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Without doubt the worst production of an Agatha Christie novel. For a start the musical score by Dave Brubeck is totally out of place in a Christie murder mystery. At some points in the movie the backgroung music is so loud it is actually difficult to hear the on screen dialogue. The music becomes overpowering and extremely irritating mid way through proceedings. However for me the worst part of this movie is probably the most appalling piece of casting ever seen. Michael Elphick is a good English actor but he is a cockney and his portrayal of a Scottish Policeman is dismal. His scottish accent starts badly and gets worse as things move on. At the end he looks embarrassed to be involved in such a uncoordinated mess of a movie.
This is indeed one of the weakest films based on Agatha Christie's work, a lifeless, muddled mystery that clearly lacks the grace (and the budget!) of its predecessors ("Death On The Nile", "Evil Under The Sun") and Donald Sutherland is a pale shadow of Peter Ustinov as far as screen detectives go (of course, he is playing a character much less interesting than Poirot). The film manages to coast as far as it does on the strength of Christie's plot alone (all her plots have a certain amount of inherent interest), but the direction is hopelessly flat. (*1/2)
It is difficult to describe this film without profanity. The rights to the book were clearly bought because of the title. I am a purist Agatha Christie fan, so I dislike adaptations which spoil her work. Normally, after the first three or four viewings, they grow on me (It happened with "Appointment with Death", it happened with the remake of "Murder on the Orient Express" and it happened with the remake of "Sparkling Cyanide"). I still hate this film. The cast are talented, but wasted - especially Faye Dunaway, who has about three words. The music is completely out of place. I expected them to start playing "The Merry Old Land of Oz" at the hanging. The story is unraveled ploddingly; a fiasco. I didn't understand it until I read the book. This is a pure waste of film.
This is really & truly the absolute worst Agatha Christie movie ever!! (And I've seen 10 little Indians with Frank Stallone!!!) Sutherland & Plummer are greatly wasted in a go no where "mystery". You could also say that Faye Dunnaway's appearance was little more than a cameo. Her scenes total about 2 minutes of the movie. I'd keep it short too if I were in this film. The movie doesn't even have a climactic climax, and the murderer is revealed half way through the movie. (To the viewers that is.) I'm sure Agatha rolled in her grave when this came out. AVOID AT ALL COSTS!!
Agatha Christie's books are not easy to transfer to the screen.The main
problem lies in the fact that there's not much show and many many
questionings ,deductions and explanations.
As always ,the director tries to make up for it by gathering an all-star cast (see yourself) :it sometimes worked in the past ("Death on the Nile" "Murder on the Orient Express"),it does not here.The film is much too short and we have not enough time to make acquaintance with the many-characters-who -had -a reason-and -an -opportunity-to -kill-Dunaway.However ,the very subject of the movie could have been interested:an innocent was hanged and his family does not care when a witness claims that he was his alibi a couple of years later.
The ending is terribly disappointing,which is a shame .Dame Agatha Christie would turn in her grave.
In this realization of yet another Agatha Christie novel there is a
good cast who gives average acting , nice set design , a twisted
intrigue and logic absent . An American Paleontologist called Dr.
Arthur Calgary (Donald Sutherland) visits Mister Argyle (Christopher
Plummer) to give him an address book that belongs to his son Jack
Argyle (most of the scenes featuring Jacko Argyle were cut because of
budgetary reasons) , but the latter has been executed , condemned for
murder his mother (all of Faye Dunaway's cameo is a black and white
flashback) . Calgary has proof that the convicted killer is innocent ,
but no one , neither Police (Michael Elphick's police inspector,
modeled to some extent after a harder-nosed American-style police
officer) , nor villagers wish to reopen the case . Once the murder was
solved , the real mystery began and Calgary learns that justice has
been ill served in a small British community . After the clues have
been shown we will get a chance to give the answer with Calgary finding
out about the culprit at a twisted finale with outstanding surprises .
Who is the killer? , can he find the true guilty?
