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The Best of the Versions
Hitchcoc14 May 1999
This is a dramatization of the consummate Agatha Christie book, the benchmark for the whodunit. Each of the characters is nicely portrayed by accomplished actors. The pacing, the subdued dialogue, all make this film work, even though it was felt necessary to doctor the plot and rename characters (this I will never understand). I won't criticize because I've never felt that we should compare movies to books--they are different media--unless the plot is badly compromised. This one is not. I remember being really pleased as a young viewer that Christie is able to bring all issues to a resolution in a believable and realistic way--no hidden doors--no strange interventions. She is able to do this even in her lesser books. Sometimes it is preferable to not be open ended, leaving unfinished details. I relish this author and the movies and movie portrayals of her books.

I also need to mention the music. The score is so carefully tuned to the actions of the characters. The black and white photography lends itself well to the oppressiveness of the setting where the characters find themselves. You definitely should see this film.
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This may be the best mystery ever put to film.
drivers-110 May 2001
This may be the best mystery ever put to film. If it isn't totally true to the letter of the Christie book, it is totally true to the spirit of her writing. Ten unique individuals are lured to an old house on a deserted Channel island. One by one - but I'll say no more. Very good acting, especially Fitzgerald. If you don't know the plot, you won't figure out whodunnit, despite the fact that it plays fair. There is suspense, good humor that holds up today, fine acting and a wonderful plot. Grab a cup of hot chocolate, turn the lights down, snuggle in the blanket, and prepare to enjoy a wonderful, cozy mystery which hasn't been equaled since.
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Nothing But the Best
guidon711 January 2005
After reading all these comments I got the urge, dug out And Then There Were None and watched it the other night. I won't repeat what has been said here so many times, only that it has to be one of the greatest films of all time. What a cast!! The best character actors of the 30's and 40's, many in the twilight of their careers. It's difficult to pick out superior performances. I did, however, take note that Louis Hayward gave a standout performance as Philip Lombard, and he had to be with this competition. He really was a fine actor, who incidentally, moved like a cat, a close match to the Lombard film character as envisioned by Agatha Christie. A couple of his other outstanding films come to mind: The Man in the Iron Mask and the seldom if ever shown, Ladies in Retirement. In the credits, he was also listed as one of the three stars of the film: BARRY FITZGERALD, WALTER HUSTON and LOUIS HAYWARD. The following screen shows the rest of the distinguished cast as supporting players. The musical score is as good as the cast, alternatively moody and eerie. June Duprez comes off very well against the competition as the vulnerable Miss Claythorne. I cannot forget how exquisitely beautiful she was in color in The Thief of Bagdad (1940). The book itself was excellent (I read it over 60 years ago) however, while I would indeed watch the film repeatedly I would not go out of my way to read the book once more.

P.S. (5/20/2007) Still a fan of ATTWN, I have just finished a 2001 audio version, read by Hugh Fraser (Hercule Poirot's TV sidekick). This is a six-hour, complete and unabridged version of the book which includes all the material omitted in the film and with original ending intact. At first blush, six hours might seem rather too long but believe me it just gets better and better right on through to that unique ending which has never been equaled in filmdom, and likely never will.
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Timeless quality
Paul Evans12 April 2011
I find it incredible how a film made 65 years ago can stand up so well, I think with every watch it gets better and better. It was very professionally made, beautifully acted and seems to avoid the brashness and showyness that the later versions were guilty of. I love the fact that every character is so charismatic, perhaps the character of the Russian was dubious casting, but The Judge and Doctor are fabulous in it, Huston and Fitzgerald showing what wonderful actors they both are. June Duprez was very beautiful, quite surprised to read that she retired rather early in her career. I'm unlike most reviewers, I actually love the 70's Oliver Reed/Elke Sommer version. Maybe this is the quintessential version though. Maybe this film is due a proper remake, who knows.
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The masterpiece of murder mysteries
ralphsampson7 July 2001
Rene Clair's masterful direction takes Christie's classic novel up to a new dimension more suitable for cinema. Every character is perfectly realized by magnificent acting. My favorite is C. Aubrey Smith who portrays General Mandrake with a British subtlety that cannot be understood fully by today's American viewers. But why quibble?

