Sparkling Cyanide (1983) Starring Anthony Andrews, Deborah Raffin, Pamela Bellwood, Nancy Marchand, Josef Sommer, Christine Belford, June Chadwick, Harry Morgan, Anne Rogers, Michael Woods, David Huffman, Barrie Ingham, Shera Danese, Ismael Carlo, Linda Hoy, Abby Haman, Juan Fernandez, Eric Sinclair.
Directed by Robert Lewis.
Running time: 96 minutes.
“I can’t take much more of this. I’m so confused, it just never seems to end”
Big shot Pasadena attorney George Barton (Sommer) tries to recreate the night his affluent wife Rosemary got poisoned (cyanide works real quick) during their anniversary party in order to shed some light upon who did it. Instead he gets poisoned too and the police suddenly have two murders to solve.
Rosemary’s younger sister Iris (Raffin) has the most to gain but other people also have motive (naturally since it is a whodunit) and nobody can explain how the cyanide got into the champagne.
Britisher Tony Brown (Andrews) who claims to be a business journalist and has insinuated himself into the social scene has paired up with lovely young Iris as her date just in time to be at the scene of both of the poisonings. The mysterious Mr.Brown is something of an undercover sleuth really and so smitten with Iris that he might well be exactly the kind of friend she needs.
Teaming up with the gruff older American police detective Captain Kemp (Morgan) on the case (who gives him remarkable leeway) Brown helps investigate by the book what is a very bizarre murder case with some very intriguing elements.
The breathtaking June Chadwick (whom I’ve kind of had a thing for since I was ten years old) as Sandra Farraday would have been far better utilised and more appealing in the role of Iris than Raffin is here.
Based on the novel by Agatha Christie, the approach here seems to have been to stage a classic murder mystery with the glamour of a 1980s nighttime soap opera. This was not a bad idea as nighttime soap operas dominated TV ratings when this was made.
I also think the result is quite agreeable aesthetically inspite of the occasionally awkward dialogue and somewhat wooden acting in the first twenty minutes. The cast finds their feet after that and the story picks up nicely along with them. At times it evokes the romantic and chic style of films like To Catch a Thief and Charade. It is a beautiful escapist fantasy though clearly intended for the small screen complete with unsubtle fades to black for commercial breaks.
This title is dated as much of the mystery surrounding the respective backgrounds of some of the characters could be cleared up quite quickly in this day and age via an internet search. Also the solution to the mystery does not add up as neatly when one considers that people would remember where they are sitting from how their point of view would be changed. Nevertheless this is a fun mystery provided one does not think too much about it.