The film is a detective story with Sutherland as an amateur sleuth , in which you are the detective ; being middlingly shot , though filmmaker conjures up some atmospheric scenes . Too much red herrings it makes a little bit boring, pedestrian , endless and overlong . Stellar cast , but frankly wasted and interpretations are almost all phoned in . In the picture there are mystery , emotion , murders , suspense , pointless scenes and gorgeous outdoors . It packs a very good British support casting such as Sarah Miles , though miscast as Faye Dunaway's daughter , Ian McShane as Philip Durant , Diana Quick as Gwenda Vaughan , Annette Crosbie as Kirsten Lindstrom , Michael Elphick as Inspector Huish , George Innes as Archie Leach , and a young Phoebe Nicholls as Tina Argyle in some nudism scenes . The movie gets a lush costume design and acceptable production by known Cannon films , Yoram Globus and Menahem Golan , being well set in 1950s England .
Colorful and glowing cinematography in Eastmancolor by excellent cameraman Billy Williams . Filmed on location in Dartmouth, Devon, England, UK ; the scene dealing with shooting a rabbit in the woods was filmed in New Jersey and not Devon, where the rest of the film was shot , this was a scene added after principal photography had been completed and Christopher Plummer could not return to work in England for tax reasons . The inappropriate and anti-climatic soundtrack was not by Dave Brubeck but by Pino Donaggio, who wrote his typical , lush and beautiful score ; when the film didn't test well, they decided to jettison the Donaggio score and replace it with Dave Brubeck music. Brubeck included an obtrusive jazz score seems to belong to some other film , but was told he'd have two weeks to write an original score , he said no ; they then agreed that they'd use already existing Brubeck tunes and newly record them . The picture was a Box office flop , though received a Royal Premiere in the presence of HM Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip . The motion picture was regularly directed by Desmond Davis though contains some flaws and poor edition . Davis is an an expert on TV movies and episodes , he also filmed some movies such as the notorious ¨Clash of titans¨, ¨Girl with green eyes¨ , ¨Smashing time¨, ¨The uncle ¨and a Sherlock Holmes flick , ¨The sign of four¨.
The film begins with some style with the viewer taking a leisure boat ride to a small village in England with a pleasant Dave Brubeck score in the background. Brubeck's score continues through the movie and by the first half hour becomes annoying due to its over use. Donald Sutherland is layed back as an American doctor who after a two year expedition to Antarctica learns he was the only alibi to a hitch hiking stranger accused of murder and ultimately hung. True to Agatha Christie Sutherland becomes a sleuth and we are introduced to the stranger's family and associates. All the actors do a good job but are given little to do. Rarely do we see them interact with each other and nearly the entire film Donald Sutherland is interviewing each of the cast one-on-one...including the police! It doesn't seem any of the suspects get much screen time at all. Mid-way the director makes a truly terrible decision to replay some of the audio from previous scenes over present scenes (to represent Donald Sutherland thinking) including muddled whispering under more of Dave Brubeck's score. The plot is such a boring mess and impossible to keep up with. We never meet anyone long enough to remember their name! By the end of the film it becomes clear it really doesn't matter. At the beginning the police tells Donald Sutherland not to get involved that it is not worth it and at the end Donald and the viewers agree. THEN WHY MAKE THE FILM?????? The one joyous spark to the entire film was Cassie Stuart (Isabella in BBC's "Northanger Abbey") as the innocent stranger's wife. Her face and voice literally lit up the dark and damp film in her two scenes which occur in the last twenty minutes of the movie. She has such fun with her topless scene she should have won a special award just for attempting to bring some entertainment to an otherwise dreary movie.
When at the very start of the film Paleontologist Donald Sutherland
arrives at the Argyle family's house and it comes out he is the
undeniable alibi for one of the members executed for murdering his
mother two years ago your sensation is that you are about to watch a
top thriller; an innocent man has been convicted and a killer is still
around. But as the film runs along your disappointment increases
"Ordeal by Innocence" is a dull and at times even boring film that doesn't raise at any moment. Nothing interesting happens all along and even the final revealing of the facts lacks surprise and intensity (wether you guessed or not).
