After numerous other theatrical and made-for-television adaptions where Peter Ustinov played Hercule Poirot, including Murder On The Orient-Express, this would be the actor’s last time playing the role.
This time, he was directed by Michael Winner, who you probably wouldn’t consider for the restrained world of Agatha Christie. He spoke to this by saying, “You won’t see Lauren Bacall walking around machine-gunning everyone. In fact, it’s my first picture in years that was under budget on blood.”
Bacall plays Lady Westholme, an American become British high society lady and a member of Parliament for the Conservative Party as the result of marriage. She’s on her way to Jerusalem along with her secretary Miss Quinton (Hayley Mills!) and lawyer Jefferson Cope (David Soul) by sea, the same voyage that also has the troubled Boynton family — Lennox (Nicholas Guest), Raymond (John Terlesky — what!?! Deathstalker!?!), Carol (Valerie Richards) and Ginerva (Amber Bezer) — who she shares the law services of Cope with, as the Boynton children are pretty much slaves to their stepmother Emily (Piper Laurie), unless the new will goes through.
Poirot also meets up with an old friend, Dr. Sarah King (Jenny Seagrove), who falls for Raymond, all as Cope is having an affair with Lennox’s wife Nadine (Carrie Fisher), which really seems to be so many coincidences that all gathered these people all on the same boat. And oh yeah, John Gielgud is on board to play Colonel Carbury. He described leaving to in this movie as such: “Leaving for Israel to do a rather absurd part in an Agatha Christie… Peter Ustinov and Betty Bacall are to be in it and possibly Michael York, so it might be fun, even with that vulgar, but quite funny director, Michael Winner.”
In late Cannon fashion, the budget was cut from $9 million to $7.5 million and then to $6 million. When they wanted to cut it further to $5.5 million, Ustinov threatened to quit and if he left, so would the rest of the cast. Most of the cast — particularly Bacall — were shocked that this was filmed in Israel in the hot summer instead of a sound stage or in England.