Every cast member is perfect. Roland Young may actually be the most instrumental as Blore in keeping the films wit intact and never allowing it to get too serious. Barry Fitzgerald is terrific as the Judge, and Huston perfection itself as the charming, albeit alcoholic, doctor. Dame Judith Anderson, perhaps the best supporting actress of all time, dominates every seen she is in as a sinister spinster.

But, of course, there is a lead, and in the hands of a lesser actor, he could have wound up being a feckless straight man to all the great character actors around him. With Louis Hayward as Mr. Lombard, the character more than holds his own with all challengers, and has an especially nice chemistry with Young. And although June Duprez is slightly out of her league as a thespian, she is plucky and capable enough, with Hayward's help, to pull off her role just fine.

The atmosphere, photography, and soundtrack are all artistic perfection. This movie is a true treat for all the senses.
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The Best Christie Movie
Eric-62-23 September 1999
No Agatha Christie story has ever been made into a better movie than this one. The movie has the altered ending from the book (which I'm told was changed by Christie for the stage version because let's face it. The book's ending would never *ever* work in a dramatized setting, film or stage) and the character of Tony Marston has become a Russian prince to accomodate the casting of Mischa Auer, but apart from that Christie's book has been flawlessly translated right down to the last detail. The look, the settings, the characters, all of it is just right. There are also some wonderfully comedic performances that veer into some delicious black comedy at times (my favorite being Louis Hayward's bemused response to Roland Young's bumbling deductions: "And then he takes the chopper and splits open his own cranium. Fact. I'd like to see you do that yourself.") About the only casting flaw is June Duprez, who is woefully bland and dull as Vera Claythorne, the lead female character.
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Best version of the Christie novel...all of the usual suspects are in fine form...
Neil Doyle15 April 2001
Why quibble about the ending? I know it's not the same as the book's final scene, but since Agatha Christie herself changed it for the stage version--sensibly (because the book's ending doesn't work dramatically)--there's no reason to feel cheated. It's still one of the cleverest ideas for a mystery--ten people invited to an old house by the sea so that an unknown host can dispose of them one by one. Under Rene Clair's direction, there's a great deal of humor thrown in. Add to that, enjoyable performances from a first-rate cast of character actors--Barry Fitzgerald, Judith Anderson, Walter Huston, Louis Hayward and the always dependable Richard Haydn as Rogers, the butler. June Duprez is the only weakness in the cast members, showing little emotion throughout. The atmosphere is brooding, the chills are delicious, and you can rewind your VHS print to spot Agatha's give-aways. One of the best mysteries of all time, but don't waste your time on the later remakes. This version is the genuine product.
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Not Just Who Did It, But Who Will Survive?
bkoganbing29 May 2007
Ten disparate people including a husband and wife butler and maid team have been employed and gathered on an island with a large mansion. During dinner as per instructions a record is played accusing each of the guests of the crime of murder in which they were never punished. Then one by one like the nursery rhyme about the ten little Indians, each dies.

And Then There Were None is your typical Agatha Christie murder mystery with a very closed circle of suspects. After concluding that there is no hidden eleventh person on the island, it's got to be one of the guests. Director Rene Claire assembled a fine cast of very stylish players each perfectly fitting their assigned roles.

With a group like this it's hard to pick out favorites, but I do have a few here. Walter Huston is a doctor accused of a malpractice murder is my favorite. He was drunk during the operation and he seems always ready for a shot for all occasions. What happens to him is rather fitting. Running a close second is Roland Young who is a seedy two bit gumshoe who committed perjury and sent a man to prison where he died. It's his profession to try and figure it out and he's constantly coming up with a wrong solution.

First billed in the cast is Barry Fitzgerald on the strength of his Oscar winning Best Supporting Actor performance in Going My Way the year before. He's a judge who knowingly sent an innocent man to the gallows. His role is about as far from Father Fitzgibbon as you can get. He's got some pet theories of his own and a scheme to catch the killer.

What's nice about this production is that there are no big box office names here to distract. Just a great ensemble cast working perfectly together.

