During World War II, When the Japanese were fighting in the Philippines, they buried a stash of gold. They decided to abandon the traditional "treasure map", deciding instead to engrave ... See full summary »
Agatha Christie's classic whodunit speeds into the twenty-first century. World-famous sleuth Hercule Poirot has just finished a case in Istanbul and is returning home to London onboard the luxurious Orient Express. But, the train comes to a sudden halt when a rock slide blocks the tracks ahead. And all the thrills of riding the famous train come to a halt when a man discovered dead in his compartment, stabbed nine times. The train is stranded. No one has gotten on or gotten off. That can only mean one thing: the killer is onboard, and it is up to Hercule Poirot to find him. Written by
An insult to the memory of the original and a betrayal of Poirot
Having seen the theatrical film version of "Murder on the Orient Express" when it was first released back in the 1970's, and having thoroughly enjoyed it, I was very skeptical about a remake of it, especially knowing that this production was made for CBS-TV and being giving its first airing on commercial television, instead of being done on PBS's "Mystery".
My radar shot up the minute I heard John Leonard's favorable review of it on "CBS Sunday Morning". Leonard is an extremely articulate, pseudopoetic writer, and more often than not, a sardonic and harsh critic, and he does not endorse remakes of popular hits easily--except, perhaps, when they air on CBS, the network he just happens to work for.
My fears were fully justified. This film is the most crass retelling of an Agatha Christie novel I have ever seen. The story has been updated from 1934 to the present in order to give Hercule Poirot the oh-so-trendy oppotunity to work on the case by plugging into a laptop. The glamorous aspects of the original film, with its elegant, stylish, upper-class look, are totally gone.
So, instead of getting butlers and former army colonels as suspects, we get fitness experts and trainers who run around in T-shirts and sports coats, and who speak with Bronx accents. And Meredith Baxter, of all people, plays Mrs. Hubbard, the compulsive talker played so well in the original by the legendary Lauren Bacall. In fact, none of the performances here are memorable, especially when they have to compete against the likes of Ingrid Bergman, Vanessa Redgrave, John Gielgud, Sean Connery, Richard Widmark (whose character is played here by Peter Strauss!), Martin Balsam, Jacqueline Bisset, Wendy Hiller, and Michael York. And Alfred Molina, while quite good as Hercule Poirot, still can't hold a candle to Albert Finney in the original, not to mention Peter Ustinov and David Suchet as later incarnations of the detective.
Worse yet, while some seemingly small details have been left the same, some vitally important ones have been changed, one of them being the number of passengers, an important element in the original. Some of Poirot's deductions, rather than being revealed as surprises toward the end, are explained about two-thirds of the way through.
But the vilest crime committed in this film, is the implication, at the end, that Poirot has been having, shall we say, a less-than-platonic relationship with a beautiful woman! (She appears out of nowhere in the final scene, smiling at him, and calling him "Hercule".) This, an utter desecration of the 'cold-fish" Poirot that we all know and love, is a betrayal as sacrilegeous as William Gillette having Sherlock Holmes fall in love in his 19th century stage play!
Avoid this, unless you are masohistic, have a relative in the cast, or think that TV remakes are always better than the original films.
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