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Peter Ustinov stars in Agatha Christie mystery

Agatha Christie's `Murder in Three Acts' CBS, Tuesday, 9-11 p.m. Stars Peter Ustinov, Tony Curtis, Emma Samms, and Jonathan Cecil. Adapted by Scott Swanson from the Agatha Christie novel. Directed by Gary Nelson. Produced by Warner Bros. Television. Agatha Christie's famous detective Hercule Poirot ventures south of the border in a complex murder mystery that itself ventures several degrees south of believability.

But who cares! It's all a matter of fun, games, and multiple murder as Peter Ustinov mugs his way to Poirot's final chapter in the Christie character's autobiography,``My Life in Crime.''

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Beautiful Acapulco scenery, fabulous cliffside villas, gorgeous women, and talented guests make ``Murder in Three Acts'' easy to watch, despite the fact that not one moment is really plausible.

The endearing Poirot retains his uniquely pompous sense of humor, no matter what the crisis.``Have you ever known a secret passage that did not start in the library?'' he asks as he irrationally starts looking for a secret passage in the library.

``We have stirred the pot. Now we shall see what comes to the surface,'' he pontificates. What comes to the surface in this luxuriously over-furnished and over-plotted Christie frolic are three murders, several cases of insanity, lots of romantic liaisons, and widespread egomania. Amid all this is Hercule's delightful, often unwarranted self-assurance, which inevitably ends in a marvelously contrived victory for his intricate thought processes.

I won't tell you much of the plot because it simply doesn't bear close inspection. But you should know that Tony Curtis stars as a retired actor who simply won't stay retired. He handles his lines as effectively as ever he did in his costume movies. The only time I ever believed Mr. Curtis as an actor was when he was cast as the Boston strangler.

Emma Samms is cast in a role that seems to have been written mainly to showcase her beauty. Well, what's wrong with that!

The same people keep turning up at house parties, where one after another keels over, seconds after drinking a cocktail -- probably the quickest murders ever accomplished. And they keep coming back for more. Why? Probably for the same reasons that most viewers will stick with ``Murder in Three Acts'': fabulous scenery, pretty people, a hint of intellectual conversation -- easy-to-take entertainment, courtesy of Agatha Christie.

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