritania: The 1982 film is set in the Adriatic kingdom of "Tyrannia" (apparently inspired by Albania). The book was set in Devon.
- Sarcastic Clapping: The killer does this in the 1982 film, believing that Poirot has no physical evidence.
- Sore Loser: In the 1982 film, the killer concedes defeat by punching Poirot to the floor.
- In the original novel, he tries to strangle him.
- Summation Gathering: How else is Hercule Poirot going to reveal who did it?
- Til Murder Do Us Part: The killer did this prior to the beginning of the story. Averted in the David Suchet adaptation, where the victim was his lover, not his wife.
- Title Drop: "But you forget, Miss Brewster, there is evil everywhere under the sun."
- Triang Relations: Three apparent Type 7s: A = Patrick, B = Arlena, C = Christine; A = Arlena, B = Kenneth, C = Patrick; A = Kenneth, B = Arlena, C = Rosamund (or Daphne in the 1982 film). Patrick doesn't love Arlena; this is just a ruse to kill her for her money. The first triangle therefore becomes Type 4 (A = Arlena, B = Patrick, C = Christine), and the second becomes Type 10 (A = Kenneth, B = Arlena, C = Patrick).
- Voodoo Doll: Linda uses one on Arlena. When Arlena is killed, Linda blames herself.
- Wicked Stepmother: Arlena in the 1982 movie. She is constantly rude and insulting to Linda, takes every opportunity to shove her out of the way so she can have people's attention all to herself, and at one point actually calls her Cinderella. None of this occurs in the original book.