Thoughts on Murder on the Orient Express

Sunday, November 14, 2010 4:30 PM By Simon

-Agatha Christie's famous Detective Poirot (played here by Albert Finney, with a hammy accent and a mustache that's hardly the greatest in the world) gets caught on the eponymous train on a snowed-in track with the murdered body of a shady retired businessman (Richard Widmark) and 12 potential suspects, who's connection with the man and his past are gradually revealed in one glorious scene.

-Aside from the fact that every non-English nationality is played by a British person, but Ingrid Bergman as a nervous, middle-aged Swedish missionary (she gets five major minutes of uninterrupted scene, and she earns that Oscar nomination), the acting is pretty awesome. Sean Connery, as always, nobly makes no effort to appear British in any way, Lauren Bacall is an extremely talkative, fussy older woman who is also somehow awesome, Anthony Perkins is basically Norman Bates with more nervousness and less personalities, Vanessa Redgrave is a British teacher returning from Baghdad (she and Connery, both relatively small roles, basically embody the atypical hero and heroine that many movies of the time had, and making it almost funny that they are in the background the entire time), and other people I have no patience to list.

-A solid, old-fashioned mystery directed by Sydney Lumet, with a bit of a disappointing, but in hindsight obvious, climax.


"Yojimbo_5" said...

Bernard Herrmann, Hitchcock's composer, turned this one down because the makers wanted what they got—a jocular, jokey exuberant score. "My God! said herrmann before he stomped out of the meeting, "...but that train is a train of DEATH!"

Just so, although I love the cast...and Redgrave again shows how she can do SO much with so little...and this one preceded Connery's great run of 70's star vehicles...this film is having just SO much fun with a murder plot...I felt like I should have had dinner served with this one.

Now, what's interesting is this year, we've had a chance to see a TV version with David Suchet as Poirot, and Barbara Hershey (nee Seagull) in the Bacall role, and it hit all the right emotional points for a morally ambiguous situation that poirot SHOULD be struggling with. I found that one much miore satisfying. The Lumet (with his typically ugly wide-angle shots) feels like an ice cream sundae covered in blood.

November 15, 2010 at 11:08 AM
Simon said...

Yojimbo: Interesting. I thought it was just a typical studio rewrite, but then, I haven't read that particular book, so I don't know how it goes. I'll have to check out the TV movie, thouh. Of course for Barbara Hershey.

November 15, 2010 at 6:25 PM
Anonymous said...

Really? If you mean the climax = the reveal scene, I didn't think it was obvious. I was actually pretty surprised.

November 18, 2010 at 2:15 PM
RosieP said...

I WAS NOT impressed by the 2010 version of "MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS". Mind you, the 1974 version is not perfect. But I found it to be a hell of a lot more palatable than the recent version with Suchet. Even Finney's take on Poirot seemed more subtle than Suchet's performance in the 2010 movie. As for the attempts to make the story more morally profound in the 2010 movie, it didn't work in my eyes. This attempt only allowed more hammy acting in the production. The 1974 version had its share of hammy acting. But . . . not to the degree that was found in the 2010 movie. At least for me.

October 6, 2011 at 4:07 PM
Simon said...

RosieP: Let's just ignore the newer version. It'll make life a lot less infuriating.

October 11, 2011 at 8:57 PM