Agatha Christie's "Ordeal by Innocence" (citywide) is quite a few cuts above most films that open Fridays without previews, yet is not up to the best of the filmed Christie mysteries. There's just not enough bite in either adapter Alexander Stuart's dialogue or in Desmond Davis' direction.
Even so, Christie's whodunits are reliably diverting, and this one is fitted out with the usual starry cast, a gorgeous locale--the 800-year-old Devon coastal town of Dartmouth--photographed by the esteemed Billy Williams and, best of all, a rich and varied Dave Brubeck jazz score. It's an OK entertainment if you're in an undemanding mood.
After two years in the Antarctic--"researching evidence of the Continental Drift"--paleontologist Donald Sutherland dutifully looks up a young man he gave a lift to just before he left on his expedition. Sutherland wants to return to him his address book, which Sutherland has found in his car.
However, he is greeted by the man's father (Christopher Plummer) at his baronial residence with the news that his son has been hanged for having bludgeoned to death his mother (Faye Dunaway, in a "Mommie Dearest" cameo) with a fireside poker. But Sutherland, a punctilious sort, insists that at the very moment the man was supposed to be killing his mother he was in fact a passenger in Sutherland's car. This is enough to turn Sutherland into an amateur sleuth, even though Plummer finally admits that in his opinion his son "lacked any saving grace."