Donald Sutherland, Cristopher Plummer, Faye Dunaway and Sarah Miles (far from her good performance in "Ryan's Daughter") just pass through their roles and not very enthusiastically either.
You won't miss much if you skip this one.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The film's mystery is not a fault I have with the film nor is the acting nor are the production values or settings. The musical score has to be one of the most out of place scores I have ever seen in ANY film. I just cannot imagine who thought a Dave Brubeck jazz score would complement an Agatha Christie mystery film. It boggles the mind and, more unfortunately, muddles this film pretty good. Ordeal by Innocence is not a great film but does have a solid mystery and good acting. It held my attention when I wasn't irritated beyond belief with that ridiculous music. The music isn't bad by no means just loud and over-intrusive and not for a film of this ilk. It really detracts from your viewing. Anyway, the story about a man trying to clear the name of someone who was tried and executed for a crime this stranger knows for a fact he could not commit is rather interesting. Donald Sutherland does a workmanlike job. True, he is not flashy. The character suspects include a wry and devilish Christopher Plummer, a witty Ian McShane, a drunken(and wasted)Sarah Miles, a gorgeous Diana Quick and Annette Crosbie from One Foot in the Grave fame. No one wants to help the stranger, other people die, and the mystery is not all that hard to figure out by the end but all of it is done with some style and workmanship by director Desmond Davis(he did actually direct the original Clash of the Titans - though I am sure deferred to Ray Harryhausen more often than not!). All makes for a reasonably enjoyable story and then...then...then that music intrudes and even covers up what is said. I marked this film down two stars just because of the music. The director must have been deaf OR forced to use that score! Anyway, Faye Dunaway has a couple flashback scenes as the murdered mother/wife and Cassie Stuart plays the wife of the murdered innocent man. I only mention her because she has a topless scene, is drop-dead gorgeous, and has a smile to kill for. She is the best highlight that this film has to boast and she has two short scenes.
This 1984 version of Ordeal By Innocence doesn't just fail as an adaptation, it also fails on its own terms too, the latter of which I always try to base my opinion of a film on. There are two adaptations(as far as I'm aware) of Ordeal By Innocence, this and the Geraldine McEwan adaptation. Neither really do the story justice and have similar problems to each other, but the McEwan version probably gives its actors more to do. The story is not perhaps masterpiece status, but it still has all the ingredients that make Agatha Christie so well worth reading. Just reading what it's about alone makes you want to engross yourself in the book and also watch an adaptation of it. Ordeal By Innocence is not a complete disaster. It does look good, it's well shot, slick and the costumes and sets are very handsome. Christopher Plummer is appropriately wry, Cassie Stuart is just lovely and lights up the film and while Faye Dunnaway deserved much more than a 2-3 cameo appearance she is quite memorable as a character who's easy to hate. However, while the cast is a who's who and were good on paper they don't have much to do. Donald Sutherland is rather workmanlike and Ian McShane brings some wit to his role but is given little to work with, while Annette Crosbie Sarah Miles are wasted and Michael Elphick- looking miserable with one of the worst Scottish accents I've ever heard on film- is embarrassingly bad. It's not surprising that most of the cast didn't register, because the characters are sketchy and not developed well at all. You have a vague sense of what their roles in the story are but little more than that, so it makes the audience find it difficult to properly care. The dialogue, when we could hear it, lacked flow and felt very flat. Same with the direction. The story is a great one, but told in this film confusingly and ploddingly with next to no suspense or life, and that is including the ending(further disadvantaged by the murderer being revealed way too early). So much so that I had a temptation to watch something else, something I don't want to feel from an Agatha Christie adaptation. And the music is just awful, overbearing and of the films I've seen recently it is by far the most out of place score I've heard for any film since watching 1965's Ten Little Indians(a film I actually liked). Overall, disappointing. 4/10 Bethany Cox
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