Monday, December 14, 2015

The Paramount Vault: "Appointment with Death" and "My Six Loves"

I suspect that many of you have already discovered the Paramount Vault channel on YouTube. It's a great way to watch full-length movies for free on your computer, tablet, or TV (assuming your set can connect to the Internet). There are dozens of movies available (including 32 categorized as "classic") and the image quality is very good. Granted, Amazon Prime members will recognize many of the available titles in the Paramount Vault, but there are also exclusive films. I recently watched an Agatha Christie mystery and a Debbie Reynolds comedy.

Ustinov as the Belgian sleuth.
Appointment with Death (1988). Peter Ustinov's sixth and final appearance as Hercule Poirot lacks the high production values and all-star casts of earlier big screen Agatha Christie adaptations. Actually, it followed Ustinov's three made-for-TV Poirot movies, the last one being 1986's Dead Man's Folly. Still, Appointment with Death boasts a handful of familiar stars (e.g., Lauren Bacall, Piper Laurie) and on-location shooting in Israel gives the film a glossy look.

In the opening scene, widow Emily Boynton (Laurie) destroys her husband's most recent will which divided his fortune between his children and their stepmother. With control of the family finances, she takes the family on a trip to Israel. Along the way, they encounter another wealthy widow (Lauren Bacall), her secretary (Hayley Mills), and a physician (Jenny Seagrove). They are also joined unexpectedly by the family's lawyer (David Soul), who knows about the real will. During an outing to an excavation, Emily dies from what appears to be heart failure--but you and I know it's murder!

Sweet Jenny Seagrove as a suspect?
Appointment with Death employs one of Agatha Christie's favorite plot devices: a character misinterprets what she sees or hears. (For another use of this same device, watch any adaptation of A Caribbean Mystery with Miss Marple.) Still, for those unfamiliar with Dame Agatha's literary works, the identity of the culprit may come as a surprise.

Overall, Appointment with Death is a passable Poirot mystery--assuming that you don't watch it expecting to see another Death on the Nile or Evil Under the Sun (my personal fave of Ustinov's films).

The poster focuses on the star.
My Six Loves (1963). After collapsing from exhaustion, Broadway star Janice Courtney (Debbie Reynolds) retreats to her small-town Connecticut home for some rest and relaxation. That doesn't last long--especially after Janice discovers six abandoned children living on her property. Fortunately, the handsome local pastor (Cliff Robertson) is willing to help Janice with the unruly kids.

Cliff and a blonde Debbie.
From this plot summary, I am sure you can surmise the rest of My Six Loves and you would be right about everything. It is indeed a formula comedy from start to finish. There's a youth who has to learn how to trust adults again. There's the adorable youngest child. There the cute song ("It's a Darn Good Thing") that Debbie sings to the youngsters. And there's even the cynical friend on hand (Eileen Heckert) to try to keep things from becoming too treacly.

I have friends that adore My Six Loves. Most of them are Debbie Reynolds fans, but I also suspect that this is a "comfort movie" for other viewers. There's nothing wrong with that--sometimes, it's just reassuring to watch a 1960s formula comedy set in that nostalgic world that only exists in our imaginations.

So, while My Six Loves may not be my cup of tea, you may want drink the whole pot. Just be careful about adding more sugar...


  1. Appointment with Death is my cup of tea, Rick, and I want to drink the whole pot. I did find the Paramount movies on YouTube a few weeks ago, and it's a treasure!

  2. WHAT?! I did not know about this Paramount Vault on YouTube!

    I just checked it out and there's an impressive number of titles. Great to know –– thanks!

  3. I remember watching "My Six Loves" on TV. Despite the similar titles, I have never confused it with "My Six Convicts"!