As in most Agatha Christie murders when all is revealed, the whole thing makes perfectly logical sense. But what's good about this is, it's not just who did it, but who will survive?
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Masterpiece by Rene Clair
rollo_tomaso29 May 2001
Rene Clair weaves the quintessential spider web with brilliant camera work including unusual but effective angles, snappy dialogue, and magnificent performances by ten impeccably cast artists. The viewer is drawn into the anxiety, claustrophobia, terror, and resignation felt one-by-one by each of the twelve weekend "guests" of Mr. Owen. Any mystery, suspense or thriller fan will be incomplete without seeing this work of absolute genius. My score: 10+/10.
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Improves With Each Viewing
ccthemovieman-124 March 2006
Here's another movie that I never felt was anything but fair, but I kept giving it more chances and every time I did, my rating went up. It seems to get better and better with multiple viewings. One of the reasons is that the more films I watch, the more I get familiar with all these actors.

If you didn't know any of these actors, the movie would be "fair" at best. You can bet if the story were re-done today, it would be faster moving. As it stands, its okay but a film in which 10 people are invited to an island and are systematically murdered one by one, should make for a tense thriller. Here, it's more of a study in paranoia, but that's interesting to view, too. I especially enjoy watching Walter Huston and Barry Fitzgerald banter back-and-forth.

The ending to this mystery was well-done, too, and not something you're likely to solve. So, if you like the old classic mysteries, this should be appealing. It features an interesting cast of young and old actors, male and female.
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The Perfect Murder Mystery?
theowinthrop5 January 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I have a theory that all her life Dame Agatha Christie hoped she would plot the perfect murder case mystery. She certainly entertained the world doing so, with way over sixty novels, books of short stories, and plays, most of which actually dealt with homicide in one form or another. Despite the sometimes too perfect clockwork that her plots could degenerate into, she was one of the masters of the form. I don't think any other mystery novelist ever found as many variations on the central theme of a detective story as she did.

Of all her plots, that of AND THEN THERE WERE NONE / TEN LITTLE INDIANS was possibly her greatest achievement (the nearest competitor is an inverted form of it, MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS). Yet in every film version of the plot the perfection of the story is short circuited in the interest of "justice". Christie's original intention was that the ten people brought together to the ill-fated locale were to be found dead, and without any survivor the mystery would be apparently unsolved (though even Christie hedged her bet by having the perpetrator leave a written confession/explanation). But as the versions are now, the perpetrator is outwitted by two would-be victims at the last moment, thus leaving two survivors.

The best version of the novel was this one. It was directed by French director in exile (due to World War II) Rene Clair. Of his American films this one is the most revived. Whether it is better than I MARRIED A WITCH or FLAME OF NEW ORLEANS is another matter, as they are all clever films. Clair was well served by a great cast of character actors, most of whom were victims in the story: Barry Fitzgerald, Walter Huston, Roland Young, Sir C. Aubrey Smith, Mischa Auer, Judith Anderson, and Richard Haydn did the best with their parts. Louis Hayward and June Duprez were more than adequate as the two lovers in the plot.

The secret of this film's success is that Clair treated the subject of murder lightly (to an extent). An example: Mischa Auer as a careless playboy explaining how he killed someone while driving drunk, and playing the piano while doing so - thoroughly bored looking while explaining what he did. A moment later he is gasping for breath as poison was added to his highball. He's the first victim.

The key is that all the invitees to this island were acquitted of acts of homicide or manslaughter on technicalities. They all were apparently quite guilty, but lucky. So the viewer is somewhat torn after awhile - you don't like people who get away with murder, but as each one is wiped out by the mysterious host/killer we find ourselves sympathizing with their helpless plight. The original ending kept this sympathy up to the conclusion. But the improved (?) conclusion manages to dissipate this sympathy in the search for achieving a degree of justice for the victims. Oddly it still works, and the sense of impish humor is maintained even after the killer is revealed and destroyed.
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Agatha Christie's finest work
Richard Bailey3 October 2015
Warning: Spoilers
I've read almost all of Agatha Christie's novels, and this one has to be her definitive work, the darkest, the most intelligent, the one that truly keeps you guessing right until the very end. I like both English language versions of the film for different reasons. There is a quality to this production that defies the year it was made, a nice mix of suspense, intrigue and humour. Lombard is a real smoothy, and June Duprez is excellent as the beautiful but sad Vera Claythorne. My only annoyance is the switch in the ending, I wish they'd had the bravery to stick to the original ending, and not use the kop out stage play ending. The house and setting look really effective, it works, so much more so then a desert or even some other awfully imagined setting like a safari!
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Who Might Be the Mysterious Killer?
Claudio Carvalho16 August 2012
Judge Francis J. Quinncannon (Barry Fitzgerald), Dr. Edward G. Armstrong (Walter Huston), Philip Lombard (Louis Hayward), Detective William Henry Blore (Roland Young), the secretary Vera Claythorne (June Duprez), Prince Nikita 'Nikki' Starloff (Mischa Auer), Gen. Sir John Mandrake (Sir C. Aubrey Smith) and Emily Brent (Judith Anderson) are invited by the mysterious Mr U. N. Own to spend the weekend in an island and they are hosted by the newly-hired butler Thomas Rogers (Richard Haydn) and his wife and housekeeper Ethel Rogers (Queenie Leonard).

