Sidney Lumet (director)
23 October 2017 (released)
30 October 2017
This star-studded and multi-award winning 1974 version of MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS still holds up very nicely indeed after all those years and one can only wonder how the new version starring Kenneth Branagh, Judi Dench and Johnny Depp fares in comparison.
It was somehow inevitable that eventually some bright spark would come up with the idea of making an epic and big-budget movie out of Christie’s countless best sellers. This finally occurred in 1974 when Lord John Brabourne along with partner Richard Godwin produced MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (this has possibly the most bizarre denouement of any of Christie's novels and obviously that will not be revealed here). The amount of legendary stars appearing here is indeed a treat for any movie fan or admirer of the stage actor. Heading the cast is a far too young Albert Finney starring as Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. Despite Finney's youth he does a very convincing job and his performance certainly has more vigour than we would have got from Alec Guinness or Paul Scofield; the first choices. This first is far and away the best of the four classic Agatha Christie adaptations released by Studiocanal in a restored Blu-ray version. Director Sidney Lumet got it pretty much right here.
The plotline appears quite simple but the surprise twist is anything but! Of course, the clue lies in the prologue which is set years earlier. Millionaire businessman Mr. Ratchett (Richard Widmark) is horribly murdered on the legendary Orient Express; stabbed no less than twelve times. All of the passengers (including Anthony Perkins, Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman, Michael York, Sean Connery, John Gielgud, and on and on…) had good cause to want this man dead and all had means, motive and opportunity. But who did it?
Dame Agatha was undoubtedly the queen of this ever-popular genre, in fact, Agatha Christie was beyond any shadow of a doubt a rare phenomenon. Her first novel ‘The Murder of Roger Ackroyd’ was published in 1926 and at the time of her death in 1976 she had written 65 more novels and 14 collections of short stories, to say nothing of her stage plays, mostly derived from her stories (only Edgar Wallace, dead at 56, was more prolific).
The restored version is a marvel to look at (as are the sumptuous 1930’s dresses) and the Blu-ray boasts some interesting bonus material.