This week’s entry is the classic 1974 version of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, directed by the late great Sidney Lumet this is still regarded as the best adaptation of the book.
Lumet assembled an impressive cast that might be the finest roll call in murder mystery history. Albert Finney played super sleuth Hercule Poirot, and the suspects were played by some of the greatest actors of a generation. After all, the tagline was;
“The greatest cast of suspicious characters ever involved in murder.”
Lauren Bacall … Mrs. Harriet Belinda Hubbard
Ingrid Bergman … Greta Ohlsson
Michael York … Count Rudolf Andrenyi
Vanessa Redgrave … Mary Debenham
Jacqueline Bisset … Countess Elena Andrenyi
John Gielgud … Edward Beddoes
Anthony Perkins … Hector McQueen
Rachel Roberts … Hildegarde Schmidt
Jean-Pierre Cassel … Pierre Michel
George Coulouris … Dr. Constantine
After solving a crime in the Middle East, Hercule Poirot is returning to England on the Orient Express. Whilst en route, a murder takes place his skills are enlisted by his friend and director of the train company, Bianchi (Martin Balsam). What unfolds is tale of murder and deception at every turn, but in the end it boils down to either the simple solution or the complex one.
What raises this adaptation above others is the attention to the details; red herrings are presented at every turn and a diabolical twist in the third act give audiences a unexpected surprise. The pace and character motives are expertly structured, and the cast are simply sublime.
The final revelation is perfectly staged, there is always the feeling of the theatrical when it comes to Agatha Christie’s cinematic adaptations. In the murder mystery world, Christie’s words are like Shakespeare and Lument handles the material with respect and a level of class rarely seen in the genre.
The author herself was notorious for disliking film versions of her work, however she did have this ditty about Lumet’s film:
“It was well made except for one mistake. It was Albert Finney, as my detective Hercule Poirot. I wrote that he had the finest moustache in England — and he didn’t in the film. I thought that a pity — why shouldn’t he?”
For me, this movie remains one of the best big screen versions of any of Christie’s books, whilst David Suchet has been a fine Poirot for ITV and Peter Ustinov has played the great detective on the big and small screen.
Albert Finney received an Oscar nomination for his performance, he lost out but Ingrid Bergman picked up a Best Supporting Actress award that night, which was the only win out of six nominations.
In my humble opinion Hercule Poirot is due a Steven Moffat/Mark Gatiss Sherlock style retelling. Finney might only have played the iconic character once, but for me his performance remains the best incarnation. A lavish production that exudes quality and class, all the better enjoyed with a slice of cake.Pin It