Thomas explains that Mr. Own will arrive later and following the instructions of his master, he plays a record where the host explains that all of them have been accused of murder. Further, they realize that none of them actually knows Mr. Own. Vera plays a song about Ten Little Indians on the piano and they see a decoration on the table with ten Indians. Soon they are killed one-by-one while the each Indian vanishes from the decoration. Who might be the mysterious killer?

"And Then There Were None" is an engaging thriller based on a novel and a stage play by Agatha Christie. René Clair makes an excellent theatrical but never boring film, supported by magnificent performances and a delightful screenplay with tense and humorous situations. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): "O Vingador Invisível" ("The Invisible Avenger")
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And then there was … great entertainment!
Coventry1 September 2014
Out of the four film versions I watched thus far (the others being 1965, 1974, 1989 and I'm NOT counting the copious amount of rip-offs and imitations), this oldest version of Agatha Christie's monumental novel/stage play "Ten Little Indians" is inarguably the most memorable, sophisticated and superior! "And Then There Were None" simply forms the definition of a good old-fashioned and absorbing murder-mystery, complete with dazzling dialogs, exquisite acting performances and sublime plot twists that keep you guessing until the very end of the film. Perhaps it isn't as sinister and intense as I had hoped, but the whodunit-aspect keeps you glued to the screen at all times and there's a surprisingly large amount of unexpected macabre humor to compensate for the lack of thrills. The plot is world famous, but just in case you never heard of Agatha Christie before: ten people with no discernible connection are invited by an unknown host to spend the weekend at his/her isolated mansion on a private island off the British coast. Instead of meeting their host – the peculiar U.N. Owen – at the dinner table, they have to listen to a record with a strange voice accusing each and every one of them of a crime they didn't get punished for. Shortly after, they're being murdered one by one in imaginative methods that resemble the lyrics of the "10 Little Indians" nursery rhyme. After discovering they are the only ones on the island, the continuously shrinking group realizes that the killer must be one of them and becomes extremely suspicious. It's a downright beautiful and enchanting version, massively benefiting from René Clair's surefooted direction and the devoted performances of a terrific ensemble cast; including the almighty Walter Huston, Richard Haydn and C. Aubrey Smith. What I personally love most about 40's films are the intellectual, extended and almost poetic dialogs, and this film naturally features plenty of them. Being a forties' flick, you naturally shouldn't expect the murders to be graphical or even shown on screen. Still, there are a handful of suggestive and brutally playful sequences, including death by falling chimney. Together with the flamboyant 1974 adaptation of "Murder on the Orient Express", this is presumably the best Agatha Christie material turned into film.
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Possibly Christie's Most Famous Plot
Scott Amundsen30 October 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Agatha Christie, one of the most prolific mystery writers ever, wrote numerous novels, short stories, and plays. Three of her plays have become legends of the theatre: WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION (made into a brilliant film by the great Billy Wilder); THE MOUSETRAP (Still playing in the West End after a sixty year run); and TEN LITTLE INDIANS, which may be the most-filmed of all her works; I count eight on IMDb under the original stage title, and this one, the very first film made from this play, that was released with the novel's American title AND THEN THERE WERE NONE.

Brilliantly filmed in stark black-and-white, this is a prime example of one of Christie's best formulas: a group of people gathered together in a remote location, and murder comes calling.

