The Belgian detective Hercule Poirot investigates a series of murders in London in which the victims are killed according to their initials. The first victim is A.A. the second B.B. and so on. Poirot is assisted in his investigations by Captain Hastings and Inspector Japp. Written by
Mike Hatchett <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Although passed by the BBFC in March 1965, the film was not released in the UK until July 1966 when it went out on the bottom half of a double bill with The Glass Bottom Boat (1966). See more »
As Tony Randall is climbing out of the trunk of the car that he was hiding in. The tail lights are clearly on. But when Robert Morley is sitting in the car the tail lights are off. In 1965, automatic headlights were not yet available for cars. Especially cheap models like this one. But, when Tony Randall and the cops return the lights are back on. See more »
Where have you been? What have you been doing?
Arranging a little extra insurance my friend.
Oh really? Personally I always feel perfectly safe with British railways. Mind you its very different in France, isn't it?
I wouldn't know. I am not French, I am Belgian.
Well it's the same thing, you both eat horsemeat.
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Tony Randall emerges from Borehamwood Studios' Stage 4 to introduce the film and acknowledge his own starring credit, first as himself and then in full Poirot make-up and character. See more »
Tony Randall was a highly competent actor and a great comic actor. Anyone who sees his performance in television's ODD COUPLE knows what a great comic actor he was. But most of his movie roles were in supporting parts, such as in support of Doris Day and Rock Hudson in their three films, or in BOYS NIGHT OUT with James Garner and Kim Novak. He did make several films as the star: WILL SUCCESS SPOIL ROCK HUNTER?, THE MATING SEASON, THE SEVEN FACES OF DR. LAO (his own favorite performance), and this film.
The good news is his performance as Hercule Poirot is very amusing. Forgetting the perennial problem of keeping an accent (and it should be a Walloon style Belgium accent, not a French one) straight, he does a good job of being consistent as a performer. Poirot is attracted to mysteries as a mouse is supposedly attracted to cheese. So he finds himself attracted to the killing of a diving champ with the initials "A.A.". Soon his attention is directed to the murder of a woman with the initials "B.B." Then a man with the initials "C.C." The chief suspect (Anita Ekberg) has the initials "A.B.C." She has a therapist (of questionable standards) with the initials "D.D.". Poirot sees a pattern, but an odd one that he can't quite understand. And the Scotland Yard Inspector escorting him around London (Robert Morley) is constantly finding his attempts to get Poirot out of the country (and out of Scotland Yard's hair) being thwarted.
Poirot does solve the mystery - and it does approach the novel, but it actually avoids the way Christie wrote the novel. If you are one who appreciated her artistic abilities you can understand why she disliked THE ABC MURDERS as much as Margaret Rutherford's contemporary "Miss Marple" series (Ms Rutherford and her husband Stringer Davis appear as Marple and "Mr. Stringer" in one scene in the film, meeting a disapproving Poirot's gaze). They spoofed the two lead characters in her two series of mystery novels. The performances of Albert Finney, Peter Ustinov, and David Suchet were all far closer to Poirot than Randall's cartoon version - just as Helen Hayes, Joan Hickson, and Angela Lansbury were far closer to Jane Marple than Miss Rutherford.
THE ABC MURDERS was better handled in a David Suchet version on television a number of years ago. It is carefully crafted to be a story of a frame-up, and the suspect is not an attractive blonde like Miss Ekberg, but a man with a notably pompous sounding name with the initials "A.B.C." The actual planner is far more unlikeable as you read the novel, not only in his callous choice of innocent victims, but in his contempt for Poirot. In fact, at the conclusion of the novel Hercule manages to leave a figurative trace of spit on the perpetrator's face when he tells him how he unworthy he is to call himself an Englishman.
This does not make Randall's performance (abetted by Morley's "Hastings") worthless. It is amusing and will keep the viewer's interest. But the lover of Christie's work is advised to wait for the David Suchet television version for the proper approach to the story.
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