It's very hard to review anything by Christie because one does not want to reveal more than is necessary, but I can safely sketch the basics of the plot: Ten people are gathered at a house built on an island about a mile off of England's Devonshire coast. A few minutes of conversation among the "guests" reveals that their invitations may be questionable and they may have been gathered there under false pretenses. Then a voice is heard (it is later revealed to have been a phonograph record) accusing each member of the cast of murder (It is perhaps a good idea to point out that murder was a capital crime in England at that time). It isn't long before the guests start dying off, and there seems to be a link between the murders and the old English nursery rhyme "Ten Little Indians." The English version is slightly different from the American one, and as a visual aid there is a collection of Indian figurines; each time another guest dies, another figurine vanishes.

As is usual with Christie, there's more than a touch of humor about the proceedings, and as with WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION, the moments of comic relief only serve to make the more serious and even frightening aspects of the story stand out.

This is a great film, certainly one of the best films ever made from a Christie play. I can also reveal this much: Christie wrote two endings; one for the novel and one for the play; the film uses the ending from the play. I urge anyone who likes a good mystery to read the novel as well. Of all of Christie's puzzles this one is one of her most complex, and the amazing thing is that she could change the ending without disturbing the integrity of the plot.
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you can't beat Agatha Christie
Lee Eisenberg14 May 2005
Probably most people know about Agatha Christie's story "Ten Little Indians", in which a bunch of people are invited to a house and then someone starts murdering them. Rene Clair pulled the movie off perfectly. I quite literally could not have guessed how it was going to end. The whole thing is a pleasant surprise, as was the other movie based on an Agatha Christie novel ("Murder on the Orient Express"). I can guarantee that this is one movie that will not disappoint you. I don't even know how much I can tell you without giving it away. Obviously the song "Ten Little Indians" is a little bit cringe-inducing, as we in the 21st century prefer not to use other ethnicities as mere entertainment, but the movie's perfect setting essentially makes up for that.

A ten out of ten.
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I've...GOT IT!
MartianOctocretr53 August 2014
Well, it was a famous exit line, so we'll never know if he finally did "get it" or not.

This, the earliest screen version of the classic whodunit novel of the same name, takes some liberties with it, but remains the best version over the countless other versions of this story even after 70 years.

Eight guests are invited and two house servants are hired to a secluded island by a man none of them knows. They learn all too late that they are being punished for murders they each got away with, when, one by one, each is being murdered. The murderer further taunts his remaining victims by marking each death with the disappearance of one of ten little Indians statues. He uses the Ten Little Indians poem as a framework for each murder. At first, it appears the murderer is hiding on the island somewhere, but soon it becomes evident he is one of the ten. Once everyone suspects each other, the tension builds well.

Great characterizations are done by a wonderful cast, and the story unfolds in just the right manner to keep you guessing. The spooky house environment provides a perfect setting for the action.The original book's ending was stronger, but this movie's alternative works OK.

See if you can guess whodunit, but be forewarned: if anybody named U.N. Owen, that you've never met, ever invites you to an island, turn down the invitation.
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It settles; that's the problem.
CaptHayfever27 December 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Itty-bitty SPOILERS. Deal with it.

Christie's "Ten Little Indians" (republished under the stronger title "And Then There Were None") was an outstanding book with a precariously well-structured ending. For reasons obvious to anyone who's read the book, that ending cannot be performed on least not without some OUTSTANDING technical tricks. It makes perfect sense to have a different ending in the play version. But film is not stage. In the movies anything is possible, and through a simple camera maneuver, the novel's brilliant conclusion would become child's play for any competent filmmaker (This includes the final chapter in the police station and Wargrave's letter). The only reason I can think of to tamper with the book's conclusion for the movie is to satisfy Hollywood's requirement of whitewashed images of life back in the time this film was made.

Agatha's characters are also precariously well-designed in order to fit the story properly. There is no reason for the perfectly named Judge Wargrave to adopt the laughable moniker of Quinncannon or for the referential McArthur to become the irrelevant Mandrake. NO reason for playboy Anthony Marston to become a foreign prince. And ABSOLUTELY NO reason for Lombard's "secret identity". I have no idea what the motive was behind these changes. That's the basic old-school Hollywood playbook in action, I guess.

Unfortunately, René Clair was daring in neither technical nor artistic areas, and we are stuck with a film featuring contrived/awkward characters and a cop-out ending. Add in the mediocre performances of most of the cast, and it all combines to form a pathetically weak self-contained film, and an even weaker literary adaptation.

It could've been wonderful, but it settled for mediocrity.
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Agatha Christie's masterpiece wonderfully realized
This is the granddaddy (or grandmommy, since it's from Agatha Christie's novel) of all the put-a-bunch-of-people-in-one-isolated-location-and-kill-them-off-one-by-one movies. The isolated location in this case is a small island, and 10 people have been invited to stay the weekend by an unseen guest. The people are always disparate, too, from all walks of life. This time, for example, we have a doctor, a retired general, a judge, a reporter, etc. All of the guests have, in the eyes of the invisible host, caused the deaths of others, whether directly or indirectly. Since they have been judged as murderers by the host, they are all slated to die, one by one, in creative ways.

Now, admittedly that in itself doesn't sound all that mysterious. After all, you know who the bad guy is - the host, right? Maybe! Maybe not. Maybe one of the guests is the host. Maybe they're not really dead. As more and more die off, you'll find yourself second-guessing yourself, as in "Damn, I thought it was the doctor!" or something along those lines. (I'm not saying it's NOT the doctor, though!) There are myriad twists to this tale, you see, and you can either spend your time trying to guess the movie before it unfolds or simply let it be.

The formula's been copied a million times, and the original story itself was remade three times as "Ten Little Indians." That title refers to a table setting containing ten little Indian figurines. As each person is killed, a figurine mysteriously topples over. Spooky!

If you're a fan of mysteries or of tortuous (but not tortured) plot lines, this is your movie! Old, but hardly dated.
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fine and suspenseful adaptation.
peacham21 July 1999
Its all here, the isolated house on the island, the suspects,each being murdered one by one to the famous nursery rhyme,and quite simply the best cast ever assembled for a christie film. Dame Judith Anderson takes best of film honors with her portrayal of the fire and brimstone spinster,Emily Brent,but everyone excels,walter huston's charming,alcholic doctor,richard haydn's fidgety and aloof rogers,and of course barry fitzgerald's grandfatherly old judge to name a few. the setting,mood and soundtrack all contributed to this fine film. the adapters also kept the humorous elements in which were one of the high points of the original novel. this is a 10 in my book.
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Premier Version of Agatha Christie Classic
utgard1423 March 2014
Ten people are invited to the island home of the mysterious Mr. U.N. Owen (get it?). One by one, they are killed off while they try to figure out who is behind it all. The best adaptation of Agatha Christie's novel "Ten Little Indians." Probably the best movie based on any Christie story. The cast is so good that it should easily be included among the best casts of all time. Walter Huston, Barry Fitzgerald, Louis Hayward, Judith Anderson, C. Aubrey Smith, Mischa Auer, Roland Young, and so on. Exceptional cast. Whether you are familiar with Agatha Christie's story or not, you will no doubt recognize this plot as it's been done countless times in film and television since. Heck, it's the backbone of the modern slasher film really. But it's never been done as well or as smart as this. A suspenseful classic everybody should see.
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Lighthearted film, like serious book, partially succeeds and partially fails
delatorrel21 November 2003
Agatha Christie's 1939 story idea captures the imagination. Ten strangers who each, in his or her own way, have gotten away with murder gather by invitation at an isolated mansion. Then their unknown host U.N. Owen systematically and mockingly murders them one by one. The idea was adapted into a film in 1945, 1965, 1974, and 1989. Each adaptation is worth seeing as an attempt to bring the idea to life. Unfortunately, neither Christie nor the filmmakers succeed in turning this compelling but at the same time confining plot concept into a truly fulfilling story.

The book's premise is clever and fascinating. Careful attention is paid to plot detail. Compared to the films, the book's assortment of past crimes and depictions of the characters' attitudes toward them are more varied, subtle, and interesting. The book gives the highly contrived events a certain plausibility. It is the least sentimental about the characters, treating them vaguely and suspiciously. This helps, even if it does not entirely succeed, in making them convincing as people who have killed in the past and could do so again. The book maintains more of a sense of fear, dread, menace, suspense, and purpose than the film versions. It explains at some length why and how Owen carried out the scheme.

However, once the imaginative premise is established, the story becomes thin and formulaic. There is little plot or character development. The storytelling seems flat, frigid, and, at times, slow-paced. There is no lead character to care about. The characters and their past crimes are sketched in summary fashion. Those crimes vary widely in originality, depth, and genuineness. The best are Claythorne's, the general's, Brent's, and Rogers'. The past crimes of Blore, the doctor, the judge, and Lombard are trite, unexplored, and ineffective. There are only two real plot twists. The second creates a major logical problem, which the book acknowledges and tries to overcome by weakly suggesting that the ploy would trick or "rattle" the murderer. The guests' murders are designed to follow the nursery rhyme and little more. Some cosmetic frills aside, the killings show, in themselves, no special cunning, skill, strategic advantage, or plausibility. Owen strikes crudely without detection too effortlessly.

Worst of all, the book (and each film) has nothing serious to say about the powerful themes of survival, justice, and criminality that are at the heart of the story. The story is inherently an observation of human nature in a desperate situation. How do the characters behave? How do they try to reason? How do they try to survive? Also by its very nature -- as the book's last pages acknowledge -- this is a morality play. How is each character a "criminal"? How is each "beyond the law"? Does each get "justice"? Is justice the point, or simply a "lust" to torture and kill? Is the story about breaking the law or enforcing it, about mistakes or abuses in pursuing justice? None of this is meaningfully explored.

Overall, the films are worse in some respects and better in some respects than the book. The 1945 version develops the plot better in some ways. While as tightly written as the book, it is richer in deductive theories, in taking stock at each stage of the story, and in survival techniques. The dialogue seems sharper than in the book and provides some memorable lines. This adaptation pioneers the technique (repeated in 1965 and 1974 and omitted only from the 1989 version, to its detriment) of playing the Ten Little Indians nursery rhyme on the piano. This brings it to life and sets the stage for what is to come. The cast is mostly outstanding. Many characters -- Lombard, Claythorne, doctor, judge, Blore, Brent -- seem as smart, strong, or distinctive as in the book, or more so. They are more entertaining. Generally, the films do a better job of showing characters interact. Except in 1989, the films make more of an effort than the book to explain the relationship that develops between two characters.

However, the 1945 version handles the past crimes even less effectively than the book. The movie presents the general and his past crime in an obscure, lifeless way; even the weak 1989 adaptation does better. The 1945 version makes a ludicrous change to the judge's past crime. It waters down Brent's. In changing the story to allow characters to survive, it distorts their identities and/or past crimes in fundamental ways. In the process, it replaces the book's most complex, interesting past crime with one that is bland, superficial, and false. This confuses the meaning of the host's actions, although it does suggest, but not develop, a new theme of false accusation not present in the book.

Generally, the film's attempts to make the characters entertaining (a re-named Marston, Rogers, doctor, judge, Blore) come at the expense of their plausibility as villains and of the story's seriousness. Characters confess their secrets and treat the horror unfolding around them as if it were a parlor game. Mischa Auer's farcical, clownish performance is a disaster. The character was poorly drawn to begin with, and the 1945 film does a particularly poor job of presenting his past crime. This, and the changed ending, are only the most extreme examples of a general problem with taking such a lighthearted approach to a fundamentally serious story.

Worst of all, the climactic scene, which reveals Owen's identity, means, and motives, is short, sedate, droll, unsatisfying, and leaves a lot unexplained. In 1945, Owen has a weary, rational, amiable armchair chat with the final victim precisely when the character should come alive as someone triumphantly and credibly capable of inflicting such horror. It is left to the otherwise flawed 1974 version to capture more of the tone and intensity of the book and to the generally inept 1989 film to provide an ending that is dramatic, reflects that a deadly serious killer has been at work, conveys a sense of Owen's menace and lunacy, and most fully explains Owen's behavior.
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Supreme Irony
writers_reign17 August 2007
Warning: Spoilers
As everyone and his Uncle Max knows Hollywood is run by accountants rather than creators so it's ironic to discover that accountants can't count; having changed the title of Agatha Christie's novel from Ten Little Indians (which was itself a subtle change from Christie's original Ten Little N*****s) to And Then There Were None and having changed the title figured why not change the ending as well so that now the correct title should read And Then There Were Two.

Christie went to great pains to construct a plot in which all the ten people on a small, uninhabited island, died one by one leaving no one alive and a 'solution' in the form of a suicide note written by the murderer before taking his own life. It was, of course, as improbable as any of the 'locked door' mysteries penned by Christie herself and/or any of her rivals in the genre but improbable is not quite the same as not technically feasible but since when has Hollywood left a novel/play, etc unmolested. If you answered 'never' you're close. So, not content with changing the names of some of the characters they also throw in a happy ending in which the two survivors are not only the two youngest members of the group and one of each sex but are also implicitly bound for the altar. That being said Rene Clair makes a decent enough fist of this, the seventh and last of the films he made outside his native France in a roughly ten-year period. Perhaps wisely he selected his cast from the ranks of 'character' actors rather than stars - or, perhaps more pertinently, no 'star' would be prepared to be killed on screen - but most audiences at the time would be familiar with virtually all of them - Judith Anderson had appeared in Laura, which was possibly still showing, Barry Fitzgerald had copped an Oscar the previous year for Going My Way, Richard Haydn had featured as one of the seven dwarfs/professors in Ball Of Fire, June Duprez was the female lead in The Thief Of Bagdad, etc. Clair did his best to bring a little visual flair to what is essentially a one-set piece, the actors got their lines out without bumping into the furniture (at least not intentionally) and a reasonable time was had by all including the viewer. Not perhaps one to treasure or buy on DVD but certainly worth catching on television.
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The Crime Classic
atlasmb18 April 2015
A small boat chugs tirelessly through choppy seas, delivering its cargo of eight souls to a very remote island. In silence they suffer till they reach their destination. Upon arriving, they introduce themselves and find that their host, a Mr. Owen, is absent. However, a married butler and cook are present to attend to their needs.

This is the setting for Agatha Christie's quintessential murder mystery. Soon the guests are advised of Mr. Owen's intentions, and the games begin. Try to figure out who the murderer is before the truth is revealed. The guests, including a judge played by Barry Fitzgerald and a doctor played by Walter Huston, devise strategies to uncover the perpetrator, but he/she is a devious devil.

The real star of the film is the story, Christie's ingenious invention that still thrills, though it had more impact when it was first written, before others had purloined her plot (aka "Ten Little Indians").

The version I watched on TCM was somewhat murky and the musical notes of the score seemed to bleed into one another, but it was sufficient to appreciate this classic whodunit.
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A perfect Agatha Christie isolated mansion mystery
binapiraeus24 February 2014
This is a very special kind of 'isolated mansion mystery' - the Agatha Christie kind... Based on her novel 'Ten Little Indians' (with only the ending being altered), it perfectly reflects her unique sense of scary, fateful atmosphere - and her sarcastic sense of humor; Rene Clair was a master at that.

At a lonely old mansion on an isolated island, ten people who have never met each other, arrive, all having been invited by the mysterious Mr. Owen (U.N. Owen - or 'unknown', as they deduce later...) for the weekend - and so they're cut off completely from the rest of the world, because the next boat will only arrive on Monday morning...

In the beginning, it's quite funny to get to know all those queer characters - the cynical Judge Quincannon, the alcoholic doctor Armstrong, the absent-minded General Mandrake, the bigot spinster Miss Brent, the party animal 'prince' Starloff... He's also the one who plays the song on the piano whose notes and lyrics are readily arranged there, and sings - about the 'Ten Little Indians', who die one by one until there were none... And exactly at that moment 'Mr. Owen' addresses them through a record, accusing each one of the guests of various kinds of murder!

And then, the song starts to become reality: later that evening, the first one of them is poisoned, during the night the next one dies of a 'heart attack' - and the next day, the third one is stabbed in the back (and at the same time, with each death one of the ten 'little Indian' figures on the table is broken...); and that's where the remaining 'guests' understand that there's a murderer at work, a mysterious 'avenger': Mr. 'Unknown'... They search the whole island, but can't find anyone, so they finally come to the frightening conclusion: 'Mr. Owen' must be one of THEM!

From then on, the movie changes moods most masterfully: with strange, gloomy music being heard in the background, we can see, and almost feel, the distrust between the strangers growing more and more - which, on the other hand, leads to the funniest situations, like one following the other and spying through the keyhole, until there's a whole line of 'peeping Toms' in the hall...

Entertainment and suspense take turns in this wonderful, unique movie, perfectly directed and performed by a perfect cast of some of the most acknowledged and best-known character actors of the time - one of those rare movies to watch over and over again without ever getting bored or tired of it!
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